Q: I'm planning to furnish a small seaside apartment with some wicker and upholstered pieces. But I need advice about what to do with a dining alcove that is really part of the kitchen, yet is also visible from the living room. Should I try to block that view, or would it be better to make the alcove look more like it is part of the living room?
A: Creating a shield around a partition of an apartment is usually a lot more difficult than blending one space into another. That's especially true when the overall dimensions aren't very large. Putting up partitions in a small apartment can easily produce a claustrophobic, boxed-in feeling.
One possibility, however, would be to install a series of shuttered panels hinged to one wall. That would partly block the view of the dining alcove from the living room while perhaps avoiding the barrier-like effect that would surely result from some other treatments.
A simpler and equally effective solution can be had just by arranging the living room furniture in a clever configuration. I think this photo will give you some clues about how to do it.
In this situation, the living room sofa was not placed in the standard spot along the wall opposite the entranceway. As a result, the seating pieces are oriented away from the dining alcove. The main conversation grouping is now clearly separated from the adjoining space, though without the use of any imposing partitions.
Further emphasizing the division, a banquette-style environment has been created in the dining area. As the photo partly reveals, regular dining chairs were placed on two sides of a table built to accommodate up to six people. The rest of the perimeter is occupied by a wraparound sofa of a seating height appropriate for dining. This banquette arrangement serves as a suitable place for drinking a friendly glass of wine and as a comfortable spot for stretching out with the Sunday newspaper.
A furniture layout like this one has the effect of firmly demarcating two different functional areas while simultaneously encouraging an interchange between them. The alcove, in other words, is both apart from and integrated with the living room. The use of a sofa as a seating piece for diners enables the two spaces to be seen as related yet separate.
This is a neat trick, though not an easy one for an inexperienced designer to perform. But such a solution doesn't require much technical knowledge, and with some planning, would be well worth the effort to make the most of the limited space in your seaside apartment.