Instead of cutting corners, enhance them

February 07, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer

Corners are thought of as cozy places. Consider, for instance, all the coffee shops that go under the name "Cozy Corner" or something similar.

But most home decorators, I've found, have no idea of how to accentuate the sense of comfort that this space can provide. How often have you seen a plant stuck in the corner of a room? It's usually been put there not because such a placement enhances the room's appearance, but because the decorator just didn't know what else to do with the corner.

Perhaps corners ought to be moved to the top of the list when planning a room's furnishings. That way, the chances of producing some interesting effects would probably be much greater.

Even after a room has been designed, visual and functional improvements can be made easily in a forlorn and forgotten corner. In fact, a corner that's properly designed and lighted can change the way an entire room is perceived. A long and narrow space, for example, can be foreshortened by creating an attractive corner display that grabs a viewer's attention.

Now let's see what might be done in an ordinary corner of, say, a kitchen. How about installing a banquette where there is now only a nondescript table and a couple of chairs? A skilled carpenter can do the job in short order, if he has 4 feet of wall space to work with on each side of the corner.

Besides being much more comfortable, this arrangement can significantly increase the kitchen's storage and display capacity. Instead of placing the banquette flush against the wall, bring it out into the room a little, and top off its entire L-shape with a shelf of plastic laminate. Now there's a convenient perch for canisters, teapots, toasters and all the items that should be close at hand in a kitchen seating area.

Design-wise, a corner treatment of this sort will look best when it's integrated with the rest of the room. The banquette structure and the shelf should be similar in color to the kitchen walls, whether painted or papered. Contrasting or highlighting accents can then be added via the cushions and pillows used as backrests.

Corners are usually dark spots, so don't forget to install good lighting. A small wall lamp is probably all that's needed to supplement the kitchen's central ceiling fixture.

The table itself need not be anything elaborate, and it does make sense for it to have rounded corners. Getting in and out of a corner space is a lot easier -- and much less painful -- when you are not confronted with sharp edges.

In other rooms, a bookcase can be a good solution for a difficult corner. As an alternative to a floor-to-ceiling book display, the shelves can be built three-quarters of the way up the walls, with the top of the case used for showing off something other than books. A piece of sculpture might be an interesting addition, or maybe a decorative pot containing a small plant. (Oops, there's that plant again. Somehow, corners never seem to be without them.)

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