was working with an architect and builder a number of years ago on plans for
the construction of a large mountain home. The architect had designed one of my
least favorite living spaces: the Great Room. Right away I noticed the bar
extended too far into the living/dining area leaving virtually no room for a
dining room table and chairs. Fortunately we were able to cut down the depth of
the bar to accommodate the dining room set but the bar ended up looking skimpy.
It was a trade-off. The architect made a mistake. You can design a house on
paper but to make it livable, you need a strong sense of how people will
actually place the furniture. In this case, instead of an over scale curved bar
dividing the kitchen from the dining area, a straight bar would have been more
practical and attractive.
planning needs to be addressed before finalizing your building plans. Placing the
fireplace and built-ins are obviously needed, but also knowing where the sofa
and master bed will go, placing the windows, the doorways, the lighting and
outlets: these things should be taken into account before plans are finalized.
a recent project, I did two sets of floor plans for a living room. It was a spacious room with a beautiful stone
fireplace and mantel, plenty of windows, vaulted ceilings, surrounded by beautiful
landscaping. But laying out the furniture was a bit tricky because the
fireplace was located at the end of a very long wall. It didn’t leave a lot of
room for seating around the fire. I addressed this by drawing out plans with
two separate seating areas. For the main seating area I proposed a 90 inch
sofa, a cocktail table, console, built in bookcases, and an armchair near the
fireplace, and two more armchairs and an ottoman near the television.
In another home, the very large living room had
lots of furniture but it was all small scale giving it a busy, unanchored look.
Large rooms need at least one strong anchor such as a fireplace with flanking
built in bookcases or a large hutch. By using one of these as an anchor you can
further emphasize it as the main seating area with a sofa, two chairs and a
cocktail table, or two loveseats. Once you’ve created a strong main seating area,
the other pieces will fall into place.
my own living room, I’ve divided the space into two distinct seating areas. One
is the dominant seating area with a floating sofa (meaning it’s not against a
wall, but centralized in the room), two floating armchairs, and a large
enclosed hutch which is directly adjacent to the fireplace. A second, with a
large round table and two small wood framed chairs is in front of a large wall
of paned windows. I also have an armchair in a large picture window, and a
small, wooden rocker by the built-in bookcases. The less dominant seating areas
have smaller chairs and tables.
planning is an integral part of designing and furnishing a home. If you don’t
have a good floor plan, even though you might think it looks attractive, it
will never function right and therefore never look right either. Once you’ve
addressed the function and traffic flow of the room, and have the bones right, you
can decorate it to suit your own distinctive style.
planning a kitchen, place the stove, refrigerator, and sink first then build on
the plan by neighboring task related areas next to its corresponding work space.
For instance, place drinking glasses next to the sink, spices and olive oils
near the stove, and baking ingredients in or near the island.
work triangle should be 26 feet or less, with no single leg shorter than 4 feet
or longer than 9 feet. No major traffic patterns should cross through the work
aisles should be at least 43 wide, 48 inches wide with more than one cook.
furniture lay outs, always keep a clear pathway between entrances and exits.