I do realise that this entire blog is basically one long homage to what I would do when it comes to various interior design dilemmas, so I get that this title might seem like a self-indulgent cherry on top.
However having recently done a boat load of free consultations, partly to keep me busy during the first month of lock-down, but mainly as a way of doing my bit, there were quite a few observations that I found myself repeating.
Whilst not necessarily meaty enough topics to structure a full blog around individually, each time I mentioned them I got a reply, something along the lines of, "OMG, never really thought of that!" So I thought it would be worthwhile to run though some of these in a series of blogs.
Whilst these so called "repeat offences" are not necessarily anything to be embarrassed about, I still thought it best to not pin point their exact home of origin.
Becky, from Fulham didn't bother to measure her sofa, and now has no room for other furniture. This is her story.
So as my way of pixelating the faces of these "perpetrators" I have drawn up my own set of plans that I'll use as reference. Let's pretend this is my house and I am giving you a home tour.
Unfortunately this isn't my house, and I just nabbed a floor plan from Zoopla and went to town on it, so if you happen to recognise it as your own, congrats, my invoice is in the mail.
Just to caveat this. I do realise that the floor plan is from a typical terrace. Not only do these come in all shapes and sizes, and I know not everyone may even live in a terrace, however the bulk of these comments are pretty universal, and can therefore be applied to any style, shape or size of home.
1. The console table darling.
Number one comment I got - "Not sure what to do with the hallway?" So slightly controversial this first one, but just because you own a front door does not mean you need to own an entrance hall table too. Banning visual clutter is the first step to take to creating a welcoming home, and for many houses out there, this means foregoing the good old entrance hall/console table.
I'm by no means saying let's put a ban on all entrance hall tables, but having a console table at your front door isn't a rite of passage. If your entrance hall is less than one and a half meters wide, your console table is more likely to be a "right in the way of passage."
I know we may think we are Edina Monsoon, barging into our homes at the end of a long hard day at work, clambering for a surface to dump our belongings onto, but unless you run a pretty tight ship, a console table becomes a breeding ground for clutter. Compound that with a narrow hall way, and a messy console table becomes the physical embodiment of your efforts failing at the first hurdle.
If you have a narrow, potentially dark hallway, you want to create a clear path through to the back of the house. Rather scrap the idea of a console table which is only going to cramp your style, and walk the extra few steps to the kitchen, or other designated zones to dump a bag or fling a coat.
This obviously doesn't negate the potential for artwork, mirrors or wall lights to enhance the "arrival experience" but you really don't need a messy eyesore as soon as you walk into a house, just so you have a place to toss you keys or ASOS returns.
2. Door swings.
If you aren't going to go the full hog on a renovation and create a far more open plan living space or front room, pay careful attention to how your door swings might be working against you.
I'm not entirely sure why, but referring to the floor plan above, where the door into the front room is hinged on the right, and opens against the wall, doesn't seem to be the default setting for most homes.
I’m sure it's probably the hangover from some bygone era, however a door that is hinged on the left (for the sake of this illustration) that opens against the sofa, ends up eating quite a lot of your visual surface area.
If the door into the room is to remain open at all times, the sofa will forever feel hemmed in between the wall and the door, with the door creating a bit of a funnel upon entry, blocking your initial view through the room to the window.
Just by swapping the door swing, you could effectively increase your visual surface area by nearly a meter, and the door swing itself could be better used to conceal a radiator or manifold.
This same principle can be applied in rooms such as a kitchen, where the door can help conceal the utility area, or in a bedroom, opening against open shelving that perhaps you'd rather keep out of sight.
3. And where should I sit?
Along with a console table for the hallway, it would seem that the largest sofa possible is the next thing on the “I bought a house, therefore I must" list.
However the first question to always ask when setting out a lounge, is how many bums can I seat at one time?
Every sitting room should be able to seat five people at least, with the aim to increase this to more with other easy to access perch seating.
Three on a sofa, two on armchairs of some sort, and additional seating created via club fenders, stools or nearby flexible seating (perch seating).
Do your guests just stand around taking turns to sit down on the three available spots?
By ensuring that you work towards this minimum value of five, it is quite easy to start working out, not necessarily what should go where, but how big the what's and the where's should be.
Taking a look back at the floor plan above, a massive sofa might seem like the right thing to do to fill up the entire wall, but by doing so, I would have eaten up the potential for an additional seat in the bay.
In terms of bums on seats potential, the difference between a 2.5 meter sofa and a 2.1 meter sofa is negligible. However what a slightly shorter sofa buys you, is the ability to fit in two large sized arm chairs in the bay, as well as a side table and the opportunity for a secondary light source. i.e. a lamp.
I've said it before, a single sofa does not a lounge maketh, so make sure you have done a realistic bum count before heading out and buying the largest sofa a wall can fit.
4. Measure up.
You know the saying, "it's not the size the matters, it's how you use it that counts." Well never has this been more relevant than for my next point.
Following on from the "bums on seats" idea above, I always start designing a room bay first, working into the room, rather than room first, with the bay as an afterthought. I make sure that I use every inch of a bay's width, to maximize its potential, rather than have the bay being this odd crescent where one sad chair lives.
There is nothing more naff than a sparsely furnished bay window.
Apart from adjusting the window treatments a couple of times a day, you don’t really need all that much access into the bay, so using the excuse of accessibility for an under furnished bay isn’t going to fly.
In this example, the bay easily fits two arm chairs, a side table, curtain stacks, a radiator and a floor lamp. However as an alternative, it could easily have fitted a second sofa with a console table and a lamp behind.
If your bay is perhaps below average in size, a single armchair with a more substantial side table, to help fill the gap, is a better solution than a single undersized piece of furniture.
Whatever the configuration, make sure that you try and fit as much into the bay as possible. If you need to squeeze past an arm chair to keep an eye on the bins, so be it, just stop treating the bay like untouched consecrated ground.
5. Keep agile.
Have you ever seen those videos where somebody sets up an obstacle course down a hallway for a cat? A maze of lego or dominoes which a cat manages to walk though without knocking over a single piece? Such agile creature’s cats.
Do you know that a human can do that too? Well judging by your fear of coffee tables, apparently not.
We only need a gap of about 40cm to manoeuvre around a sitting room. To forego a coffee table because it will “block your thoroughfare” is the same as expecting that lego maze to deter a cat.
I appreciate that you might have kids and may need the room for activities, in which case get a coffee table or ottoman with wheels which can be easily moved, however don’t choose to not have a coffee table because of a non-apparent lack of space.
To the average person, the height of a coffee table and the height of a sofa, matches (more or less) to the height of your knee. If anything is knee level or below, it is amazing how little we pay attention when it comes to walking around it. It’s more of an obstacle in our minds than it is in reality. It’s when pieces of furniture start getting to mid-thigh or hip height that we start to notice the pinch.
Again, I think about the poor guests. First nowhere to sit, and now they have to hold their drinks all night. You have enough room for a coffee table, trust me.
Personally, I am more partial to an upholstered ottoman rather than a hard surface coffee table. Throw a couple of trays down, an “eat, drink, nap” coffee table book, and the ottoman will function just as well as any flat surfaced coffee table.
I appreciate that the reasons given for many of these “furniture shortfalls” might be budget driven more so than not knowing how to create a considered space. However don’t paint yourself into a corner if budget does mean that you can only furnish the room bits at a time.
Yes, you might buy your sofa first, and then the armchairs to follow, but just like eating at a fancy restaurant, don’t gorge yourself on the first course, there’s a whole ten course meal to follow. Don’t be a Becky. Don't buy the biggest sofa now because it's the only piece of furniture, only to be stuck with a naff empty bay, when the time comes for the armchairs.
I am going to be trailing through the rest of the ground floor space in the next couple of blogs, so if you want to avoid a middle-room meltdown, or side-return regret, tune in next week folks.