Placing the sofa, preserving the view Design: A low-backed love seat can go in front of a window wall, with grass shades that cut the glare.

September 28, 1997|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

The living room of my apartment has a wall-to-wall window that provides great views. This same wall, however, is the only one in the room large enough to accommodate both a sofa and a pair of end tables.

My suspicion is that putting all that furniture in front of a glass wall would not be a good idea. What do you think?

I can think of only two objections to making a wall-size window the backdrop for a sofa and end tables -- which will presumably have lamps placed on them. The first has to do with the glare that might make sitting on that sofa an unpleasant experience at certain times of the day. The other problem is that the furniture might obscure your great view.

Both these potential difficulties can be easily avoided, however, as the photo suggests. It shows a very pleasant living room in an urban apartment with a view that's hard to beat.

Here, the sofa is more the size of a love seat. This two-seater is fairly deep, but it has a low back that's been padded with squishy and removable decorative pillows. The accompanying tables are also a bit lower than usual. As a result, there's little interference with the views of the cityscape.

The problem of glare was solved by hanging hand-woven Japanese grass shades that allow light to filter gently into the room. A pulley system was installed to provide the option of letting sunshine flood the room. It's also possible to raise or lower specific sections of the window coverings, which are from Conrad Shades. In the photo, the center shade -- which is about the same width as the sofa -- has been partly raised to create a frame-like effect.

In your situation, I recommend that other seating pieces in the room be oriented toward the sofa in order to form a conversation grouping. Higher-back pieces, such as wing chairs, should perhaps be integrated into the ensemble to produce a sense of enclosure and intimacy.

I've been hearing for some time that the opulence of the 1980s is over, and that we're all going "back to basics." Just the other day, however, I read that luxury is making a comeback. Well, which is it? Please point me in the right direction, as I plan the redecoration of my home. What should I look for in regard to materials, colors and patterns? I love silks, stripes and natural fibers, but will such choices reveal me as being completely out of fashion?

My first bit of advice is to ignore what you read about design trends -- unless you read it in this column!

I also recommend that you act quickly if you want to be in fashion. What's "in" may well change before a fabric order can be shipped to your home.

However, if you want to be stylish -- which is not the same as being fashionable -- you can try to reconcile the two trends of back-to-basics and the return of luxury.

Let's start by defining those terms. "Basics" doesn't have to mean Shaker furniture and scrubbed pine floors. Indeed, I think that sort of look is utterly out of sync with most of today's lifestyles. Such homespun plainness is about as appropriate to the late 1990s as velvet curtains and Victorian seating.

Your own taste for silk is not exactly plebeian in either style or cost. And while that material certainly qualifies as luxurious, silk is also part of many classical designs, in both traditional and modern interpretations. I thus want to draw a clear distinction between "luxury" and "opulence," since the former can connote a high degree of stylishness while the latter has come to be synonymous with ostentatiously bad taste.

Now let's consider how luxury can be combined with basics -- in their contemporary sense.

What we're really talking about is eclectic design that features a subdued version of luxury and a stylish presentation of simplicity. That combination is actually very much in vogue today because it's suitable for both formal and casual settings. A room done in this manner is like a well-designed piece of clothing -- it can be dressed either up or down.

The key components of this design are neutral backgrounds, simple lines and forms, colorful accessories and strong statements in patterns.

As you've probably surmised by now, striking this balance isn't easy. But you should give it a try, if combining today's seemingly contradictory trends is truly important to you. If it's not, then just follow your own design tastes and don't worry about what's in or out.

Pub Date: 9/28/97

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