Master the art of outsized space with a focal point and large furniture
Since time immemorial we, and lifestyle commentators the world over, have debated ways in which to make small rooms appear larger. It’s a preoccupation that consumes commentators everywhere, and the reason is simple: many homes are somewhat smaller than their occupants would prefer.
That said, having scoped property the world over, we know that Canuck real estate is (often) commodious. The average British home, for example, is short on square footage by around 30 per cent in relation to its Canadian counterpart, and as far as mainland Europe is concerned, we’ll say one word: Lilliput. We’ve a pal in a Parisian banlieue whose three-bedroom bungalow measures just 900 square feet. Sure, his is an admittedly extreme scenario, but it goes some way to exemplifying inequity — as far as floor plans are concerned — on both sides of the pond.
So as you languish in your larger-than-average space, spare a thought for those who are significantly less endowed. And be grateful, as you spread out, for your every extra inch.
But is bigger always better, and can domestic proportions be composed on such a grand scale that they actually become unworkable? Hmm. Let’s see ...
Without due care, visual and ergonomic problems can certainly set in. Extra-large rooms are notoriously difficult to dress and the quantity of furniture required (and the attendant costs therein) can be the stuff of nightmares. On the other hand, with a little extra thought (and by embracing and properly accommodating different pastimes such as reading, eating and TV viewing), competent spatial harnessing can be achieved. The secret is to provide an element of visual connection between each and every function.
For the record, today’s project is a seating area positioned at the far end of a mammoth bedroom: a room, believe it or not, which measures some 33 by 28 feet — more than the entire footprint of the aforementioned Parisian home. A veritable soccer pitch, pre-transformation, the space needed serious zoning — and more than a spot of design continuity — to pull it back from the brink of hell. The fruits of our decorative labours are self explanatory (Hello? Before-and-after pics?) so, we’re going to concentrate on the things you can do (in general terms) to master any outsized space. In short, here’s our simple guide to taming Jurassic Park.Rather than be defeated by a huge, featureless space, consider your options to tempt wonderful results. Might a focal-point-free room be immediately bettered if you installed a fireplace? Or perhaps a large armoire, dressed, either side, with occasional furniture such as chairs or demi-lune tables attired with lamps and mirrors? Bear in mind that a room’s pulse beats faster with a focal point of some variety.Doll sized doesn’t do it, so scale up sofas and chairs as well as tables, artwork and accessories. Don’t rush buying decisions; instead plot out potential furniture arrangements using templates made from newspaper. It’s not rocket science; a small love seat will look lonely in a massive room, so opt instead for a pair of sofas or a generous sectional. If you’re taming a bedroom, think about upsizing to a king-sized divan and seek out wide nightstands and stretched cabinetry to balance scale. Remember, a host of little tweaks can make a big difference.Use large indoor plants or simple painted (or upholstered) screens to break up space. Modern loft-style rooms look great with expansive frosted glass-panelled screens, while open bookshelves will adeptly serve two spaces simultaneously.Employ the same (or a complementary) colour scale across different functions in multi-purpose spaces.
In a living room which features a gold-striped sofa, for example, pick up the warm metallic detail via napery or crockery in the dining area. Conversely, if you have a copy of Matisse’s Nu Bleu hanging over your home office desk, provide connectivity to other aspects of your room by detailing with cobalt-coloured accessories.
Perhaps a blue throw elegantly draped across the arm of a sofa? Or a natural rug edged with custom taping to echo the tones of your artwork. You get the gist.With large rooms, it’s important to keep each function clearly defined. Try using furniture (tall open cabinetry, for instance) to delineate space and, if you can, create zones within zones; a media unit and sectional sofa will clearly mark out your TV area, while a dining table and chairs will announce where food is served.
Take it from us: many of the large rooms we visit appear to have been arranged in the dark.Create separate “islands” by employing area rugs to clearly map out where one function starts and another one ends. The bed, for example, in this room’s reversion, floats atop an area rug which precisely matches the one we specified for this secondary seating area. It’s a detail, sure, but it’s an important detail nonetheless.Never underestimate the importance of clever lighting as a means by which to tame sprawling scale. Mood pools set with side lamps will create pocket atmosphere, as will overhead fittings separately zoned to light up different areas as, and when, required.While admittedly a larger (and more invasive) task than propping and styling with furniture, the installation of sliding doors — or a concertina wall system — will afford heaps of flexibility and the option to transform one large room into two smaller spaces. Use space imaginatively
In a large bedroom, don’t feel obliged to push your divan against the wall; popping it on a jaunty angle (perhaps in a corner) will add interest while distracting from awkward scale. Similarly, don’t feel that your living room sofa should be crammed up against a wall — pull it out and let it breathe.
Experiment with long lean tables at the rear dressed with atmospheric lamps and other interesting accessories to make floor plans appear more manageable. It’s all about establishing different layers and embracing — rather than shying away from — generous proportions.
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