Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Interior Spaces

I've always enjoyed decorating. I'm not that skilled, but I enjoy it. Mostly, I enjoy arranging furniture. I have a sense of balance and symmetry that lends itself to furniture arranging, if nothing else. Beyond that, however, I'm hopeless.

My whole life I've re-arranged my room. Just to shake things up. As a kid I'd spend an afternoon moving my bed to a new place, and then struggling to inch the heavy dresser to it's new spot. And I'd live with the new space for awhile until I decided what changes needed to happen, and then set about re-arranging all over again. I enjoyed it. It made my old stuff seem fresh to see it in a new place or configuration.

I did the same thing when I moved into my first apartment. Only now I had a living room AND a bedroom to play with! My little furniture re-arranging heart was bursting w
ith the thrill of the possibilities! I bought some NEW (cheap) furniture and it was in constant flux as I'd find a new way to place the sofa in the room. Bring out a little rug, change where the chair and bookcase go, and voila! A whole new look. I'd try my bed on one wall, then maybe change it so it was angled in a corner, and then flip it to another wall. It was like sleeping in a new room with each change. Ditto when I bought my first house.

When Mr. Chi
ck and I moved for law school, our living room, although a decent size, didn't lend itself to many furniture configurations given the pieces we had and the fixed elements of the room (fireplace, huge picture window, heavy-ass entertainment center piece I couldn't move by myself and Mr. Chick was unwilling to move for me, location of the cable for TV, etc.) Also, our bedroom was so small that there was really only one place for our bed to go. I could play a little with arranging the kids' rooms, but mostly I was stifled. For almost 4 years.

Then we moved here. And we have space! And multiple rooms to arrange! Oh the possibilities! But the last 4 years of fixed furniture have had an effect and for nearly a whole year, things stayed where we put them when we first moved in. Mostly. I have played around a little in the living room when I bought some chairs at a garage sale and had to work them in. And our bonus room/playroom got re-arranged after I'd mulled over a better use of the space for both kids playing, movie watching, and the foosball table. But our primary living space - the combo dining area and family room - have remain unchanged in their furniture configuration. Until yesterday, that is. But I'm not sure if what I've done is really any better than it was before. Different, yes, but not necessarily a better "look" for the room. The jury is still out and I think I just need to live in it for awhile before deciding if I should move everything back to the way it was before.

The space in question is a long, narrow room with a doorway into the area from the formal living room creating a natural place of separation. The far end has a fireplace with a woodstove insert and is flanked by built-in bookcases/cabinets. It's the "family room" end of the space. The near end, right off the kitchen, is where we have our table for casual eating (we also have a formal dining room right on the other side of a faux window in the interior wall.) There are plenty of windows and a french door, close to the kitchen, which opens onto our side deck.

Previously, I "floated" our couch (a sleeper/sectional) so the long end faced the fireplace/TV and the short end was against the wall with the windows. On the wall opposite the windows was the kids
toybox/bench for storage and additional seating. The dining room table was under the pendant light (centered behind the couch) with the longer sides parallel to the couch. I liked how the room looked with the furniture like this. It worked. But the kids would sit on the short end of the couch, facing the arm of the couch in order to watch TV, and they were doing something to the arm that was creating nasty, crusty sections on the upholstery. Were they sucking on it? I don't know. But saving my couch, the most expensive piece of furniture we've ever bought, was the reason for re-arranging the room.

Here's how it looks now. See? The couch is now on the opposite wall with the short end "floating" to help define the two spaces in the one room. What you can't see is the doorway that is right before the couch.

Another view. No, we don't have a coffee table. Or curtains. Eventually I'd like both, but only after we win the lottery or in a few years when Mr. Chick hopefully earns a bigger paycheck ('m picturing deep red Roman shades to match the carpet with individual panels for each of the 3 panes per window, all hanging from a single rod. Yes? No?). Also, I hate the light fixture on the ceiling, but it came with the house and we haven't bothered changing it yet. It is rarely used but I needed the light for the photo.
Here is the view of the dining table at the other end of the room. I've angled it, which is different for me, because the space is so long and narrow that to have it sit square to the room upset my sense of balance. It was no longer centered to the couch and seemed off-set too much (the light is "swagged" over to the side so it's not hanging in the middle anymore). Having the table angled like this actually draws your eye better. And I moved the toybox/bench under the random interior window (no glass) that looks into the formal dining room. Those are cushions and pillows on the top.

Another view. You can see the doorway to the living room in this shot. This is how the room looks from the kitchen. God, I want curtains. The windows look so naked! Plus, it would really warm up the room. Oh well. Someday.

And speaking of curtains.... these windows are just begging for them! This is my formal living room. Remember when I made the slipcovers for the couch and love seat (with a lot of help from my talented mother)? This is how they look in the room. With the chairs from the garage sale I got for $30/each. Good score. Not wild about the floral upholstery, but will eventually slipcover them as well. I'm think of a yellow/gold color similar to the pillow that's on one of the chairs. The table was a hand-me-down from my mother, Mr. Chick made the end table in the corner in high school, and the lamp is from another garage sale. Oh yes, we're high class around here, and proud of it. I want to paint in there, too. Right now, it's all very neutral, bland and boring as hell. The living room is sunken and carpeted. The entry, formal dining and "hallway" that surround the sunken area are hardwood. It's got tall, vaulted ceilings and the wall on the right is shared by the formal dining room (where I'm standing to take this picture), but I'm not sure what color to paint. I'm thinking of a warm golden yellow - warm and rich, not light and bright. But if I go that way, what color should I go with for curtains? I'm wanting silk panels - 3 of them (one on each side and one in the middle to "bridge" the two windows - and sheers or something between the panels. We have another carpet similar to the one in the family room (look above) that I'd like to put in that room (can't now, clashes terribly with the floral chairs). For some reason I have a block about colors in there. What about an accent wall? Any suggestions?? Is it better to match/blend the curtains to the wall color, or would it be more dramatic to make the windows "pop" with a different, coordinating color, like burgundy (to match the carpet)? That would mean I'd have two rooms with red window dressings - is that too much? Do the chairs in red instead? I'm so confused! All you talented interior decorators - what would YOU do (other than chuck everything in the room and completely start over. Can't do that. Have to work with what we have for the time being. You understand, I'm sure.)

I love decorating!! Sounds like you have a lot of marvelous space to work with. You're very lucky in that respect. As far as your living area I have several suggestions (take 'em or leave 'em).

First, it seems the sectional is too big for the space. Can you break it apart? I realize that you have to work with what you have. A couple of inexpensive suggestions: paint the back panels in the bookcases a color that complements your room. I think a beautiful red from the rug would look fantastic painted there. Then, vary what you have on the shelves: some books here with a couple of photos, some books there with a couple of photos. Spread the books around a bit, and throw in a decorative plate or vase here or there. The mantel seems too high. If you don't have the inclination to lower it, then I would put an inexpensive piece of iron scrollwork below it to fill the awkward space. Then, to balance that, I would take one of those nice pictures above the sofa and try it over the mantel. Good luck and have fun!!
Um, Robin, can you come help me next? ;) Those are great suggestions- things I never would have thought of. (Which explains why the few items we have hanging on our walls are in the exact same place and configuration as they have been in every house...)
thanks Robin! Great idea. I've already re-worked some of the bookshelves on your suggestion. I can't paint the back of them (Mr. chick and that wood purist stance of his prevents such a thing), but I played with the books and knick-knacks, and I put the two framed photos that were on the wall on top of the mantle. It's a nice change. I, too, think the mantle is maybe a bit too high, but it's not easily re-positioned and will likely have to stay as-is. Then, centered above the couch where the photos used to be, I hung a narrow shelf and propped a family picture on it as well as a plant with tendril leaves hanging down a bit, and hung two wrought iron scrolled candle sconces on either side (had these in another room and didn't like them very well in there.) So, small changes but every little change helps. Mostly, I just hope it all helps my poor couch arm! I think I like the previous furniture arrangement better, all things told, because it separated the spaces better and the couch looked better scaled to the room than it does with the long side positioned along the wall (vs. long end "floating"), but we'll live with this for awhile until I get motivated to change it again.

thanks for taking the time to help out! I appreciate it very much.
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