Interior Design for Living: Pick out furniture that has several functions

By SUSAN GILL SPELLMEYER

Q: We have what appears to be a relatively minor decorating prob­lem compared to some that I've read in your column.

We've been decorating our liv­ing room with some help and have been pleased so far. However, there is one last decision that needs to be made and is crucial to the efficien­cy and looks of the room.

I've enclosed a sketch of what we've done so far. Wall units were built in on the end wall to house books and our stereo system, with two recessed lights in the ceiling to highlight them. We've purchased a 7-foot sofa which we have placed perpendicular to the fireplace and parallel to the front wall of the house. There is a 6-foot cherry sofa table behind it which holds two matching lamps.

We have also recently acquired two club chairs with an ottoman. In between them we have placed a 20-inch by 30-inch glass and brass ta­ble.

Herein lies our problem. For 99 percent of the time, we like to angle the chairs and jointly share the otto­man. This works very well for us on a day-to-day basis. It is only when we occasionally entertain that we like to square off the chairs and move them slightly closer to the so­fa for a more-intimate conversation­al grouping.

We also feel that the ottoman is slightly awkward in front of the two angled chairs when entertaining. We move it opposite the fireplace and use it for extra seating.

The major question is what shape coffee table can serve both furniture arrangements? We like a large, square coffee table when en­tertaining because we often serve food and drinks on it. However, I don't envision that working with the chairs and ottoman angled.

So far I feel we've done really well, but now I'm at a standstill. Do you have any ideas that might satis­fy both situations?

A: If this is the room you use regularly, it must suit your every­day needs.

A well-designed room means that it works aesthetically as well as functionally. One without the other is not a well-designed room.

I agree with you that a large, square coffee table would be appro­priate while entertaining but would not be correct when the chairs and ottoman are used as a unit.

It is also important to point out that today rooms serve many pur­poses and that concept is here to stay. We must adapt to make rooms multifunctional.

This is a prime example. You want to use it the majority of the time with one furniture arrange­ment that suits your everyday life­style. For a small percentage of the time, you'd like to make a slight ad­justment to adapt to a different situ­ation.

In graphing it out, I don't see any reason why you can't accomplish both ends, but the solution is not an ordinary one. To me, this is an advantage because it's more in­teresting.

I would either buy or have made two triangular-shaped tables that can be used separately or to­gether.

When apart, they are placed in front of the sofa, creating a space in which the angled ottoman can be used without interfering with the triangular tables. The angles also align with one another to make it very attractive.

When placed together in front of the sofa and squared-off chairs, the two combine to form a large 42-inch coffee table for entertaining.

If you're able to purchase two triangular tables, I would consider brass and glass. If you're going to have them made, a cherry or lac­quered frame with a glass insert would be a possibility. Regardless, the glass is important to lighten the look so the tables don't appear heavy in the room.

Often in design what we per­ceive to be a relatively minor prob­lem, because it's only one item in a room, is actually a rather major de­sign problem, because its solution determines the success of the entire room.