Dianne Stow
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Home Interior



Gentle colors, subtle textures, and warm wood-tones are enough to furnish a large sitting room.  CNS photo courtesy of Eric Schmidt

Manage space in a home by floating furniture

 Q: Our “new” (1929) house has a huge living room, 30 by 20 feet. It overwhelms our furniture. We even had our living and dining room carpets from the old house sewn together and they just make an area rug in this room.

My husband said he doesn’t mind the empty space — a good thing because we can’t afford new furniture for a while. Our question is, what’s the best way to arrange our sofa and chairs in all this space?

A: Snugly. Organize your seating pieces close enough together to form an intimate, cohesive conversation grouping — no shouting from sofa to distant chairs. It’s OK to float your seating arrangement in the floor space; find a focal point — like a fireplace or picture window — and organize the furniture there around your area rug. Include a table within easy reach of each seat, and low, task lighting — table and floor lamps, not oppressive overheads — that creates a warm glow and sets the seating area off from the rest of the room.

A space as large as yours can use a secondary activity center, a desk or a table and chairs for games, say. A piano would be perfect, as designer Eric Schmidt (www.ericschmidtinteriors.com) proves in the large and gracious living room shown here. The white lacquered baby grand, imposing on its own area rug (a totally white French cow hide), provides visual balance to the central grouping, and also carries forward Schmidt’s palette of gentle, calming colors: toast, white and cream, with touches of celadon green.

His objective, Schmidt said, was to create a “modernized traditional” look in this elegant old manor house. The original owners had made their fortune in concrete and built the four-story Georgian-style house of the material they revered — except, luckily, for those handsome hardwood floors. Laid racetrack style and buffed to a beautiful gleam, the floors fill the space without actually filling it.

Ditto for the many different textures Schmidt has integrated in this seemingly spare space. The chaise is covered in chenille; the walls are touch-me smooth Venetian plaster, and there are surprises like the solid rock crystal pulls on the polished nickel bar in the far corner (he designed it for Sheryl Wagner, the renowned bath fixture manufacturer).

A tip worth borrowing from the design pro: with such serendipities in store for the wandering eye, no one will ever look at this room and see just empty space.

Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of “Hampton Style” and the associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas. Send your questions to her at Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 82112-0190, or e-mail copleysd@copleynews.com.