1. FOCUS ON THE POSITIVES
Begin with a checklist of the room’s strong points, perhaps the fireplace, French windows or simply a sunny aspect. Plan your scheme to highlight these key features. Then think about the elements you don’t like and work on removing them, or changing them to minimise their impact on the space.
2. REMOVE ANY OBSTACLES
Increase your layout options by making change to the fixtures and fittings. Could you rehang a door or remove it to open up an unused corner? And have TV sockets and power points moved if needed, so you’re not tied to an awkward layout. Consider moving a radiator to free up part, or all, of a wall, or swap a standard panelled one for a vertical model that takes up less floor space.
3. MAKE STORAGE A PRIORITY
For a contemporary look, keep everything in one place rather than having lots of separate pieces of furniture. It’s a good idea to have furniture made-to-measure to fit one wall and incorporate everything, including your TV and media equipment. Alternatively, modular furniture can be adapted to suit you and the room. Ikea has an easy-to-use online planner that you can use to create an arrangement that works. If you have space, you might want to include a little desk with some drawer files to create a study area.
4. CHOOSE THE RIGHT LAYOUT
- Rectangular If two rooms have been knocked into one, there are two focus points and the most common pitfall is to arrange furniture so the room feels like a corridor. Minimise the look of a long room by putting seating across it. Try two sofas opposite each other or, more casually, a sofa and two chairs. Interior designer Louise McCarthy’s rule is to create symmetry: ‘Try to get a balance between the different number and size of the pieces of furniture and always attempt to position them away from the walls.’
- L-shape An L-shape can feel like two separate rooms. Use the main area shape for seating, following the same rule as for a rectangular room. If the room is large enough, think about different functions for the two sections. For example, a formal seating area in the main part and a relaxation and TV-watching zone in the smaller part. To integrate the two areas, introduce rounded furniture, such as a circular table or small chair at the corner. Wallpaper a wall, add greenery or a mirror to bring the corner forward.
- Square If there’s no obvious focal point, square rooms can feel boxy and featureless. In larger square rooms, having two, or even three armchairs with a sofa breaks up the symmetry and is a versatile mix. Alternatively, position sofas at right angles to each other towards the television in the opposite corner, or the fireplace.
- Small rooms If space is tight, try two sofas or a sofa and single chair in a loose L-shaped configuration. Choose styles with narrow arms and slim backs that take up less room. A corner sofa would sit right against the wall but measure up carefully as corner units can be quite big. Swap a coffee table for occasional tables or storage at either end of seating to keep the central space open. Put the television on the wall or on low-level furniture that extends across a wall and will give you extra storage.
5. TRY NOT TO LET A TELEVISION DOMINATE THE ROOM
Don’t be tempted by that big 70 inch screen if you can barely fit a sofa in. If you have a fireplace, keep that as the focal point by positioning the television in an alcove or recess. In a small room, you may want to mount the TV on a wall to minimise its impact. It should be at eye level when seated, but no lower than 120cm from the floor. Position so there’s minimal reflection off the screen from the window or lights, but have a light nearby to prevent eye strain.
6. ADJUST THE LIGHTING
Dimmer switches are the easiest way to adjust the mood of the room, while wall lights give a gentle, diffused glow – ideal for relaxed evenings. Otherwise, add an extra power point or two so you can have table lamps to provide atmospheric lighting that you can also read by.