The problem

This 100-year-old house lacked usable wall space, which was broken up by windows, doors, radiators and a nonfunctioning fireplace And the homeowners' attempt to introduce the trappings of modern living into a stately old space resulted in a jumble of multipurpose furniture and a mishmash of electronic equipment.

The solution

Designer Candice Olson devised a plan that merges old with new, and tradition with technology.

How it happened

• The first order of business was the fireplace, which hadn't been used in 50 years. The hearth was not structurally sound, so major repairs were needed. The exterior brickwork was insulated and a stainless-steel liner was inserted down the entire length of the chimney. The new gas-log set was the final touch.

• The room had only one dim ceiling light, so Olson brightened things up by installing recessed lights and a couple of elegant wall sconces, along with ceiling-mounted speakers.

• Olson's crew replaced the old ceiling with a more modern equivalent, but applied molding to give it a traditional look. The walls were covered in elegant, glass-beaded striped wallpaper.

• Custom cabinetry houses the family's audio and video equipment and provides a surface to display lamps, pictures and accessories. A desk is flanked by lots of shelving, providing ample storage for files and books. Best of all, the cabinets hide the unsightly wires and cables from all the modern gizmos and gadgets.

• A rich brown sectional sofa sits directly across from the now-functional fireplace, and a couple of comfortable yet classy chairs and an ottoman round out the room's seating. The thin legs and open bottoms of the antique-mirror coffee table and side tables help create a feeling of spaciousness.

• The traditional shape of the mirror over the mantel evokes the room's historical roots, while the woven wooden window shades work to transition the eye from the beautiful gardens outside to the elegance inside.

Best trick

The homeowners loved their radiator heating system, but the heating elements took up quite a bit of space. The solution was to construct customized covers, which conceal the heating elements behind a stylish screen while creating much-needed display surfaces.

Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service. Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of HGTV's "Divine Design."