Q: I occasionally entertain four to six people for dinner in my small apartment. Because it can get rather crowded, I'm thinking about buying some multipurpose furniture, preferably not in contemporary style. Do you have any suggestions for how such pieces should be arranged?
A: The first step is to draw a detailed floor plan. It should indicate the spots where you prefer to place your main furnishings. The plan also ought to designate any adjacent areas, such as a hallway or a foyer, in which you might be able to situate a small piece of multipurpose furniture that can easily be moved into position for a dinner party.
Draw the floor plan in scale to the actual room size. That will allow you to figure out exactly how much space is available for a particular piece of furniture. You'll then know whether it makes sense to buy a 5-by-2 1/2 -foot love seat, for example, or whether a smaller and slimmer seating piece is all that can be accommodated.
The photo shows a versatile and elegant settee that can easily fit in a hallway, bedroom or living room. It can serve as banquette DTC seating for two for a dinner party in a small apartment. And if your space isn't truly tiny, you could probably even use two such pieces, each of which is 4 1/2 by 2 feet. When not used as dining seating, they could be placed on either side of a small sofa.
The dining table itself can be either a drop-leaf model or a console with storable leaves. A table large enough to seat six need measure only 5 by 1 1/2 feet in the closed position. When not opened to full size, a drop-leaf or console table can be placed against a wall or behind a sofa and be used as a surface for books, lamps and decorative objects.
As you can see, the styling of a multipurpose piece of furniture doesn't have to be contemporary. Like the settee in the photo, its design can be classically inspired. This particular item, by the way, is a Baker furniture adaptation of what is often referred to as British or Dutch Colonial style. This in itself is a simplified and usually handcrafted version of empire furniture.
The seat and back are caned. The solid and overscaled turned arms and legs are based on classical designs, but because of their simple lines, this piece may be more suitable to a casual interior. Depending on the choice of fabric cushion and pillow, the settee can be dressed up or down to match on occasion or mood.
Note too that in this model the floor was painted in a faux marble finish. This whimsical touch reinforces the look of casual elegance.