Design Crew

Posted on Sat, 4 Feb 2012 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’s problem comes from Emily.

I love your blog and was excited to see the post asking for design problems – and I have a design problem! I live in a <800 sq ft loft in San Francisco with my boyfriend, Ryan, and our dog, Bentley. Our biggest room down stairs serves as living room/dining room/office, and needs to be reorganized. We would like to create a living room space that is more inviting – right now we trend towards gathering with friends in the kitchen instead. We’re opening to moving everything, even getting new pieces if necessary.

I put numbers on (this)photo… so I could walk you through the room:
1. hi-fi cabinet – keeper – has about 2ft on either side right now of empty space.
2. TV – keeper – occasionally used to watch movies, so OK that it is behind the chair, we just move the chair.
3-4. corner desk and cabinet -keepers – these need to travel together to maintain the ‘office’ and are keepers because they were designed and built by Ryan and I.
5. dining table -can get new- seats 4 when as is (pushed up against the wall), we often pull it out and add chairs to seat 6.


Hi Emily,

1. Move the home office to the corner where the dining table is now.
2. Move the dining table to the spot right behind the kitchen.
3. Move yout sofa to the wall where your office table is now.
4.Put the armchair next to the sofa in the same osition it is now.
5. Put your TV to the wall .
6. Put the wood chair next to the fireplace slightly facing the living room.

The goal is to create an aisle from the entrance to the glass doors, get a proper living room space (now is too narrow and the sofa is too close to that big fireplace) and get a dinning room. Hope this works. For me is would be the natural placement of your space. I think you would only need to get rid of the library where the TV sits right now or of the media cabinet.

You'll need a bigger rug for the living room space and maybe a side table and a lamp that I would put between the sofa and the window.

good luck! love to see the result!

Ashley says:

Personally, I would only do some tweaking, no major rearrangements. I like your space, and other than where people father, it seems that it flows for you personally?

My fix would be to eliminate the dining table altogether and replace it with barstools at the bar. Then you'll have a little more space to rearrange the living space, maybe take advantage of your view as suggested.

Margery says:

You have a gorgeous space, but it definitely has some major problems. First of all the office is taking way too much space in the room. If you cannot move the office upstairs into a guest room or landing, you really should consider using vertical space for the office instead of so much floor space. There are so many great ways of disguising a home office. Check this option out from Restoration Hardware… (I know you are attached to the pieces you have but maybe you can store them till you have more space)… Next you should ground the space with a large rug..whatever strikes your fancy but it needs to be pretty large to take up most of the floor space. I would move the couch back, maybe not to the wall (it's hard to tell how big the room is), but pretty close, I would move the large upholstered chair perpendicular to the couch in front of the windows, again, float it in the room a bit so you can still comfortably use the outdoors, and put the other chair on the other side of the fireplace, mirroring where it is now but on the other side. (if that doesn't work, you might consider selling the couch and chair and getting a sectional… sofa with a chaise on one side) You need a coffee table and end tables for your couch with lamps on top. Also perhaps a little table near the wooden chair. The fact that the only lighting is ceiling lighting keeps it from feeling cozy at night. I would keep the tv where it is. You can put a flatscreen on an artist's easel which really looks cool. and you can keep the hi fi cabinet where it is. Put another lamp on it! As for dining, I would get either a round table that comes with leaves or a square table with leaves… I suppose you could also go for a drop leaf. The painting to the right of the fireplace is great, but you could lose the posters on the other side of the fireplace…. too college dorm. Get some fabulous pillows on your sofa, some stools by your kitchen and you'll be good to go. I disagree with putting the sofa facing the windows. I find it very uninviting to walk into a space and see the back of a couch. Good luck. A soft neutral color on the walls will also go a long way to cozy up the place. p.s. dimmer switches on all lights!

oregonbird says:

I'm with everyone else: your office is taking up far too much living space. If you lose #4, change to a square carpet in richer, warmer colors that is sized to the desk, and run interesting, statement shelving up the wall, you'll both halve the visual space and warm it, which will help integrate your work area into the living area. I would move the hi-fi cabinet over to where #4 is now (fit it with legs if it's too short for the job) or add a small sideboard matched to a smaller, extendable dining table. My personal choice would be wood, to bring the warmth of your statement chair into the dining area. An eye-catching lamp and a few bits of pottery on the sideboard will help set the office off from the dining area. Stackable period-piece chairs that you can set aside against the wall by the sideboard/wifi will leave the table, when not in active use, as an entryway focal point. (I'm assuming that it's in direct line with the front door.)

There is always clear acrylic options – a sofa table in that material between the office and dining would be both modern and interesting, and still offer a visual buffer with a lamp and some knick-knacks to anchor it. The same choice could be made with the dining room chairs.

I've never said this before, but it seems you can go too far with oversized art! Right now, your art is fighting for attention (which might be one of the psychological reasons your guests aren't moving into the space) and narrowing your options. Rehome the larger prints by the kitchen and hang your television there as one of several smaller art pieces — this site offers several posts with tv's treated as just another picture in a group; the key seems to be hanging it off center. You might consider 'texturizing' this wall area by mixing the types of art – add a small shelf for personal books, or a couple of display brackets for objects, add something in fabric, etc. This will open the space under the far window for an ottoman, and give your marvelous wooden chair the room it needs to shine. With the addition of a couple of padded barstools, you've just doubled your comforable seating and provided a windowseat. Options appeal to guests!

I would recommend replacing the chair and sofa with a sectional, with a chaise lounge on the kitchen side — seating without any exclusionary visual. The sofa goes *entirely* on the rug, and the rug goes *directly* in front of the fireplace! (There should be several inches of wooden floor visible at the base of the fireplace.) Angle the wooden chair for conversation, and either add a floor lamp in that area or hang a spectacular (and yet narrow, to match the space) chandelier in front of that window. Rather than trying to warm up the room in one blunt, massive blow, I'd replace the rug with something slightly more subtle and modern, with a mix of warm and cool colors. Given the narrowness of the room, small stacking tables – no larger than a laptop – would work better than a coffee table, and can be stored in the corner of the fireplace when not in use.

Lighting is key to moving your guests into the living area — warm the space with lamps — something Mission-style for the desk, perhaps, a modern cascade chandelier for the window opposite the desk, a 1950's parchment shade for the table lamp on the wi-fi cabinet. A ball of soft light on the floor at the corner of the sofa. A few small accent lamps scattered about that offer mood lighting and highlight your own taste in decoration. And yes, a dimmer on the overheads.

Most important of all — send us pictures of your re-do, even if you don't use one suggestion we offer!

tania says:

Define your zones to size according to importance and general expectations. Generally the living area should be largest and more open, dining room second and office last. Use your height!

Office should be way smaller and look less office like, you should hardly notice it there and should look more like a writing desk. Go for a warmer desk or a floating desk or armoire as mentioned earlier. Files and gadgets should be on the wall in storage that uses the height.
Heres a floating desk: with matchy floating storage

Living room should be couch turned to face window as mentioned, chairs opposite, more cushions that you love and a big ottoman or coffee table. Bookshelves that are built ins or at least one tall bookshelf that has cabinet doors at eye level for the TV hidden and on a swivel arm will also store your stuff that is currently on either side of the fireplace. Check out this b&a:

Yes to really tall drapes!

Bring your dinning room table into the space more, give it some breathing space and for sure get some low profile stools for counter for more eating/entertaining options.

Ideally I would get drywall built up around the narrow column on that fireplace so that you end up with a real place to display some art. And the fireplace will look more substantial. Also paint it all same colour as walls instead of the brown.

acpgee says:

It's a lovely home, but I agree that the sitting area looks uninviting. I think it's due to it being too narrow, and closed off with the back of the couch positioned that way. I would try one of the following

1. Switch position of couch and armchair, so orientation of the area is towards the view through the patio.
2. Pull couch further back, and place desk up against back of couch. Move office cabinets to where desk is now.
3. Consolidate stereo and tv equipment in one unit. If you have to walk into living area to put on music, you might be more inclined to sit there.

sue says:


Probably the best advice I could give is to have fun with it.

As long as the furniture is on felt floor protectors, move the furniture around and see what works best for you, Ryan and Bentley.
We've been in our new home for 6 months and I have moved the furniture around several times to find the best layout.

It's amazing what you could do with a small space just with imagination and experimenting. Save your money and keep what you have.

Cata says:

This is how I dealt with a much smaller place than yours, maybe it could help.
My table doubles as my desk, and the wall next to it is a huge bookshelf that holds my paperwork, hi-fi, books, art, anything you can imagine! I used to have dishes and glasses, etc. even. In small places you have to compromisse and have multifuncional furniture. This way you´ll also be taking advantage of the height of the room.
I also have stools facing the kitchen for when I don´t want to clear things at the table.
You could have a nice coffee table for extra gathering space and coziness.
Good luck!

Hi Emily,

You lucky girl…what an amazing appartement! Very elegant!
I basically agree with Decoratica and her proposal of furniture layout. Take advantage of the daylight coming through your windows and add mirrors on both sides of the fire-place. They will bring in an additional light and will create a feeling of a larger volume that will be in harmony with the stunning height.

Have fun!

Nina in Sweden says:

Love the lamp – pls cld you tell me if its possible to purchase!!?! (the circle shaped lamp which hangs over the sofa)

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