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Hafften also reworked the way the space was used. “The room is long and narrow, so furniture placement is a challenge,” she said. Before the makeover, the room had a sofa and a loveseat. “The loveseat ends up being one chair because people don’t like to share,” she said.
A new brown leather sofa had been donated for the makeover, along with a wool area rug, so those pieces became the starting point for the furniture. But instead of another loveseat, Hafften chose two chairs, in cornflower blue. “They swivel, which I love. They can face the pool table or the TV.”
Hafften “floated” the sofa to create a walkway, then added two sets of pub tables, for additional, conversation-friendly seating.
She also repurposed some items that were already in the residence, including an antique settee that she had recovered with new fabric. “I tried to re-use things to give it a nice historical sense,” she said.
But she also freshened the look with accent pieces in contemporary colors like burnt orange. “Bursts of orange bring it up to date,” she said, and the items can easily be replaced when the hue falls out of favor.
Best Buy had donated a flat-screen TV for the makeover, but instead of putting it in the existing built-in TV cabinet, Hafften had it installed next to the fireplace. The old TV cabinet was converted into a granite-topped beverage center, with a small refrigerator and microwave. “There’s no kitchen on that level,” Hafften noted, so the beverage center added convenience for casual entertaining, as well as storage for glassware, dishes and serving pieces.
Brighter, warmer bulbs in recessed light fixtures and a new fixture over the pool table helped increase light levels in the room.
As Hafften knew going in, there wasn’t enough budget to do everything she envisioned. “I would have loved Minnesota stone to face the fireplace and give that a focal point,” she said. But changing the color palette and the lighting made a big impact. “I’m very pleased. And honored. Not too many designers get an opportunity to do a public place that’s open to the people.”
The society also is pleased with the transformation. The updated space encourages guests to spend more time on the lower level — and check out its conference room with its gallery of portraits of former First Ladies.
“We’re very happy with the project — to see it brightened, freshened and transformed,” Parrish said.
There’s only one downside. Now, when events are winding down, staff members and volunteers have to take one last surveillance trip downstairs, according to Parrish. “We have to make a sweep at the end of the party to make sure people aren’t still lingering down there.”
Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784