What should go in this part of my house?
September 12, 2009 7:22 AM   Subscribe

What do I do with this space in my living room? It's perfect for the Christmas tree, but for the other 11 months of the year, it's just empty, and needs something in it. Here's another view, and as much of the whole room as I can get in 1 photo.

It's at the end of a relatively long living area, and opposite the entry to the house, so it's very visible when you walk in. The room isn't very well lit, so I don't want to obscure the light from the window. The doorway on the right is to the kitchen/dining area, and off camera to the left is the door to the office and other rooms, so it's a space we walk by often. It's about 6 1/2 feet wide by 4 ft deep.

Any furniture put back there is isolated from the conversation area centered on the rug, but yet it's too central to traffic to be private. It would fit a foosball table quite nicely, but that's already been rejected by my wife.

What would you do with this space?
posted by Steve3 to Home & Garden (33 answers total)
Personally I'd put a small but comfortable chair turned with the back against the right side, where you can put your feet pointed at the heat register and be able to read in the natural light. Heck, you could probably just go push that white chair in there. But I'm kind of a sucker for places to sit and read.

Failing that? A bamboo arrangement in some lightish shade to offset all the dark red wood everywhere. Or one of those other arrangements of crookedy sticks or something.
posted by majick at 7:29 AM on September 12, 2009

I would put a large antique chest or traveling case under the window. You can store stuff in it and display stuff on on top of it.
posted by munchbunch at 7:32 AM on September 12, 2009

I would do a low storage bench or pew with some bright-colored pillows.

True, it's not seating in the main conversation space but if you ever have more than 3-4 people over it will be a nice place for a small group to gather and chit chat. If you do something that adds some storage value, it helps reduce clutter overall (not that I am saying you have clutter, because obviously you are very neat).

I think with the bookshelf, closet door and the floor and everything, you have a lot of wood tones over there and if you throw in some bright colors it will really make that wood glow. If you don't need storage, a pew or simple bench in a wood tone darker than the floor and other wood, and accented by color, would really make it pop. Take the red of the sofa for inspiration, but don't get matchy matchy with it. I might accent that window with a bolder window treatment too.

I think those things together will give the room a much more 'finished' look. Just my 2 cents.
posted by bunnycup at 7:39 AM on September 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

I don't know how relevant this will be to you, but I think that space is positively screaming for a nice guitar (or bass) amp.
posted by Dysk at 7:39 AM on September 12, 2009

2nding the idea of creating a reading nook of some sort. Maybe build a movable window seat with a deep comfortable cushion that would fit in there, add several pillows for reclining against.
posted by rhartong at 7:40 AM on September 12, 2009 [4 favorites]

1.) put 1-2 pretty plants on either side of the window. Something like a money tree or a braided ficus.

2.) put a comfy chair angled into one corner with a small table in the other corner with a lamp on it. I think to complete the effect you would need to change the window treatment to something more like the one on the right, though it should go to the floor. Can you move the bookshelf to another wall? That way the nook would be the focal point when standing across from it.

3.) an antique trunk underneath the window.
posted by sickinthehead at 7:45 AM on September 12, 2009

A potted tree in the right corner and two (or three) leather cube storage ottomans to pull out for extra seating when the occasion calls.
posted by Fairchild at 7:55 AM on September 12, 2009

antique chest-type thing for storage (store the xmas ornaments in there!), and put a nice cushiony long pillow on top so it's a comfy place to sit by the window and read - lean on the wall and straighten your legs in front of you, drink tea, and won't look as awkward as a chair, but if you have a lot of people over a few can definitely sit there. And a nice small picture that matches the cushiony pillow on each side of the wall - high enough so if you're leaning against the wall to sit it your head doesn't reach it.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 8:09 AM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Non-design-related ideas:

If you do a lot of entertaining that might be a place to put a narrow entertainment unit with a drop-down drawer to hold booze. It would be a more central place to make drinks. On the corner facing the living room hang a narrow poster or mount a tall mirror with a matching wood frame.

If that bookshelf is your main book repository and you have a laptop, the nook wall next to the closet could hold a 3 1/2' high standup ledge to put a laptop. Having it on this wall would make running an ethernet jack there easier. Have one or two small decorative items on the corner to obscure the laptop if you want.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:17 AM on September 12, 2009

A reading nook has crossed my mind, but building in a window seat hadn't. I've tried the white chair back there, but it just didn't feel right. Since this house lacks storage, building a seat with storage under it and some bright, comfy pillows sounds pretty good. Maybe have seating on the window and right sides, and leave the left open for a plant....

@sickinthehead: the bookcase is built in, so it's staying there.

@magick: that's a cold air return, not heat, so it's particularly not nice to stick your feet by.
posted by Steve3 at 8:22 AM on September 12, 2009

nthing the window seat. Awesome storage space, awesome comfort space, and adds color to your room.
posted by alona at 8:30 AM on September 12, 2009

I agree with the idea of some plants, although I think 2 or 3 hanging plants might be nice, and would still work with the storage seat, which is an excellent idea.

Another idea, which could work in day or night is an arrangement of some hanging glass lanterns like these.
posted by bonsai forest at 8:31 AM on September 12, 2009

I agree with window seat. I made one myself by finding unfinished kitchen cabinets that filled the space and staining them to match the woodwork. On top I used a piece of plywood covered in foam rubber and fabric tacked on. Just add pillows.
posted by readery at 8:44 AM on September 12, 2009

The window seat is a good idea, but to me, it's the perfect place for a desk. Not the most private, but sometimes that's nice if you want to be with the rest of the family and still send emails/mess around on ask metafilter. And it would be a great spot to leave the mail when you first come in the door. I would put a not-too-office-like desk with it, maybe more of a tub chair so it wouldn't detract from the atmosphere of the living room.
posted by brambory at 9:03 AM on September 12, 2009

How about a fish tank, the sunlight would shine right through and would add color and movement.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:13 AM on September 12, 2009

Yes, I was also thinking I'd put in a nice little writing desk. I was thinking an antique, but when I googled it, this piece came up (and now I want it!).
posted by TochterAusElysium at 9:22 AM on September 12, 2009

@brambory- my office is just through the door on the left, and that's on the way to the toy/TV room and back porch behind that. I can hear every word going on in the kitchen right now. Considering what a mess my desk turns into, having it so central when one walks into the house wouldn't be attractive. It's enough that the office is the passageway to the 2 rooms in the back.

@confess, fletch- I've thought about that, but 2 things come to mind- fishtanks seem to get gunky sides. I've not had one since a goldfish in a bowl as a kid, but the backlit vision of a yucky fishtank doesn't sound great. If I knew I could keep it clear, it would be more appealing.
Second, this is Wisconsin. It's not a great quality window. Would sticking a tank by a chilly window be a bad idea for the fish?

I've also considered an upright piano there... nobody plays yet, but maybe I'll subject my 2 boys to lessons someday. If we bought a piano, I'd have to.
posted by Steve3 at 9:39 AM on September 12, 2009

Small table and two chairs. Then you'd have an alternate spot to eat meals in. At a party, people always hang out in the kitchen. This could be a "satellite kitchen" space.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:42 AM on September 12, 2009

I wouldn't put a piano there. Between the AC return and the window, I think it'd be bad for any musical instrument.

I came in here to say build in a bookshelf with a cushioned top that you can sit on and read. It looks like a perfect reading nook to me. I see a bunch of other people have said the same thing.
posted by bink at 10:51 AM on September 12, 2009

We've stuck a kids table back there at birthday parties, but it's pretty tight for grownups.
posted by Steve3 at 10:52 AM on September 12, 2009

Thanks, for this - it's fun to think about. But then, whenever I go to someone's house I'm always re-arranging their things in my head...I almost never get to say anything! I often just empty a space in my home and re-arrange everything.

It seems so unbalanced (left-heavy and like everything's kind of getting stuffed into that corner) and adding more stuff like a trunk or window seat (or bass amp - and trust me, I often have gear in my living room) or procuring another piece of furniture will only add more weight without balance and might interfere with the traffic pattern.

I'd go with what's already there before considering anything new, and move the lamp around the corner to the left of the window, and the little cabinety piece of furniture that's already there right under the window. Don't you have to work around those to get things on the shelves, and isn't that a pain? The little cabinet can go back over there at Christmas time instead of your having to find space for whatever you'd have to buy to put by the window if you choose a trunk or window seat.

Then there'd be three large brown things on that wall (bookshelves to the left, cabinet in the middle, door to the right) which is a much better balance in terms of weight and light and dark (and because things just better arrange themselves in odd combinations like 3, 5, and 7 and because while I don't care if things match, I like some symmetry), and you wouldn't even need to invest in longer curtains (though, since the view isn't spectacular - I'd think about some lovely sheers, even if they just go to the sill or a sheer panel or something), and it wouldn't cost a cent.

(I am also rearranging the contents of your bookshelf in my head - it's so useful, but seems a little unloved (perhaps because it's not accessible? And because you have lovely children that keep you busy?). So I'll go ahead and say that without changing what's on the shelves - I think the three bowls on the top shelf should be split up between the upper shelves (kids - I know!), maybe with the carved figures or the terra cotta-looking thingies moved up and interspersed too; with the books more evenly distributed, some with nicer spines lying flat like you already have them on either side as bookends with those other objects on them sometimes; same goes for the bottom shelf and flip those white books so the spines are out rather than the pages...and try to get all the wine stuff together. And then I'd just centre whatever is on the bottom shelf that's hidden, or put some taller storage baskets there.)
posted by peagood at 10:55 AM on September 12, 2009

The reason the Christmas tree looks so good there is because it is alive and green and "airy" --you can see through it. You need a large house plant in a contemporary pot..you could go with more than one..depending on scale. You run the risk of junking things up with furniture there. Make sure the plant (on a plant stand or on the floor) is not the same in height as your tall lamp--but make it a substantial plant.
Like this (or a titch bigger).
posted by naplesyellow at 11:13 AM on September 12, 2009

@peagood You're welcome. :) It's quite pleasing that my request for input is viewed as fun for you- glad to help. I have to take one of the lovely children to a birthday party now, but I'm going to move the cabinety thing under the window, post a picture and we can discuss the results further once I return. Stay tuned for more.
posted by Steve3 at 12:22 PM on September 12, 2009

More on the idea of a window seat sort of thing... How about painting the walls just inside the nook a different color? I'm thinking a light celadon green would look great with all the red/orange tones of the woodwork already in the room. And then, replace the window treatment with a bamboo shade. You could also consider hanging three "tea light" or smallish candle lanterns (like this) from the ceiling inside the nook (not right in the center, though -- off to one side or the other). That would make for a really nice ambiance at night with the candles lit. If your space really is about 6.5' x 4' deep, you might be able to use a twin bed sized mattress as the cushion for your window seat. (Upholstered in some attractive manner, of course.) Comfy!
posted by rhartong at 1:18 PM on September 12, 2009

And if you did what peagood said, and you like symmetry, you could pull the rug out a wee bit to the left, so it's not so far underneath the sofa, and pull the two armchairs a bit to the left too, and then that whole seating area would be more centralised when you walk into the door.

/which is so not what you were asking, but peagood's right, it's fun to experiment on other people's houses!!

None of which should be taken as criticism of the status quo - looks like you have a lovely home!
posted by penguin pie at 4:05 PM on September 12, 2009

I'd definitely agree with the window seat suggestions. A fairly thin window seat that wrapped around the inside of that space would still leave room for the tree at Christmastime, but serve as a reading/conversation nook during the rest of the year.

It could also be a great place to put a shelf and start an herb garden.
posted by nayrb5 at 4:06 PM on September 12, 2009

@peagood- OK, here's what it looks like with the cabinet under window and lamp moved. It seems to open a new problem- the empty space left from where the cabinet was.

Step into the doorway to the right, and the area looks like this.

I'm still leaning towards the window seat.

@penguin pie- I experimented with moving the white armchair (airmchairs, as it has one facing it on the other side of the rug) to be centered with the window, but it puts them oddly into the traffic space in the room, and they become obstacles. They need to be relatively close to the red futon. Across from the futon is the fireplace, and I've never been happy about how far the seating and fireplace are, with a traffic area between them, but I can't see any other way.
And- thanks for the compliment.
posted by Steve3 at 5:34 PM on September 12, 2009

Hey, I like the moved cabinet - I don't think the space where it was looks too vacant - maybe it's just what you're used to? Though in the long run maybe something lower would be better beneath the window so it doesn't obscure the bottom of the glass - so I guess a window seat would work well.

And I can't tell you how much it tickles me that you tried moving the armchairs - I love that you're moving your furniture around on behalf of the whims of someone thousands of miles away you've never met!
posted by penguin pie at 5:46 PM on September 12, 2009

Well, I asked for feedback on what to do with the room, and when I get one that I can implement for no money and in 1 minute, sure, I'll try it. I'm equally amused that there are strangers at unknown distances who are interested enough in my interior decorating challenge to take the time to look at pictures, form ideas and write them up for my benefit. And return to the thread to continue the conversation later.

More I think about it, the more a window seat feels right. While it's well shaded by big oaks and the neighbor's house, that is the south wall, so it's the 2nd sunniest window, behind the bedroom directly above it. A nice sunny, comfy sitting place sounds pretty good.
posted by Steve3 at 7:05 PM on September 12, 2009

A window seat would look great there. But go for something nice and deep - something that can have some back pillows on it and wide enough that an adult can sit on it lengthwise without their butt half falling off. It might look nice but you want it to be comfortable AND useful AND attractive!

And make sure it has something on the end of it -- otherwise where will you lean? This looks somewhat like it would fit into your scheme. And some wall lamps in the nook like these would be awesome and encourage the use as an all-around cozy reading nook.

You can either make it so the top hinges open (with a piano hinge) or with drawers in the front for random shoes, linens, mitts/gloves, dog stuff, whatever.

Good luck - and enjoy your new spot!!
posted by barnone at 7:23 PM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm glad you tried it, and prefer it in a way until a window seat comes along - though yes, the cabinet is a bit tall under the window. But it seems like there's a little more breathing room now, because doorway/cabinet/bookcase area was busy and now it's more sparse. I have this issue in our house, where it often seems like every bit of wall we have needs to have something there because we have a lot of stuff - but your bookcase is rather empty and what's on top of the cabinet could easily be moved into it (and what's inside it into storage in that tall bottom part... would you maybe live with it there for a bit until you build the window seat and see if the idea of wall space there doesn't grow on you?

(And, ahem...I'd nudge the floor lamp into the nook more, using clippy things to keep the cord neat and taut along the wall. The nook seems like it might bounce the light around a bit too, which would be nice.)

And, thanks for the fun, really. What a good sport you are!!)
posted by peagood at 8:03 PM on September 12, 2009

Putting the lamp in the nook makes for a brightly lit nook, but a poorly lit main seating/fireplace area. It also makes the bookcase/cabinet corner quite shadowy.
posted by Steve3 at 8:28 AM on September 13, 2009

We made some window seats that also opened for storage - one large central seat and two smaller side seats (but it appeared to be one large seat when they were all fit next to each other). We also put them on wheels so when it came time to put up the Christmas tree we could just roll them elsewhere temporarily.
posted by mikepop at 6:17 AM on September 14, 2009

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