Q: We'll soon be moving to a condo, and that will mean changing the style of our furnishings. The biggest problem is what to do with a fairly large living room that has sliding glass doors along its longest wall. With the exception of a 10-foot-by-12-foot corner across from the glass doors, there's no available wall space wider than four feet. How are we going to arrange our new furniture? And what sort of pieces would make the most sense in this setting?
A: Because the room is fairly large, some of the furniture can be placed elsewhere than against the walls. That's especially so for the chairs.
I suggest you begin the whole design process by picturing a theatrical stage set and thinking of the furniture as props. Tables, cabinets and other pieces not necessary for conversation are usually the only items placed against the walls. The seating on a stage is generally free-standing, with space left for the actors to walk around it.
Now you must first determine the traffic flow -- how people will enter and exit the room and where they will most logically circulate. Once that is decided, the seating pieces can be arranged to accommodate the traffic patterns.
Attention must also be paid, however, to the room's sight lines. If those glass doors afford a good view, then be sure to take advantage of it by situating the main seating group so that it looks toward the exterior. Keep in mind, too, that each of the doors doesn't have to open all the way. Figure out which are the most essential, and arrange the furniture accordingly.
I would also try to create a focal point in addition to the glass doors. That will make the furniture layout more flexible and certainly more interesting. Remember, you're not the audience in your own home -- you're the players!
That large corner section of solid wall is the likeliest locale for an attention-getting display. Perhaps you can devise something like the composition shown in the photo. It was designed by J. S. Brown for the 1991 Pasadena (Calif.) Showhouse. The banquette seating with comfortable back cushions and a pair of commodious pull-up chairs are sufficient for six to eight people.
It's the six-panel screen that gives this arrangement a special look. The folding panels, which wrap around the corner, produce a visual depth that can seldom be matched by an application on a flat wall.
When placing seating pieces away from the walls, you must never isolate a single chair. It's fine to put one next to a secretary or a small desk, from where it can readily be called into service when there's a need for additional seating for guests.
The main conversation groupings in a large room also need to be visually delineated. It might thus make sense to purchase area rugs, as opposed to wall-to-wall carpeting. Another possibility is bound, textured carpeting cut into area-size rugs. That was the choice in this model, which features a DuPont Stainmaster Carpet by Karastan in a neutral shade called sandstone. Its interesting texture and weave makes a good contrast to the blond-stained, wood-planked floor.