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This episode, we discuss…
[5:25] Living room wall decor (Hannah)
[18:30] Styling an open concept kitchen, dining, and entry way (Justine)
Hi Betsy! I need help with wall decor in my living room. As you can see my gray sofa on the back wall is off centered with a chair on the right, where do I place my artwork on the wall? I want to do a large photo gallery, do I center it over the sofa? The sofa is pulled off of the wall by about 20 inches. I don’t want things to seem off center.
I plan to hang a gold mirror over the beige sofa (you can see the mirror leaning against the wall next to the TV at the moment). I know the TV stand is too narrow but not a priority to spend money on at this time. I don’t have an inspiration piece for this room, I’m thinking of getting tie up curtains to hang over windows in a colorful pattern that could serve as an inspiration piece, thoughts? I would never use them as I have the pull down shades so I wouldn’t have the hassle of untying and retying. I’d love to hear any other thoughts you have! Thank you
Just to give you a sense of what I’m seeing here. There’s a very large gray sofa with a matching recliner. By large, it’s not large in length, but it’s very commanding in terms of its bulky, and I have a feeling it’s a reclining sofa, which may be why it’s 20 inches off the wall. Then on the perpendicular wall, there’s an opening to another room, and a beige sofa that’s tufted.
As we make our way around the room, there’s a larger opening on the next wall to the dining area and that’s where the TV is with that narrow TV stand and the mirror next to it. Then our last wall is pretty much taken up with these amazing panoramic windows that have a long window seat with storage underneath.
The first question is, where do you place your artwork? Well, here’s the thing. I don’t love the room’s layout. The room is very long. Let me just guesstimate here. I love to guesstimate even when I’m working with my clients, I love to just guesstimate before I measure. I don’t know this is just how I get my kicks. I would say this room was like 21 feet long by 14 feet wide. That’s what I’m going to say 21 by 14, so it’s quite deep.
Right now all the furniture is hugging the perimeter of the wall of the room so everything’s kind of pushed against these walls, even though the one sofa is 20 inches away and there’s a huge void left in the middle. It just looks conspicuously empty. It’s bothering me that we have a matching sofa and recliner and then this other sofa that’s a totally different style with its tufting. its legs, whereas the gray ones are chunky and contemporary. The one that’s beige is more transitional.
I know that you’re wanting to do drapes with tie backs nut this window is kind of inset and underneath is that seating as I was mentioning that window seat which means that the drapes are either going to be outside the window box completely, kind of on the walls that surround the window, which is going to look a little odd. That means that they’re going to eat up some of this beautiful panoramic window, unless they’re somewhat sheer, but even then they’re going to be resting on this window seat, which I think is very weird.
Additionally, when you rest on a window seat, typically you do the corners, because then you have some back support and the corners are where this fabric is going to pool. My problem with that is nobody besides your cat really sits in a window box, if there’s comfortable furniture in the room. If it’s an office space, and there’s no other comfortable seating, like an armchair, or a small loveseat, then people might sit in a window seat to be on their laptop for a moment but in this living room that has very comfortable sofas, why would anybody sit in a window seat where the only back is the partial wall? For me, they’re just not always practical. They’re not always actually used for what they’re for.
Why am I going there? Well, it’s really just more of a decorative aspirational piece and so maybe that would influence where you put the pillows, but I don’t feel confident about drapes here at all.
Okay, now, let’s get to your question. The reason that I’m talking about all these other details, while I’m talking about the drapes, why I’m talking about the furniture is because I do everything else before I do artwork. Now maybe I’ve already selected artwork, if it’s my inspiration piece, or something like that but I really have a plan for not only the rooms layout, but also the rooms intention before I even think about art.
Here, this room has a lot of zones, which feel unintentional. So I would be asking myself, why do I have these two mismatched sofas in this space? What do I want to use as the primary piece of seating? If it’s going to be the gray sofa that’s opposite the TV, do I have the TV in the correct spot? I like to try every option before I settle in. But also, then I think your couch is way too far from your TV.
So what you would do is you would take the sofas, so basically you take from where you sit on the sofa, to the screen of the TV, you take that number in inches and divide it by two and that’s how big your TV should be. What is happening here is I think that your TV’s just way too small for the distance of the space, or you need to start closing this space in.
Now you say, Betsy, if I bring this gray sofa more than 20 inches off the back wall, if I bring it in five feet, as you’re suggesting, what am I going to do behind there? Well, you already have some built-in shelving on this side so we probably wouldn’t want to do that but is there another function that this room needs? Is there something else because right now the huge void in the middle is making this space look really unintentional. The other issue that’s compounding is that it’s carpeted, so we can’t use an area rug to define a smaller zone. What I’m trying to get out here, Hannah is you’ve put the cart before the horse and the horse being we really need to get a grasp on this furniture layout before we even worry about the gallery wall, the additional art.
The other thing that you’ve kind of neglected that should be a primary focus when you’re deciding the room is first thing. As I do the layout, create the floor plan, make sure it’s solid, make sure all the furniture makes sense and that the room is functioning the way I want it to. Second, I will create the color palette, which means I will have the inspiration piece as an anchor. So not only have you not firmed up step one, we have not firmed up step two, drapes are a very difficult thing to make the inspiration piece. The only reason that’s difficult is not because it’s not a good choice. Typically, they’re long, filling up a wall, sometimes they will be closed, that would be a very big visual element in the room. What I mean is that there’s just not a lot of selection of drapes that have three ROYGBIV colors or more so it can be a difficult inspiration piece to find. It’s easier to find artwork or easier to find an area rug.
In this case, we won’t be doing an area rug because putting up a rug on top of plush carpeting is not going to be the best idea. I would do that with a very low profile carpeting, like a commercial grade but you could easily do this with a big piece of art. If you’re going to use a big piece of art, that means that that would dictate where your gallery the wall comes and then you mentioned this mirror. Now this mirror is not very big, it’s roughly the size of the TV, which is not very big.
Let me see where you said you were going to put it over the beige sofa. I don’t think it’s big enough. Don’t forget my formula, the width of the mirror should be 50 to 75% of the length of the sofa in order to go above it and look proportional. Now my concern here is that the mirror is relatively small so it’s really going to not only dwarf that wall, but look like it’s a small floating piece above this elongated beige sofa. I think you have a lot of thinking to do here, Hannah but you should not be thinking about gallery walls or mirrors until you’ve solved step one. And step two. So sorry to give you a little more homework. I don’t want to answer step three until you’ve done one and two, and do one and two and come back to me with the gallery wall mirror question.
Hi Betsy- Thank you so much for all that you do to help with design dilemmas! I am so grateful for your podcast and I’ve learned so much! I am struggling with the entry and dining room of our home. I was hoping you could help me. We have a small house and during Covid we had walls removed to open up the entry, dining and kitchen area to bring in more light.
It feels much bigger and we are happy with it but I am struggling with how to separate the entry from the dining room now that there are no walls. The front door opens into the dining room. Should I add some type of storage piece against the wall under the stairs? There is a chair there now but we are getting rid of it. Would you suggest we switch to a round dining room table and chairs? The current dining room table is very bulky as are the chairs and neither of them are my style. I was thinking a round table might make the area seem larger and maybe a buffet would work to separate the entryway from the dining room. I am attaching two different views of the entry, dining, and kitchen area. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you!
Just to describe it for those of you listening when you walk in immediately opposite the entry door is a set of stairs leading upstairs. Then as you walk to the left, you’ll see the dining area and it is just right there, which is open to the kitchen area, which has a marble topped island with a wrought iron base. It’s very open and you can easily see the dining and the kitchen the minute you walk in.
Now, one thing that I get concerned about when I see this is I worry that the dining becomes a different D word, it becomes the dumping ground. Now, I don’t know if this is really how you and your family come into this space, there might be a mud room or an entrance from the garage but if this is really how you enter this space, sometimes what you’re going to be looking for right away is a place to put your purse, your keys and when you don’t have a different surface, typically an entry type surface, whether it’s a console, or something like that a hall tree, what happens is you dump on the dining table, because it’s the first available surface. Because you don’t have a hook for your coat, you put your coat or jacket on the back of a dining chair, and you keep it moving and things get very cluttered. And in order to actually eat at this dining table, you have to clear it off night after night.
So there’s one partial wall that still remains from the entryway. With only two photos, I don’t have an amazing angle and I certainly don’t have a good view of this partial wall. Now that partial wall that somewhat separates the entryway from the dining area could be a really nice opportunity to put some kind of console with a mirror or some kind of hall tree if you don’t have a mudroom. Since you didn’t bring that wall up, I’m going to assume it’s very small and it’s really just the 18 to 24 inches that I’m seeing in this image. Now, that means that we’re going to need to use a different wall.
If you do want to have what feels like an entry moment, I would be using the wall that goes up the stairs,because it is in that foyer area and it would kind of be facing the dining table. So it could serve as additional storage for platters but maybe the drawers are utilized for things like a dog leash, I see an adorable dog in this picture or things like that.
The thing that I would definitely do is I would get rid of the arm chair that’s currently in the place of where I’m suggesting that the console goes. The reason I’m suggesting that is because the last thing we need in here is an armchair. It looks like you’re trying to shove a living room into the dining room and into the foyer and into the kitchen. It’s weird because we have other chairs right next to it. Put that console there as a good way to kind of transition zones and then it can do double duty as a buffet as well as an entry console.
Now let me go back to your questions to make sure that I answered them. Here’s one that I didn’t answer about the shape of the table. Guys, this is not a decision I’m going to make for you. This is a decision that geometry is going to make for you. Do you guys remember my rule? If you don’t remember my rule, it means that you need my book. You can grab it here.
First of all, square spaces take circular tables, or they take square tables on a diagonal. Rectangular spaces take rectangular or oval tables. Now for 80% of the spaces that I work on dining areas are rectangular, which means they would take an oval or rectangle. Only 20% of the time, do we use a circle. Now, the room doesn’t have to be a rectangle, if it’s got like a buffet on one wall, and when you do the math in front of the buffet to the wall across the parallel wall, and the other two parallel walls, if that adds up to be a square, then a circular table is needed, So sometimes it’s not always the architecture that define this room. It’s also the furniture placement that defines the open space.
Because you’ve made this a very open space, what can define the size of the room is not the walls because there’s an absence of them but it can be the flow of the room, like do I need a very big walkway? If I need a very big walkway, it’s made the usable space for the dining table much shorter, which perhaps has transformed it to a square so math is going to determine what you do here.
Let me just tell you, you have a linear pendant above the rectangular table, and a linear pendant is never going to work above a circular table so you would need to change out this fixture for a chandelier that does not elongate it.
Then the other thing is if you’re changing the shape of this room in a way that doesn’t align with the architecture, but does align with the walkways, you may need to move the placement of this light fixture because we know that whether it’s a circular table or a rectangular table, the chandelier needs to be directly over the center of the table and we don’t know where the center of the table is anymore. If it may not be in the center of the room due to walkways, it’s also going to necessitate you buying a new rug because we don’t want a rectilinear rug under a circular table that would make no sense at all. It’s got to be square. Is it worth all the drama to get a circular table and more room in this room? It’s a question mark, especially because these walkways seem simple. So I think you’re adding a lot more issues to a problem that could be solved in an easier way. That’s just my two cents but Justine, these are just ideas off the cuff. You’ll think more deeply and you’ll keep us posted.
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