Design crew

Posted on Sat, 21 May 2011 by midcenturyjo

Got a problem? Need some help? Just standing there shaking your head? Don’t know what to do? You’re not alone. Send us a link to photos of your design quandary and let the Desire to Inspire design crew help you …. that’s you lot… the readers! This week it’s Cris who, after years of making do, has a flat with great bones and loads of potential. I know you’ll have lots of ideas for her.

Let me tell you a few words about me. I am an assistant professor in organic chemistry and in 2007 I  joined the faculty of the University of Zürich. So far I lived in couple of “just for sleeping” flats cause I was far toooo busy with the science. But  three months ago I was able to find (and rent) a fantastic apartment. It´s just a dream, my dream come true. And this is also why I write you, cause ever since I cannot make up my mind on how to decorate the dining room as well as the connected living room. I desperately need the Crew´s help!!! For reasons too long to explain I had to buy some furniture to the previous tenant. Those are all the dark-brown wooden pieces you see in the first two pictures (table, 6 chairs, 2 high + 1 medium shelves), which I decided to put together in the (smaller) dinning room. The other pieces you see in the third and fourth pictures (big linen sofa + caravane cushions, old walnut chair and table, sewing machine, etc…) are my beloved pieces, those that I really feel MINE. They were either found in vintage stores, bought during my trips or rescued before my grandma decided to get rid of some of them. By the way, a 100 year old Chinese cabinet (4.5 x 1.3 x 5.6 ft in natural walnut tree wood) is on its way and I hope to fit the TV in there, exactly where it is now.

Here are some of my questions for the crew:

– should I keep the “independent” decoration in the two rooms although they are connected or should I mix the pieces? (if mixing is the option I am lost…I just don´t see those two “styles”  coming along well together).

– In the living room, now it´s all going to be “walnut wood”…too homogeneous, isn´t it? How can I break it a bit? (wall paper or painting in other colour than white is not allowed here!).

– Last but not least…what do I do with the big space I still have free in front of the huge window (I also send you a picture of the beautiful view we get from there)? Since the other half of the living room, the one closer to the chimney, is already quite busy (sofa, armchair, sewing machine, table, incoming TV-cabinet, carpet) I thought of buying just two big leather armchairs + a seventies big-arch lamp and decorate the walls with some small paintings or pictures to use it as a “reading area” but maybe I should just re-think everything from scratch…not sure!!

Any comments or suggestions beyond my questions will be also highly welcome. I really appreciate your readers taste 🙂

The view from the big window

Lara says:

Hi, what a great space you have!

I would definitely mix the two styles. The dining area is already full of walnut wooden furniture, and it looks great. Because you're not allowed to paint the walls, it's a smart idea to use colurful or dark colors for your furniture, because otherwise it all will blend away.

How I would mix the styles:
Turn the couch towards the chimney, with one side to the wall so there's enough space to walk to the other end of the room. Move the television next to the chimney, where your sowing machine is standing now. You could still put the Chinese cabinet where you wanted it.
Now, behind the couch you could maybe put a long narrow table, and you could accesorize it with a lamp, a of couple of books, flowers etc.
Here's what I mean:
Try to find a table in walnut wood to get the styles mixed. Also it's a pretty contrast to your sofa.

For the empty space, find a big (maybe also walnut wood, I don't think it would be too much) bookcase where you can put all sorts of stuff; books, pictures in frames, some candles etc. I would put it on the left side where the lamp is standing. This fills the space. I would definitely go with the two leather chairs, and also a huge arched lamp would be cool. Make sure that you buy a carpet with a strong color, and put the chairs on it so the chairs don't just stand there at random. I would put the sewing machine on the right side against the wall.

Like this you would have two walnut wooden pieces of furniture in the living room(s), and also the living rooms are clearly divided.
To finish it I would try to use accesories with the same color in both the rooms. For example red, hot pink, turquoise or the more subtle dark green. Choose whatever color you like and buy the rug, some pillows, candles etc etc in that color and spread it all around the rooms.

Hope I helped a bit! Good luck 😉

Anna says:

Gorgeous apartment – I love the floors!

I agree with making the fireplace area a reading spot. You can put a couple of armchairs in a casual grouping in the front of the fireplace and put the big bookshelves where the TV is know. You can put the new TV cabinet on one of the walls near the big windows, with the couch opposite and maybe an extra armchair so this also works as a conversation area.

Use two big rugs to highlight the two areas and bring in some gorgeous colours through cushions and artwork. I love the idea of bringing a big 70s lamp in too. I'd probably add some gorgeous long curtains around the windows too to soften the space and add some texture – it would give you some privacy at night too.

I would also add that you should 'clean up' the book cases. put the cd's, wires, and other stuff in pretty baskets/boxes/magazine sorters… to cut down on the cluttered look and leave out just a few special pieces to showcase them.

polish chick says:

i'm with the posters who'd use the fireplace for a reading area. the couch crowds that part of the room too much. i'd put the couch closer to the gorgeous windows so you could appreciate the view.

in the dining room (one N, please!) i'd lower the light fixture, and move the two tall shelves either merely away from the doorway (they loom there!) or on either side of the lower shelves. and yes, put away anything that isn't decorative in baskets or nice boxes.

yes, you can mix styles! matchy matchy is awful and should not be allowed – be brave! add colour, and lots of it. i'd steer clear of "one or two accent colours" because it's boring and limiting. you need art, cushions, big plants (one or two) and still more art.

good luck.

Cheree says:

In the dining room I would chance the light fixture, if you can, to something more dramatic. If not, lower the one that's there. Also, I would put a colourful area rug under the table and chairs and put a big picture or mirror over the buffet. I would put the big shelves on either side of the door elsewhere as they just look like storage units. Maybe your sewing machine would look good on one side and a big plant on the other. I would put curtains on the windows (wall to wall)

In the living room, I would leave the TV area where it is. Could you place the couch a little further down the wall so it is clear of the window and place a big mirror above where the sewing machine now stands to balance the window.
I would use the area with the big picture window as a reading, viewing area with two chairs and a nice area rug

Annie says:

How about placing the two bookshelves horizontally along the wall that the couch is now at – creating a long, low surface where you can prop a large painting and place some decorative items. Get baskets to fit in the niches and hide away your cd's and books. Turn the sofa to face the back wall and get a new armchair (good time to introduce deeper color with a new chair – like a dark olive, or brown) and place where the sewing machine is now. Can you find a more substantial overhead light fixture? The red one looks kinda cool, but it's too small.

Window area: reading sanctuary featuring a cowhide barcelona chair with an ottoman placed on a yummy, high pile area rug. Floor to ceiling sheer curtains. Maybe?

Overall, add texture and big artwork. All of your existing pieces can fit in easily.

Cheers! 🙂

Cris says:

thanks so much everybody! I really enjoyed your suggestions. Wish me luck!

kera linton says:


I would start by buying a credenza in a color, say another asain piece? This credenza needs to store & hide items, maybe a bunch of the clutter on your book cases.
Then I would use the book cases for your collectables, books, plants, photos, etc.
If there is ample room for it I'd move the sewing machine next to the bookcase furthest from the windows.
Artwork, a plant in the corner next to the window & a colorful center piece on the table would bring the room together to give it life.
If you still needed a little something extra I would replace the captain chairs at the table with something more your style, or reupholster or slip cover those two in something fun.


I know you want to leave the TV where it is but it doesn't seem to flow. I'd also move it to where the sewing machine is.
I'd put the sofa, coffee table & rug oposite from the TV against the wall with the window.
Then I'd use the exsisting credenza/shelving piece from the dining room & put it behind the sofa. Toping it with a lamp, plant, accessories, etc. The open shelving will be great for books for your reading area.


Two big comfy chairs with ottomans & a round side table in between the two seem ideal. Although, to cut cost you could get one chair with ottoman & use the old walnut chair net to it.
If the space allows for it you could use the exsisting piece the TV is on infront of the chairs & below the windows. Top this with your bigger book, coffee table books if you will.
Instead of curtaining the windows as one, a fun idea would be to put a few panels at either side of the room & tie them back at the walls. This would break the two areas visually, give some interest, frame your view, & create a great vibe in the reading nook.

Hope some of this works for you.
Thank You Kindly

Mr Rui says:

shelves could join;
displaying piece looks like a pair; shorter one may need higher base; it's better if they give each other room;
low base can go past entry, turning t.v. at any angle; the sofa would follow some casual angle;
pair of chairs should loose space at table, if set on each side of side-board;
dolls and toys are tidy but there're a boring theme;

SueE says:

I've probably joined the conversation too late but I love Design Crew so much that I'm doing it anyway:

I always like to ask myself if it possible/desirable to swap around the use of the rooms in question and I was thinking it could be done with good effect here. I would turn the space by the big window into the living room, the living room into the dining room, and the dining room into a multi-purpose office/mudroom/library/etc.

That fire place is so unique that it should be the focal point of that whole open area but loses out to the big window when it is covered by furniture. I'd move everything away from it except maybe place that lovely vintage sewing machine over in front of the window next to it with a small chair. The place where the TV is now would look great with a large round table and four chairs or you could use the dining room set you already have. I originally wanted to put the bookcases on the back wall there (where the sewing machine is now) until I read Cheree's suggestion of placing a large mirror there. That would reflect all the light coming in that window and brighten the whole space.

When the antique Chinese cabinet arrives (lucky you!) I'd place it where that standing lamp currently lives and place the couch and chair(s) around it in whatever position feels the best and enables you to see your television and guests (I think too many people try to make sure every seat is facing the TV but I don't think that's necessary unless you have a big family or host frequent TV watching events).

The multi-purpose room provides a challenge and what you'd put there depends on your needs. I envision something like the third photo from this link on one wall:

…and something like the first photo here on the other:

Is that the front door that enters that room? If so the you're one round table and a large plant away from the 'grand foyer' look:

So much fun! Send pics!!!!!

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