In answer to the design question on http://www.desiretoinspire.net/blog/2012/2/25/design-crew.html
This is what i would do.
leave the wood alone and paint the walls with a dark moody colour - i like this deep inky blue.
Choose a more modern rug, something with a more geometric print like the blue and white above or this circular pattern
I think I would choose a neutral sisal stair runner rather than try to match/compete with the rug.
I would change the light fixture to something more dramatic, either an oversized coach lantern similar to:
or go for a more contrasting vibe with something like:
The fireplace is tricky, but I think replacing the tiles with a lighter marble is your best bet.
In the alcove by the stairs I would choose a vintage dresser, desk or buffet to display some of your collection and fit the space better, something like:
I would also lighten up your existing furniture by recovering in white or off white or purchase some new upholstered pieces.
And finally add some colour with pillows, and even a fun ottoman.
all images via Pinterest