Q: My long and narrow living room has a fireplace right in the center of one of the side walls. This configuration makes the space very difficult to furnish. Specifically, I don't know how to arrange seating pieces around the fireplace without isolating this conversational grouping from the rest of the room. Can you help me resolve this dilemma?
A: The issue is not so much how best to arrange the furniture, but rather how to change the visual perception of the room. You've got to create an illusion and that involves using a number of design elements.
Let's start with the grouping of seats around the fireplace. In conventionally shaped rooms, the typical approach is to place the various pieces in a symmetrical pattern on both sides of the opening in the wall. In your case, however, I would recommend putting a sofa or a loveseat at an angle to the fireplace. Then you can arrange the other seating pieces
in a larger and looser configuration facing both the fireplace and the room's main seating area.
To make the space seem less long and narrow, you might consider placing a pair of free-standing screens at the far corners of the room. Smaller area rugs rather than a wall-to-wall carpet will also help diminish the corridorlike effect. At
least one of those rugs, by the way, should be laid down at an angle to the room and parallel to the cornered sofa.
If you decide to go in this direction, please be careful in your choice of colors.
In particular, don't punch out a wall by painting it or papering it in a color that contrasts with the rest of the room. Too many people believe that this is a clever solution for a long, narrow space. In fact, it's rather clumsy and tired way of producing the intended illusion.
The use of eye-catching decorative screens in opposite corners is a far more imaginative tactic. They can add the necessary contrast to your wall and sofa, thus adding to the sense of drama in a room that's already graced -- at least some of the time -- with TC a mesmerizing fire. The screens will also act to foreshorten the space more effectively than will most of the tricks that can be played with walls.