Anchor the family room with a ‘floating’ furniture arrangement

TEXT BY DAWN KLINGENSMITH AND LAUREN GLIDDEN Modified: March 28, 2011 at 3:25 pm •  Published: March 28, 2011
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photo - ‘If the room is big and open in all directions, a floating floor plan works great,’ says  designer Scott Salvator. Photo provided.
‘If the room is big and open in all directions, a floating floor plan works great,’ says designer Scott Salvator. Photo provided.
Challenge: Open floor plans, though still popular, put design skills to the test because there are few walls to place furniture against. On the other hand, small spaces can feel as though the walls are closing in.

Proposed solution: Pull furniture away from the walls and “float” it in the room. In an open floor plan, this provides a cozy seating area. In a small room, it creates the appearance of airiness. Bigger challenge: Getting the proposed solution to work.

Airy arrangements

Angling furniture into floating arrangement can drastically change the ambience of a room. “When seating arrangements are placed against the walls, conversation groupings can become awkward and difficult,” says Sandra Collins, president of SCI Design Inc., 11900 N. Santa Fe, in Oklahoma City. “Pulling furniture away from the walls and into smaller groupings adds a coziness to the area, promotes conversations and frees up the perimeter for accent pieces and walkways.”

For the average person, and even for pros, a successful outcome “requires a lot of arranging and rearranging,” says designer Dawn Falcone, also of New York. “You have to set aside time to work with your furniture. Sometimes just pushing something back one inch makes all the difference in the world.”

What doesn’t work

Some rooms may not be a suitable size or shape for the floating arrangement. “I usually shy away from floating furniture in a long narrow room that would inhibit pathways through the space,” says Collins. She adds that many rooms may have some architectural details that could interfere with arranging plans such as windows and built-ins.

Another challenge to consider is proper lighting. “If there are no wired in outlets placed in the center of the room for incandescent lighting, it could inhibit a good lighting plan,” says Collins.

Consider the obstacles and determine whether or not the floating arrangement would be a good fit for your space.

“It’s really an architecture-driven thing. If the room is big and open in all directions, a floating floor plan works great,” says designer Scott Salvator, also of New York, though an island of furniture in the middle of the room requires at least 3 feet of walking space around the perimeter.

Find the focus

To begin experimenting, remove everything from the room except your largest furnishings, such as your sofa and love seat. Identify the room’s focal point, or create one. In a living room, it’s usually the fireplace or television.