Float OnAnchor the family room with a 'floating' furniture arrangement to create space - or at least the illusion of it
Challenge: Open floor plans, though still popular, put design skills to the test because there are few walls to place furniture against. On the other hand, small spaces can feel as though the walls are closing in.
Proposed solution: Pull furniture away from the walls and "float" it in the room. In an open floor plan, this provides a cozy seating area. In a small room, it creates the appearance of airiness.
Bigger challenge: Getting the proposed solution to work.
A floating arrangement is difficult to pull off, since anything other than perfect placement can make furnishings look like "ships cast at sea" or as though someone cleaned the walls and forgot to move the furniture back, says New York designer Scott Salvator.
For the average person, and even for pros, a successful outcome "requires a lot of arranging and rearranging," says designer Dawn Falcone, also of New York. "You have to set aside time to work with your furniture. Sometimes just pushing something back one inch makes all the difference in the world."
In certain rooms, a floating arrangement simply won't work, no matter how many rounds of "musical furniture" you undertake. "It's really an architecture-driven thing. If the room is big and open in all directions, a floating floor plan works great," Salvator says, though an island of furniture in the middle of the room requires at least 3 feet of walking space around the perimeter.
To begin experimenting, remove everything from the room except your largest furnishings, such as your sofa and love seat. Identify the room's focal point, or create one. In a living room, it's usually the fireplace or television.
The focal point is your anchor, Falcone says, and guides the placement of your remaining furniture. Generally, the sofa looks good directly across from the focal point, facing it at a comfortable distance. Other pieces can then be angled toward the focal point or oriented around the sofa to create a balanced arrangement conducive to conversation.
Alternately, you can place the sofa and a love seat to form an L, with the arms close together for cohesion. You probably will need to place furnishings with comparable "visual weight" across from the love seat for balance. An area rug can be used to define and unify your arrangement, Falcone says.
With your primary pieces in place, you need to figure out how to use the rest of the space. "In a huge room, if everything's in the middle you need to have other groupings of furniture," Falcone says. Against one wall, you could place two chairs with an occasional table between them, for example.
In the best-case scenario, these groupings would accommodate other activities, such as reading, Falcone says.
Off the Walls
A floating floor plan leaves you with blank, gallery-like walls. If smaller furniture groupings aren't possible, fill in the space with framed photos and artwork, or place a console table against the wall and hang a striking piece of artwork above it, Falcone suggests.
For smaller rooms, consider moving furniture off the wall at an angle instead of unmooring it altogether. For example, angle your sofa off the wall slightly and put a table and table lamp behind it in the widest part of the pie-shaped space you've created. Or keep the sofa parallel to the wall but bring it out far enough to put a rectangular table behind it.
One problem with floating floor plans is that there's no place to plug things in, though in some homes it's possible to retrofit floor outlets. Make no mistake: "You'll need table lamps and floor lamps no matter how much natural and overhead lighting you have," Falcone says.
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