Please welcome Holly Becker, the wonderful mind behind the design blog decor8. On decor8, Holly dishes daily on topics ranging from sofas to stationery along with ideas for living a more creative lifestyle. She was perfectly suited to answer this week’s question.
Reader Eleanor submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer along with a couple pictures:
Hi there. In one room of my apartment, I have the opposite problem of many of your readers: too much space. The living room is 21 by 17 feet, mostly featureless and with a low ceiling. I want it to be an organized, uncluttered living space but don’t want it to look like an empty warehouse! What can I do with it, besides trying to fill it up with stuff? Just FYI, moving to a smaller space is not possible right now. In the future, definitely.
Hi Eleanor! While your “problem” of having too much space isn’t the most common, it’s definitely one I’ve addressed a few times with clients who went from homes with smaller rooms to spacious open concept lofts where the lines between spaces became blurred. Once settled in, they felt overwhelmed by having to “fill” all the extra space they’d once dreamed of and, like you, compared their living quarters to an empty warehouse. You are not alone in this Eleanor, between my advice and the comments that Erin’s lovely readers will no doubt offer, I’m confident you’ll soon be on your way to a cozy space in no time!
So… where to begin? THAT is the question of the day! Since you do not live in a loft with soaring ceilings and an open floor plan, I think your space issues are a lot easier to solve because you have a predefined living room space — a gorgeous one with outstanding details (vs. 4 plain walls). You have a fireplace, built in bookcase, and the most gorgeous hardwood floors. What a gem. I am not sure if these photos are current, if not have you added furniture yet? The moment you bring in a sofa or sectional, a pair of chairs, coffee table, floor rug, window treatments, etc. you will see that space shrink immediately, so never fear — your dream home isn’t that far from reality. Here are some tips for transforming your living room into space that you’ll enjoy living in!
- Area rug. A must! I don’t have the dimensions of your room, but my guesstimate is an 8 x 10 would do the trick. Go with a low pile vs. high.
- Sofa flanked by two chairs or an L-shaped sectional would really work here. Avoid overstuffed marshmallow-like seating — bulky pieces will make that ceiling feel like it’s lower than it is. Opt for furniture with clean lines and a sofa with arms (vs. armless), and try to find pieces that sit lower to the floor but not ON the floor. I think you should show a little leg but don’t allow too much space between the sofa and the floor.
- I’d paint the wall where the stairwell is (right side as you walk up the steps) and continue with that color down the hallway to give that space a separateness from the living room area. Perhaps something with warm tones vs. cool tones would work there.
- If you are keeping this wall color, I’d change the trim to the same color as the wall paint to create height or trim it a shade or two lighter (but not darker).
- At the top of your stairs I’d replace that light fixture with one that mounts flush against the ceiling — again to create a sense of height.
- Perform this little exercise; walk up your stairs and turn slightly left looking toward your living room. Where do your eyes land first? Try it again, a few times. Ask others who will live in this space to do the same. Guests too. That is your “focal” point. I’d build the design starting from that space.
- Fill that lovely built-in bookcase with books — what a fantastic feature you have there. For fun, you could even paint or paper inside of those shelves (go darker not lighter). I sure would. Keep books or whatever you end up putting there, in a similar size and tone because it will look clean and neat but also provide more visual weight.
- Hang your curtain rods several inches higher than your window frame to create a longer line from the floor to the top of the rod — visually this makes the room look taller.
- If you plan to keep your television, I’d place it to the left of your fireplace vs. inside of it. (hee hee) If you don’t plan to use the fireplace, decorate the inside with a few pillar candles in varying heights.
- I’m not sure if your room is large enough to break out into two cozy sections, so, if not, I suggest this on furniture placement: when you are arranging things “float” pieces away from the walls vs. placing everything right up against them (not applicable to the TV unit but for sofa/chairs).
- Add a cozy throw folded neatly over the arm of your sofa or chair. Sounds so textbook, but a few throw pillows and a nice blanket really do create warmth.
- Look for drapes that touch the floor (not puddled and not too short, just skimming the floor is perfect), and replace your plastic blinds with a quality fabric shade or roll up blind — look for something tactile like wood or linen.
Thank you, Eleanor, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. And, thank you, Holly, for providing such terrific advice!
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