Widening horizons in a narrow room Design: Visual expansion can be accomplished with paint, plants and focal points.

March 23, 1997|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

I'm planning to convert a long and narrow spare room into a guest room. Someone told me that the space can be made to look wider by covering one of the long walls entirely with a mirror. What do you think?

This technique has become so common that it is now a design cliche. But that's not my biggest objection to wall-to-wall mirrors; I also find them disorienting.

There are other ways to achieve the foreshortening effect you seek. One is to paint a short end wall in a darker color, thereby making the room's width appear greater.

A long and narrow space can also be expanded visually by softening its corners and introducing focal points along the side walls. Such a two-pronged solution was implemented by designer Matthew Patrick Smyth in the bedroom shown in the photo, which is proportionally similar to your own. He also made use of a mirror, as you can see.

Smyth began with a monochromatic color scheme consisting of natural linen wall covering and a softly upholstered velvet headboard. This unobtrusive surround acts as a quiet backdrop for a Japanese screen hung on one of the long walls. Its image is reflected in the moderately sized and distinctively framed mirror hung almost directly opposite the focal point and adjacent to the bed.

The potted palm performs the function of softening one of the room's corners. Besides adding texture and color, the fronds make the space look less angular and hard-edged.

Because there's a window at the far end of the room, a guest lying in bed will have a view of the outdoors as well as of the palm and the Japanese screen. This arrangement should

prevent any sense of claustrophobia.

And by choosing a mirror that's less than wall size, you will also guard against the disconcerting effect that can occur when a bed is placed against a totally mirrored surface.

Lofty ideas

We recently purchased a condo that was once an open space in a warehouse-type building. The square-footage isn't all that large, but the ceilings are 18 feet high. We're planning to construct a sleeping loft above what will be the living room and kitchen areas. Please advise us on how to shield the loft from the rest of the apartment.

As a space-saving device, a sleeping loft makes sense. But as you already seem to know, this arrangement can produce some difficulties. Lack of privacy is one of them. Noise is another, especially when the apartment's occupants are following different sleeping schedules. There's also the issue of insufficient air circulation in a loft, which can get unpleasantly warm in the summertime.

This latter problem is probably the easiest to solve. A ceiling fan above the sleeping area should be enough to keep it cool while also preventing odors from rising from the kitchen below.

The other concerns can be partly addressed by building a parapet-type wall around the sides of the sleeping area. Make it between 36 and 42 inches high -- the right proportion for one end to serve as a headboard or a boxed storage compartment. That height should also allow some daylight to enter from windows below loft-level.

If noise remains a problem, you can add glass panes from the top of the parapet up to the ceiling.

Pub Date: 3/23/97

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