Breaking up the squares

Round table versus square

Breaking up the squares? What am I talking about? And exactly what does shape have to do with design? Well, actually a lot. It is one of the things that we unconsciously notice in a room and it can either make us feel at ease or uncomfortable.

Think of a room that you may have been in, that is all rectangular and square furniture. A large rectangular sofa together with square armchairs and a square coffee table and end tables. Add the square or rectangle shaped art and perhaps even an area rug that is, you guessed it, either a square or rectangle. Often you’ll see institutional waiting rooms, like hospitals, schools, community centres which are decorated like this. This doesn’t help with our sense of unease or make us feel like we want to stay awhile. Everything feels hard and well….not so friendly.

Now, think of a room that has rounded or curved furniture. Typically you may see this in spas, bars and coffee houses. Round tables with chairs, a cute curved banquet to sit at or a friendly furniture arrangement around a round coffee table or ottoman. Now don’t you feel more comfortable and want to stay awhile?

It is the same way with our homes. Too many squares and cubes like armchairs and sofas? The remedy is simple. Round, oval or asymmetrical accessories or furnishings. Ottomans, coffee tables, end tables or mirrors in a rounded shape are the perfect way to counteract all the squares and rectangles that are so common in our fixtures and furnishings. An asymmetrical piece like a cowhide rug or even artwork will also help break up all the squares. Even by adding in a round vase, pendant or table lamp can change your room’s feel. This is definitely one of the most common things I suggest to a client during a consultation.

Another benefit to using oval or round furniture is that they often help with traffic flow. If you have a tight dining room consider swapping out your rectangular dining table for a round one. All of a sudden the flow is better and it is more conductive to table talk. Same thing goes for a round coffee table.

This is the before of the kitchen above. A kitchen is obviously primarily square due to all the cabinetry, sink, countertops and appliances. Add that to the fact that they are all hard surfaces. Just by changing out the rectangular table for a round one in this example served two purposes. It breaks up all the squares and it makes for an easier traffic flow to the sliding door. To read more about this renovation, click here.

Rectangular table versus round

Ahh..now that’s better.

So consider even adding in a round pendant light or mirror to your room that is full of cubes, it will definitely help to break up all the squares!

 

 

Furnish a room in 6 easy steps

Are you looking for help to furnish a room? Here’s my six steps that you can follow to furnish your perfect space. I’ll be using one of my client’s living room as an example. Click here to see the original post. 

Here’s the before so you can see where we started from.

So you can see from the before pictures that we were basically starting from scratch the only thing that we kept was the television.

FUNCTION AND FEEL

The first thing I asked this client was questions on how she wanted the room to function. This is key to having a room that works for you and your family. Form always follows function.

For this client, she wanted space for her and her son and to entertain guests. She knew she needed more storage, better lighting and comfortable seating. She also wanted to address the drapery treatment and was already planning to put in hardwood floors.

I also ask my clients how they want the room to feel. This really helps to fine tune your design choices. This client wanted fresh, beachy and bright. So take a moment to think how you want your room to function and feel.

LAYOUT

So once you have the function question answered, draw up a little sketch or use an online program of your space. I use the paid version of Room Sketcher but they do have a simplified free version available here . Better Homes and Gardens has one as well. I haven’t used it but you can click here to go to their site.

Play around and see what works. This is the key step you need to furnish your room. At this point don’t be too concerned with colours, these design plans often have limited colour choices, right now you are most concerned about what will fit.

If you are looking at your family room and you need seating for 4-6 people. Well, now you can decide whether you want a sofa that is long enough for napping, with a love seat and a chair. Or do you want two love seats and two chairs? This is where you will see what will actually fit and what won’t. Keep in mind that you need a minimum of 3-4′ of space for traffic flow areas and that coffee tables should be at least 18″ from sofa/chairs to be useful and comfortable.

FOR EXAMPLE

Here’s what the living room and adjoining dining room layout looked like for this client.

Living room and dining room layout

Living room and dining room layout

If the program has 3D rendering it will really help you visualize the space. I find it very useful to help clients visualize and for deciding on item’s heights. This is also where I focus of the shapes of items. Since most furniture is square or rectangle I try to incorporate some round, oval or irregular shapes to balance the design.

Living room 3D rendering

Living room/dining room layout 3D

A sectional worked well in this small living area and maximized the seating as well as comfort factor. A colourful occasional chair adds some pattern and can be pulled up closer to the sectional when company is over or even used at the dining table when needed.

A television console with cupboards, a large coffee table with drawers and shelves and a dining room buffet situated between the living room and dining room offers storage for both rooms. It also gives her a place to put a larger table lamp and add in a small gallery wall.

My client ended up going with a sofa with a chaise lounger at one end instead of a full sectional as she didn’t want to block too much light from the window. The key here was she knew what size of sectional/sofa would work and then she went shopping. She also decided to wait on getting an area rug and see if she really missed having one or not. Design is fluid and often Plan B or Plan C is utilized as you go along.

FURNISH

Now make a list of the pieces you will need to furnish this room. Perhaps you will be using something you already have. Just make sure that the dimensions work in your layout. Remember to measure everything so that you don’t have any unexpected surprises. It’s also very important to measure your main door frame or any stairs to ensure you can get any larger pieces of new furniture in your house or up or down the stairs!!

This is also where you want to think about window treatments. Do you need blinds and drapes, or just blinds. Is privacy or sun protection an issue? If so, you definitely want to ensure you have blinds or at least lined drapery.

Furnish a room in 6 easy steps

Also don’t forget the lighting and smaller case goods, like end tables, foot stools, night tables, etc…. This is the best place to play with placement and see if you can fit in a floor lamp or perhaps even a large house plant in that corner.

Here is the mood board for this project. This was done up together with a list of items to be ordered/purchased and their costs.

Mood board living room and dining room

BUDGET

We can’t forget the budget. It really does make some decisions for you. I am a splurge and save kind of gal, as I love a few luxury pieces but then my practical side comes in. I LOVE to find a bargain or perhaps repurpose or reuse an item.

Make up a spreadsheet with the list of the items you need to purchase/find on the left and then start sourcing with your budget in mind. As you go along you will have to decide where to splurge and where to save or perhaps plan for a larger purchase over time.

Furnish a room in 6 easy steps

COLOUR SCHEME

Now this is where the colour scheme comes in. Are you using some existing pieces? Use them as your guide. An area rug, art piece or even the fabric on a throw cushion can be your jumping off point for the colour scheme. Keep in mind the colours in the rest of your home and how much light this room gets. If this is a main room, you want to ensure that it won’t clash with the hallway or other rooms adjacent to it.

If you need further inspiration or are starting from scratch, look around your home, what is your favourite room? What colours are in there? Or do a Pinterest search and just start pinning rooms that you love. A common colour thread will emerge quickly.

Once you have decided on the colours of all the major pieces you can now choose a paint colour. Paint colours should always come last. As it is much easier to choose a paint colour to go with your sofa fabric than the other way around.

Furnish a room in 6 easy steps

ACCESSORIES

Once you have made all these decisions and ordered your furniture you can start the fun part. Accessory shopping! You can either shop your home or hit the stores for the finishing touches. I like to keep at least 10% of the budget for accessories. Don’t skip this step, it gives your room it’s personality. Buy more accessories than you think you’ll need so that you can try them out in your space. Just make sure that there is a good store exchange policy so that you can return the items that are not needed.

Furnish a room in 6 easy steps

That’s it you are done!

Now sit back and enjoy your perfect space.

And if all of this seems way too complicated or time consuming for you, just contact me.

I’d be happy to help design your perfect room.

Whether from start to finish or by just giving you the design plans to do it yourself. It’s entirely up to you.

How to design and furnish a sunroom

Boy, it’s a hot summer here so far. So in honour of the season, I’m sharing my log room sunroom that I designed and furnished when we bought our log home a few years ago. So whether your sunroom is actually a covered porch, a screened in 3 season room, a Muskoka room or a free standing gazebo, these tips will help you.

Here’s how one side of the sunroom looks now.

Log home sunroom

And the other side.

Sunroom design

blue log cottage sunroom

Blue log cottage sunroom

This is what I started with.

Before sunroom

I bought more substantial and darker wicker furniture and had the cushions made with sunbrella fabric so that there was no worry about sun damage or a wet bathing suit. I chose blue fabrics that complemented each other but that were not the same for interest. Instead of a coffee table I went with an ottoman. It can be used for your feet, as an extra seat or for putting a tray on and using as a table.

Blue log cottage sunroom

The various throw pillows were made by me and I selected more contrasting patterns but with the same colours of blue as in the upholstery. I primarily used blue in this room but with little touches of a soft green. It shows up on the table base, on candle holders and on a few other decorative accessories.

blue log cottage sunroom

A small corner shelf adds a little display area and makes the corner interesting. A little round glass table holds a table lamp and in the other corner a larger table is for display and to place a drink or two. A floor lamp brings much needed light into this corner.

blue log cottage sunroom detail

My grandfather’s ice saw from the early 1900’s takes pride of place over the window. You can just see it on the picture below. An indoor/outdoor rug with a fun french poem written on it anchors the seating area.

blue log cottage sunroom

The little piano stool, from a barn sale, is painted a fun turquoise that matches the curio cabinet in the living room.

Turquoise piano stool used as table in sunroom

And here’s how the other side of the room looked like before.

before sunroom

First up we had to do a repair on the floor tiles right in front of the door. Since the existing terracotta tiles were not available nor would they have matched I went with a different pattern terracotta tile for this area, I think it makes it look like an accent rug.

blue log cottage sunroom

We also took out three of the six skylights as the lower ones were too close to the edge of the roof and leaked all the time. We kept it as an eating area and this is also where we often play cards. Removing the shelf allowed for a larger table and chairs. I also hung a black industrial style pendant light. And for a little bit of fun, I painted and placed some old oars as wall art on this wall.

log cottage detail

Log cottage sunroom

The other side of the room, which you don’t see has a large bookcase across from the table. And there are two sets of french doors which take up the rest of the wall space.

Sunroom detail

If you’d like to read about the other rooms in my log cottage, click on the links below. And stayed tuned, as I’ll be sharing more of the rooms throughout the summer. You can also read about my log cottage feature online in Ottawa at Home’s summer edition by clicking here. 

Log cottage living room 

Log cottage bathroom 

All photos except before pictures:  Melissa Kew Photography

How I designed and updated a log cottage living room on plan and on budget

Since lots of you had questions and wanted to see a bit more about our log cottage that was published in Ottawa at Home summer edition, I thought I’d share how I designed and updated the cottage living room on a plan and with a fairly strict budget.

Here’s how it looks now.

Log home living room with white sofas and blue swivel chairs

Photo credit: Melissa Kew Photography

Since it is a large living room, I worked mostly with the furniture left behind and what we brought from our other cottage. By repurposing and reimagining a number of pieces I was able to keep within our budget.

Pictures do say a thousand words so here’s a quick breakdown of what changed in the cottage living room.

Before picture of log cottage living room with design changes

The sofa and love seat were great quality and in perfect shape, so I quickly decided to slipcover them in a white denim. Slipped off and washed at least once a year they stay clean and fresh. And putting throws where they are likely to get soiled helps keep them clean longer. I love that they make the room a little brighter as all wood interiors can get dark.

Donating the traditional area rug to a shelter allowed me to have a faux sisal wall to wall rug cut and bound to size. This is the perfect thing to do when you need a specific size or a very large area rug. It has held up nicely and it hides sand very well.

Removing the swag drapery treatments lets the view speak for itself. Privacy isn’t an issue and with the large roof overhand that is typical of log buildings, sun damage isn’t either. Simpler and more light, both big pluses in my book.

Even if the large clock and console were left by the previous owner, I would have removed both of them,  as there was far too much furniture in the space.

I relocated the existing occasional tables within the cottage and purchased an end table and coffee table from Urban Barn, with a lucky gift card win. Made from repurposed wood they have the rustic feel and look I was going for. Though they do strike a bit of a challenge when placing your drink on them, with their uneven surface.

My grandfather’s travel trunk from the early 1900’s replaced the other end table. I just had a piece of glass cut to fit the top and it has been the perfect thing. If you want to learn more about cottage decorating click here to read an Ottawa Citizen article that I contributed to.

Antique trunk fitted with a glass top to use as a table

Photo credit: Melissa Kew Photography

And on the other side of the cottage living room.

Before picture of living room with design changes

We upgraded the wood pellet stove for a wood burning insert. Well worth the change both aesthetically and financially, as it has lowered our heating bills substantially in the winter.

The two pink swivel chairs were functionally perfect for the space. Even more so after I added the tv behind them, so now you can swivel to watch the fire or tv. With their threadbare pink fabric, they needed a makeover.  By raising them up a few inches (they were quite short) and reupholstering them in an exterior fabric they will be used and abused for many years.

log home living room with white slipcovered sofas

Photo credit: Melissa Kew Photography

New foam and a durable exterior fabric completely updated the window seats. The pillows are a combination of ones I have made, knitted or picked up at various shops.

Adding my own decor items, like the large clock above the mantel, makes it feel more like us. Since this picture was taken this clock has been switched out for an even larger metal industrial one. Antique books, candles and other decor items are displayed on the mantel itself.  You can’t quite see them in these pictures,  but I used images from a great desk calendar and put them in inexpensive frames. By stacking them on top of each other, it gives them a bit more presence on the wall.

Originally this floor lamp was gold plated and very dated. I painted it black and bought a new drum shade to give it a new lease on life.

Cottage living room with stone fireplace

Photo credit: Melissa Kew Photography

The cute little turquoise cabinet, a hand me down gift from a neighbour, got a fresh coat of paint. The swing chair lives here in the winter and in the summer it is enjoyed on the back deck.

Obviously, budget wise we didn’t do this all at the same time. Being one of our most used spaces, it was high on the priority list. I had a plan and as cash became available I just kept going down my list. That is really the key…to have a plan. You may find things as you go along that aren’t in the plan. That’s okay just as long as you have a good idea of where you are heading. That will also help you to avoid getting off track by spending more money then is necessary.

How can I help you design your living room?

How to furnish and love a long narrow living room in 5 easy steps

Do you have a long narrow living room? Are you a little puzzled on how to go about using it to it’s full potential or at the least making it appear less long and narrow? These quick tips will definitely help you.

1.  First off, do not make the shorts walls a featured area. That is, don’t paint it a different colour than the other walls or put wallpaper on just this one wall. That will draw your eye right to the other end of the room and emphasize it’s narrowness.  So, no accent walls of paint or wallpaper, and if possible, do not put the television or fireplace there.

2.  Do try and place the television/fireplace or other focal pieces, on one of the long walls. This will redirect your focus there.

3. Place furniture away from the short walls wherever possible. So that they will be drawn more into the center of the room.  Creating two seating areas works well in a long narrow living room and enables it to be used to it’s full potential.

4. Built ins or shelving units are your friend.  They can be used on the short walls to create some additional storage and they will inevitably cause the room to be shortened in length. Especially if one of the longer walls has a focal point, as in the image below, the window wall will draw your attention before the shelving unit does.

5. Don’t be afraid of larger pieces of furniture, like sectionals, they work especially well for long narrow living rooms. They take up less space than a sofa and love seat and give you just as much seating, if not more, and allow you to stretch out to watch your favourite shows….hello, Netflix.

Recently, I did up a floor plan for a client with a long narrow living room and here are the two options I gave her.  There is an interesting closet like space at the end of the room that we needed to work with, you know….. old homes and all their character. The challenge in this long narrow living room was accommodating the two entrances and windows and the traffic flow. Also, keep in mind drawings are for design layout purposes only and not necessarily suggestions for colour or specific pieces.

Long narrow Living room Option 1 –  long narrow living room - layout

The alcove at the end of the room is brought forward by using it as another seating area. Placing a console with a piece of art above and two matching chairs in front make this space functional.  Having the television in the middle of one of the long walls allows it to become a feature.
long narrow living room - design option long narrow living room - design option

Long narrow Living room Option 2 – 

The left side of the room remains the same, with the right side accommodating a built in bookcases and storage.
long narrow living room - layout
long narrow living room - design option
So what’s your favourite Option for a long narrow living room?
Lisa