Unless you live in a custom-designed home that you created, it’s likely you’ve got a few less-than-perfect elements in your space. An oddly placed door, unevenly spaced windows, nooks, crannies, and rooms of too-large or too-small scale are just a few of the challenges you can face. Short of a major renovation, there are a few things you can do to make the most of what you’ve got. When life hands you lemons…
The first thing to consider is what does the room have to do? Is this a family room? Dining room? Does it have to serve multiple purposes? Answering the question of purpose will set the tone for just about everything else in the space. No matter what the function, it’s always a good idea to have a table within reach of any seating—for drinks, books, etc.
If you’ve got a big, wide-open space, you might want to cozy it up, or you might want to leave it feeling cavernous. Either way, you will want to avoid hugging the walls with furniture and creating a giant open space in the middle. Instead, create zones—a seating area for conversation, an area for TV watching, etc. Make sure to keep things in scale, especially in rooms with high ceilings, add big, tall bookshelves, a striking coffee table, or luxurious area rug to anchor the space.
On the other side of the coin, a smaller space can feel very cozy and comfortable if you carefully edit the contents. Avoid the temptation to put petite pieces in a small space, they wind up just making everything feel like a dollhouse. Instead, opt for fewer, comfortably-sized pieces and go ahead and push the furniture against the walls to open up the space. Allow as much room as you can around each piece to avoid that furniture store feeling. Add mirrors and lots of light to open up a small room.
All those nooks and crannies
Older spaces in particular can be a little eclectic—odd turns, a nook here, an alcove there, oddly shaped rooms and even odder ceilings and windows can make furniture layout a challenge. If ever there was a time for a focal point, this is it. Find something remarkable about the room—be it a view, a fabulous fireplace, or a stunning piece of art—and orient the room toward it to distract from the odd dimensions. Anchor odd spaces by arranging furniture around an area rug instead of the room’s architectural elements. Your other alternative is to embrace your room’s quirky features and make them the focal point. Make an odd nook into a comfy reading corner, or transform a less than stellar window into a stunning window seat.
Tying it all together
Once you’ve got everything in place, will there be room to walk around comfortably? Make sure you create natural, uncluttered pathways between doors. Look at your room’s traffic flow and rearrange if needed to create a pattern that feels natural and isn’t cumbersome. No one wants to navigate a labyrinth.
Assess your existing furniture and space before buying anything new. If you’re in a new space, you may have to consider whether your old pieces will work at all. Take a look at everything from furniture to accessories and consider whether or not it works in that space. If it doesn’t, it’s time to edit it out. Move it to another room, or get rid of it entirely.
Consider color and texture as well—what feeling do you want to convey, and how can you make your room work for you? A space that’s already full of contrasting, and perhaps conflicting, architectural details might benefit from a monochromatic paint palette, whereas a room lacking any architectural interest at all could use a dose of color or texture to liven things up.
The bottom line? Take a step back and look at your space with a fresh eye, then evaluate: what really works for my family in this space?