Bold, chocolate-hued walls set the scene in designer April Case Underwood’s living room.
April Case Underwood, designer and director of project development at Case Design, isn’t shy about using bold color in small spaces. She embraces rich tones in her Leesburg home, especially in her favorite room—her inviting, chocolate-brown living room—which is the first spot guests see when they walk in the door.
The high-contrast, sunlit room is anchored by a small-scale Tiffany blue sofa and a cream-colored easy chair—two pieces of what turned out to be a prescient trio she scored from a Macy’s sale. The third is a brown chaise that lazes upstairs in her bedroom.
A dark wood, glass-topped coffee table sits at the center of the petite space. Interior design books from Pottery Barn (where Underwood once worked) are neatly stacked on top. “I like bindings,” she says, of their deep hues in navy, brick, pine. There’s also a well-worn, hand-me-down atlas her parents gifted to her map-loving husband. A super-tall, turquoise Chinese wedding cabinet adds drama to a corner—the shelves stash glassware; its bottom drawer holds linens. An off-white ottoman from Target (“One of my favorite stores,” she says) boasts triple duty: as foot rest, extra seating and all-important storage.
With detailed spreadsheets for each room, Underwood pre-planned all paint colors and furniture. She knew exactly what would go where before moving into their new-build Craftsman-style home in 2007. Like an HGTV show on fast-forward, she had painters and movers cram 48 hours before move-in.
“My parents’ living room was double this size,” she recalls growing up, “and so I do see that as kind of a waste of space. But this one—I like the size. It’s intimate. It’s a nice spot for a lot of things.”
With five children under 12, the room doesn’t get a ton of use. But now that her kids are in school, she’s already finding a bit more time for herself on the Tiffany blue couch. Not quite enough to host book club—she also aspires to read more—but she’s starting to use it to relax, or as a work-from-home perch. And with its convenient street-facing window, it’ll be the perfect lookout years from now when her kids roll up at curfew.
Underwood wanted this east-facing, intimate room to be different, unexpected. “I think a lot of people are scared of color in general, but especially a dark color on a wall. People think it’s morbid. Or it makes the room feel smaller.” But, she says, “I always get compliments on how comfortable or cozy it is. That’s exactly what I was trying to create—a cozy space.”
“I’m the spender; he’s the saver,” says the designer of her husband. And if there was any frustration—that was all his, she laughs. Because Underwood said yes to every option the builder offered. The couple chose a floor plan, flooring, cabinets and tile. She said yes to the decorative columns in the living room, shadowboxing in the dining room and a total of seven new windows.
Favorite Part of the Room
Her beloved pair of abstracts from Z Gallerie. In their previous iteration, they hung on a blue wall in their condo bedroom, which she thought looked great. But now, against the dark chocolate, she says, they look even better.