Ask a Designer

New sofa and club chairs update living room

June 8, 2012 

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Our living room sofa needs to be replaced. I am considering alternatives to a standard, three-seat sofa. What are our best options? I like the look of matching love seats, but can they be arranged attractively in our space? Would an L-shaped sofa work better? Are there L-shaped sofas small enough to look good in a mid-century house? These decisions are complicated by the shape of the room, 12 by 18 feet. A pair of windows face a fireplace on the two sides. There are doors at both ends, so a path seems to be needed through the middle of the room. We would like to seat at least six, possibly eight. We would welcome suggestions for a new wall color, coffee table and accessories to update the traditional style.

M.G. Knight

Chapel Hill

We asked Rebecca Henderson of Rebecca Henderson Interiors in Raleigh to tackle this design dilemma. She writes:

Conversation area: I would replace your 35-year-old sofa with a camelback or Hepplewhite-style sofa (curved back), 60 to 76 inches long, with exposed legs. (See sketches.) At either end of the sofa, I would add a pair of matching small club chairs, angled. Then, angle the wingback chair and the Martha Washington chair in front of the fireplace. Consider adding an upholstered ottoman. It could be placed in front of the sofa or between the chairs at the fireplace. Use it as an extra seat or add a tray and it becomes a cocktail table. This plan seats up to eight.

Create balance: The club chairs create the perfect transition to comfortable seating of today’s living. Upholster them and the ottoman to the floor with kick pleats or fringe. The sofa, wing chair and Martha Washington have exposed legs. This mix gives the room balance.

Placement counts: Using two loveseats would require placement perpendicular to the fireplace, which would extend into your traffic pattern and limit flexibility of furniture placement. L-shaped seating is contemporary and not compatible with traditional decor.

Fabric: I would upholster the two matching club chairs in a warm, transitional-patterned linen, compatible with your living room rug. I suggest matching draperies with soft valances in both living and dining rooms, since they flow together visually. For the sofa, try a stripe – a combination of tone, patterns, textures would be great. Use subdued fabrics in the fireplace chairs, perhaps color-coordinated tone-on-tone damasks, small graphics and/or textures.

For the star of this vignette, the ottoman, you could use a bright, coordinating color (also for down pillows), perhaps a velvet with bullion fringe, buttons, cording, etc. After all, it’s going to sit in the middle of the room where everyone will see it!

Walls: The background color in the linen I suggested for the club chairs and draperies will determine the wall color. The dining room should stay in the same color but in a deeper hue or intensity. Or try a subdued wallpaper. The foyer should have a lighter hue in the same color. This way, your rooms have a separate identity but flow together. Generally speaking, the more natural light you have, the darker you can go with a hue, and with less light, you should go with a lighter or less intense hue.

Accessorize: Add some larger lamps (perhaps English tea canisters) to the side tables for presence and a warm glow. Some small paintings (perhaps English landscapes stacked over each other on the living rom walls that flank the breakfront) will give the foyer vignette more importance.

This room has great potential! Good luck.

Rebecca Henderson Interiors, Raleigh. 919-839-8024.

CREDITS: Drawings courtesy of The Charles Stewart Company of Hickory.

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