Decorating & Design

December 3, 2008

Living Room Layout

Q. Our 1970s (17’ by 15′ 6") living room needs redecorating. We have a slate fireplace that is 4’ deep and 6.5’ wide. Opposite the fireplace is a 10’ wide picture window. What should our furniture layout be to balance this fireplace and not make the room look too heavy? I was thinking of two loveseats and two small chairs with a square coffee table and a wall unit. Also, I would like a new mantel and was wondering how it should be decorated as the mantel is quite high. Should I put a mirror on the mantel, and if so, what shape and size? What colours would look good with the oak and slate? Also, do you have any suggestions for window coverings?

— W.S., Victoria

A. Your slate fireplace is quite striking and adds an earthy, rustic quality to the living room. To lighten up the space, recover the dark loveseats in a neutral fabric such as a natural denim or ultra-suede. Add a few throw pillows in chenille or felt for some contrasting texture. Your current L-shaped layout of your two loveseats works well for lounging or conversation in front of the fireplace. Move your square side table between these two and add a table lamp here for reading. Purchase an area rug with a neutral tone background and muted blue-green pattern to pick up colours in the slate and help ground the seating area.

Instead of a coffee table, two small square leather cubes would work well and can be used as additional seating when needed. To complete this conversation area, to the right side of the fireplace add a high-backed armchair in a fabric deeper in colour than your loveseats.

To give your fireplace a new look while maintaining its rustic feel, replace your current white painted wood mantel with a chunky unfinished beam. Check salvage shops in your city for reclaimed wood beams that can be cut to fit. Since your mantel is high, instead of a mirror opt for one fairly large piece of sculpture or unique flea market find with an organic or handmade feel. For window coverings, hang two extra-wide panels in a neutral textured linen on an oil-rubbed bronze drapery rod. These will add weight to the wall opposite the fireplace and help to balance the room out. Install the drapery rod a few inches higher than the window frame to give the illusion of height. Be sure that the drapery panels are long enough to just touch the floor.