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 arrangementsAngling 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 workSome 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 focusTo 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. The focal point is your anchor, Falcone says, and guides the placement of your remaining furniture. Generally, the sofa looks good directly across from the focal point, facing it at a comfortable distance. Other pieces can then be angled toward the focal point or oriented around the sofa to create a balanced arrangement conducive to conversation. v An area rug can be used to define and unify your arrangement, Falcone says. With your primary pieces in place, you need to figure out how to use the rest of the space. “In a huge room, if everything’s in the middle you need to have other groupings of furniture,” Falcone says. Against one wall, you could place two chairs with an occasional table between them, for example. In the best-case scenario, these groupings would accommodate other activities, such as reading, Falcone says.
Off the wallsIf the floating arrangement works for your space, chances are the rest of the room might seem a bit empty. “Floating furniture will free up wall space,” says Collins. To make the room complete she suggests adding accents of wood pieces such as decorative bookshelves, carved tables and any other pieces that will complement the style of the room. Collins adds that one can dramatize the look of a room by adding coordinating draperies for the windows, adding artwork can bring a finishing touch to the space and using decorative mirrors can enhance a room by adding a feeling of spaciousness. A floating floor plan leaves you with blank, gallery-like walls. If smaller furniture groupings aren’t possible, fill in the space with framed photos and artwork, or place a console table against the wall and hang a striking piece of artwork above it, Falcone suggests. For smaller rooms, consider moving furniture off the wall at an angle instead of unmooring it altogether. For example, angle your sofa off the wall slightly and put a table and table lamp behind it in the widest part of the pie-shaped space you’ve created. Or keep the sofa parallel to the wall but bring it out far enough to put a rectangular table behind it. One problem with floating floor plans is that there’s no place to plug things in, though in some homes it’s possible to retrofit floor outlets. Make no mistake: “You’ll need table lamps and floor lamps no matter how much natural and overhead lighting you have,” Falcone says.