In a large room that has a focal point at one end, it's often necessary to situate the main seating cluster in the center of the space. That arrangement affords a direct view of the room's main attraction, whether it's a fireplace, an entertainment center, or a window that frames a dramatic vista.
In addition to establishing what's known as attractive sight lines, this sort of furniture layout creates a cozy conversation grouping.
Problems can arise, however, whenever chairs and tables are placed well away from a room's perimeter walls. The design difficulties are greatest when the entrance to the room is opposite the focal point. The back of a sofa may then be the first thing a person sees upon entering a space that features a much more pleasing sight.
Interior designers employ a variety of techniques to alleviate this problem. The simplest is to choose a sofa with a low back and in a color that's compatible with its immediate surroundings. If the furniture piece blends with the carpet and the walls, the eye of someone entering the room will not fix on the back of the sofa. The viewer's glance will instead glide past the low-lying objects and come to rest on the intended focal point.
Another design device has the added advantage of addressing the psychological need for protection typically felt by those seated with their backs to an entrance.
In a conversation grouping facing a fireplace, for instance, consider a series of multilevel, stack-type tables arranged around the back and along one side of a low-slung sofa.
A simple, functional two-tiered table at the sofa's back could hold a small collection of baskets and a couple of pottery planters. The lower shelf could provide a convenient resting place for books and magazines.
An adjacent, higher table would be especially attractive in a wrap-around shape. In addition to serving as a sofa-side surface for a reading lamp, it could also be used as an end table for a nearby lounge chair.
This kind of open yet well-defined furniture arrangement can work as a room within a room. It's particularly effective in producing a sense of protection and intimacy in the midst of a large, dramatically designed space.