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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Alternative Room

I think the most important thing in design is function. I love a beautiful and well appointed space, but if it's not user friendly, I think...why bother, what's the point? The older I get, the more important it is to have a home that is not only attractive and reflective of our interests, but one that functions well for the way we live everyday. And, the truth is we are not formal living room people. Our family room, which I call the living room has more of a "living room" room feel and is my favorite room in our house, both for it's comfort and beauty.

The room our floor plan indicates is the living room is probably the least interesting space in our home. It only has 2 windows and is a long rectangle with 2 entrances/exits on one wall. Which also means it's a challenge to furnish and still have plenty of room to move around. In it's earliest days, it was the playroom for my children outfitted with a pint size sofa and chairs in a navy print Winnie-the-Pooh fabric. Then it had a life as a formal living room complete with sofa, coffee table, 2 chairs and an amoire for stereo equipment. Before moving in 2001, we sold everything in the room knowing upon our return, this was not the best way for this room to live beautifully everyday! For the last several years, it has become an extension of our small library, but without the ambiance from the fireplace. Currently, it contains 2 chairs, an antique game table and a secretary. It functions well and is attractive, but definitely could still be improved upon. It's on the list, albeit rather far down!

Forget what your floor plan says. Think about what your needs are and don't be afraid of renaming and reinventing a space. I've said this before, if something doesn't work for the way you live, it doesn't work. One of my favorite reinterpretations of spaces is a seating group consisting of 4 chairs with an ottoman or round table in the middle. Here are a few inspirational spaces scanned from my tear sheets showing this arrangement in a variety of styles!

Don't like or have a matching set of chairs? Mix it up then!

Images courtesy of Southern Living, Decor, Tradtional Home, Veranda


  1. I agree, use a space for how you'd like to live in it! We aren't formal living room people either...ours is comfortable, attractive and fits our lifestyle. I remember being in high school and one of my friends had a formal living room with plastic on the chairs cushions and perfect vacuum marks on the rug. Even then I remember thinking...what's the point of this room? Great post! BTW, I love four chairs in a says "grab a seat, relax and let's chat!"

  2. Fabulous suggestions! That blue leopard ottoman is so over the top it!

  3. I do have a soft spot for #2. I actaully like a room to serve several functions as long as they are looking elegant and practical.

  4. What a great thoughtful post. I agree - if a room isn't functional, then it doesn't matter how beautiful it is! Love these - I'm with David - I think #2 is my favorite!

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  6. The chairs in # 3 look so comfy. Great examples of This design arrangement!

    Do come and enter my Artful Offering!

    Art by Karena

  7. I love this look....each guest can curl up in their own space but have the intimacy of of being in a small groupl (I used that blue fabric in the 2nd picture for my client in Clifton! :)

  8. I so agree!!! You are not tied to what a room was designed for. My house was built in the 1940s...and the way we live today is different. I think it's important that you and your guests are comfortable in all of your rooms.

    Love the 4 chair arrangements!!!
    xo Elizabeth

  9. I'm trying to shake
    things up and throw
    off what no longer
    works, so I hear you!
    Love your tear sheets.
    All gorgeous and all
    xx Suzanne

  10. I have always thought that a sofa is sort of a weird and awkward item.
    Seems the only time anyone uses it - is on holidays or to pass out on.
    Stand-alone chairs gathered seem so much more user friendly.
    Once again, you not only share living beautifully but with form and function.

  11. Love a conversation area with 4 chairs. I did this in front of the fireplace on my covered porch. So versatile, eat there or just sit and enjoy conversation. Great images. I agree with you completely about utilizing the space vs. the traditional use or non-use as that goes of the room.

  12. Love this look! It's so functional and pretty at the same time. Do 2 people who aren't sleeping together ever sit in a loveseat at the sametime? Thanks for sharing all these pics.

  13. OOOOOH I am loving your tear sheets! And have always wanted to do that with four chairs!

  14. You just described the future plans for my living room. Right now it has 4 chairs but not the ones I want. We have always used this room for visiting and reading so it is used but I know with most of my clients they never use there living rooms as a living space. I always told them they had valuable realestate beign wasted. I have had many use the formal dining room living room combo as their new family room. Great post as always and wonderful examples. The last pict has the inspiration for my someday fireplace wall in that room. I borrowed it for my files.!!!! Happy Weekend, KS

  15. I have always loved the four chairs grouped together! Love all these photos!



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