Adaptable living room furniture

If your living room is going to be a comfortable and efficient centre for family activities – as well as a place where all the members can relax or entertain friends – the furniture will have to be adaptable for a whole range of different uses.

Although a smaller part of living room design than major seating and storage systems, the occasional tables and chairs in the room contribute just as much to its appearance and efficiency.

Arrange to have coffee or occasional tables conveniently located near seating units. Those in front of seats should be no higher than 50mm above the seat height of the surrounding chairs, while side tables should be approximately the same height as the arms of the adjacent seating.

The shape of the table should correspond to the shape formed by the seating arrangement – square or rectangular as the case may be.,If you are short of storage space, look for tables with an extra shelf underneath for books, magazines and newspapers – or nesting tables which provide extra surfaces when needed for games. meals in front of the television or when entertaining guests.

Material For something which is strong and reasonably easy to clean, varnished or lacquered wood is a good choice; but make sure you choose a surface without any mouldings or crevices to hold dirt. Plastic tables are inexpensive, sturdy and very light so you can move them about; and they are particularly easy to look after. You may find some acrylic finishes have a tendency to attract dust, but a special anti-static polish will solve this problem for you. Cane tables and chairs can often be bought quite cheaply, in a wide range of styles, and will give an outdoor look to a room. Glass is a versatile surface and particularly suitable for a very small room since transparent furniture will give a more open and less cluttered appearance; it does, however, need constant care because it will show finger marks or rings left from glasses or dishes more than any other surface -and it can be scratched.

Entertaining Some people find a wheeled trolley useful, either as a stand for the television – making it possible to store the set away when it is not being watched – or as a portable bar holding bottles, cans and glasses. Cocktail cabinets and even fitted bars can be included in living room areas; but they tend to be bulky and limited in their use and will pose space problems in most modern living areas. Flexibility If your living area does not include a dining area – leaving you without a general purpose table – you may need a separate desk-height table for paperwork, hobbies and children’s homework. Select a design with drawers so you can clear away clutter when the surface is not being used. If you want a desk chair as well, choose one which is comfortable enough to double as extra general seating when necessary.

An eating area in a combined living.dining room will be more flexible if the table and chairs you select for it are not an obviously purpose-designed suite. Choose a simple strong table with a surface durable enough to withstand the punishment which will be imposed on it by children playing.

Again, select dining chairs which are suitable for use in the living area when you have visitors. Flexibility is most important; space is all too valuable in most homes and large pieces of furniture too expensive for either of these to be wasted on just occasional use.

As with the storage area in any other room, you must first work out what things need to be housed. Most people keep books in the living room and these could require anything from a floor-to-ceiling cabinet to a couple of shelves for paperbacks. Equipment for family entertainment must be allowed for; but again, the quantity varies enormously. Television, radio, tape recorder, stereo and records all need plenty of space and you should decide whether you want them on view or discreetly hidden away. Hi-fi addicts will not mind if speakers. deck, tuneri amplifier, headphones and connecting wires are in evidence, but less committed listeners may want to store some of these items out of sight.

If you like serving drinks in the living room, but do not want to go to the lengths of using a cocktail cabinet or bar, decide whether you would prefer to display the different shapes and colours of the bottles on open shelves to add colour to the room or hide away all the alcoholic paraphernalia. Glasses are best stored behind closed doors to avoid dusty gin and tonics. You may wish to show off handicraft work you have done, a cherished collection of china, glass, pottery or silver, or a selection of family photographs as well as more practical items. But whatever you have to accommodate, remember you will always need more room than you bargained for and that possessions have a way of increasing at an alarming rate. So be very generous with your storage allowance.

Once you have worked out how much space you need, you will have to decide what type of storage will be most suitable for your possessions, your home and your budget. Whichever type you choose. keep the design simple since the objects on display will provide all the visual interest you require. WALL shelves These are one of the cheapest methods of storage; they include systems supported by fixed or adjustable brackets or by battens fitted to the wall. Although shelves are perfect for a contained area such as a chimney recess, they can prove inflexible. You may find, if you move house, that the shelves you have taken with you are too short for a recess in your new home. They can sometimes be difficult to dismantle and you may have to make good the area exposed afterwards.

Make sure your walls are strong enough to take a loaded storage system – partition or hollow walls, for example, might not take the extra weight. It is best to choose an adjustable system so you can rearrange the shelves if you want a change at some time in the future. Unless you are working in a very tight corner, fit fairly wide shelves so you can use.them for items of varying sizes.

If the goods to be stored’on a bracket-supported system are very heavy, you will need to position your brackets closer together than if you ARE catering for just a few ornaments and plants. Always check on the strength of the material you are using for your shelves and the load they will have to support. Make sure any timber you use is suitable for the purpose; if it is too weak, it will buckle under the weight of books and records. If you choose a material faced with laminate, fix matching self-adhesive edging strips for a neat finish on the shelves. For enclosed storage space you can buy ready-made doors in a wide range of sizes to incorporate into a shelving system.

PURPOSE-BUILT STORAGE This type represents a greater financial outlay than wall shelves, but it does have some advantages. It is easy to pack up and take with you when you move and it can be used against a wall or in the middle of the room to give privacy or divide areas with separate functions, while providing an attractive and useful display which can be appreciated from both sides.

It is most often available in modular units, which usually have a standard height and depth. This type is available in such a wide selection of shapes and sizes you are sure to find something to fill your particular area. These ranges usually have many different designs to suit every possible storage requirement – some even have panels which swing open to reveal a single bed. Any combination of shelves, drawers, cupboards and flap-down working surfaces can be accommodated and some models have striplighting concealed inside cupboards and above shelves. Bear in mind anything which extends out from the unit such as a door, flap or drawer needs 900mm clearance to operate easily.

Some of the newer storage units are available in cube form; these are all varying forms of one basic cube, with various combinations of small and large shelves, doors, drawers and compartments. Although very expensive as a simple shelving system. this type of furniture repays its initial cost by being totally flexible. A plain cube can be a storage box, a plant holder or even a small table, depending on which way up you use it. Four cubes together make a good size coffee table with storage underneath, while you can make a simple desk by spanning stacked units with a worktop. Since storage requirements throughout the home change, use these cubes in different rooms for varying purposes or join them together to make one large, comprehensive system.

Study all the manufacturers catalogues carefully before you decide on what range to buy: check to see if any system has to be fixed to a wall or whether it is equally suitable to be completely free-standing, since you may want to use your storage units as a room divider.

Keep an open mind and look at all kinds of furniture; you may find simple wood or laminated storage items designed for use in a kitchen could work equally well in a living room. With plain wood, you can decorate to match the colour scheme in the living room; you may find this type of furniture less costly as well. In small homes it is often a good idea to choose all your storage furniture from the same range to give a feeling of continuity in otherwise confined areas. SEPARATE STORAGE If a modern system does not fit in with your personal taste or the style of your home. look around for antique, restorable or reproduction pieces of separate storage furniture such as tallboys and wall-mounted or corner cabinets. which will fill otherwise wasted areas of space. You can get cabinets which are glass-fronted to display treasured articles of silver, china, glass and other ornaments.

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