Dear Debbie: I was debating with a friend what was an “extra” piece of furniture she couldn’t do without. We agreed that a bed, a table and a light were givens. As I have an entire room lined with bookshelves, that was my choice. What would you choose?

Anna

This is a fun question. It did get me thinking about what I consider necessary in a room and if I were to strip it down, which piece/s would remain. My first thought was that the piece had to be multi-purpose. But I wanted it to be esthetically pleasing, since it would be almost on its own in the room. From the photos shown here, you will have guessed my decision — a bench.

When it comes to versatility, benches have it all. With myriad designs available, there is one that will fit your style as well as your requirements. A movable bench doubles as seating at a dining table, easily pulled into the living room when company arrives.

A good friend fondly remembers her family’s piano bench that moved from the entry hall to the kitchen table and often beside the fireplace. It was on wheels and the kids fought over who would get to push it around.

Choosing a bench with padded upholstery adds comfort and a layer of decorative charm. Tufted furniture is on trend and looks stunning in a modern mix of pastel shades atop clear legs.

A more traditional take sits in a hallway, a pretty perch for changing shoes. Throw pillows that rest against the wall dress it up even more.

Storage is always in short supply and a window seat is a stylish solution. Although this bench doesn’t move around, the padded seat can double as a bed for little ones when overnight company overflows the bedrooms.

Dear Debbie: We have accumulated a group of eight black-and-white photos, some artsy, some of family, that I want to hang in our living room. However, I picked identical black frames and wonder if the contrast will be overpowering with our otherwise white/pastel decor. Should I change the frames?

Ben and Leah

As it happens, I came across a photograph through homeandfabulous.com to illustrate the bench story above, and it also answers your question.

Here is a pink-and-white room with lots of natural light. The 12 photos are a definite focal point, but a good one. The black frames unify the series and the contrast in colour offers balance to the pastel decor.

Inserting black details to a room is a magnificent decorating tool. You don’t need much. Piping on upholstery, a black lamp base, a side table and picture frames underscore other colours and make them brighter. Utilize it as background to create a blank slate upon which to embellish your room, or simply add a few flourish lines. You’ll be happy with the results.

Written by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email decorating questions to house2home@debbietravis.com. Follow Debbie at instagram.com/debbie_travis, facebook.com/thedebbietravis and debbietravis.com.

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