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Small furnishings give a room flexibility


Back in the '80s -- and how long ago it already seems -- many hotel lobbies were designed to resemble residential interiors in both their style and comfort. Simultaneously, large living rooms started looking like old-fashioned hotel lobbies, filled with oversized furniture.

Today, designers and their clients are once again realizing that form should follow function. Interiors are being more appropriately arranged to reflect their actual purposes.

The five-foot coffee table, the 10-foot curved-back sectional sofa and the overscaled this or that all seem scarcer now in home interiors than was the case just a couple of years ago. Deciding to rely less on big pieces of furniture is not so easy, however. They do tend to simplify the task of designing an interior, since many rooms can be filled up with only a few large items. Put some oversized pieces in a smaller setting, especially, and at first glance it will appear to be functionally and fully furnished.

But an interior designed in that manner does not permit much flexibility. Spaces with more than a single purpose really require smaller, adaptable pieces that can be readily rearranged into a variety of groupings. A room with a number of different focal points, such as a television set, fireplace and an attractive exterior view, should certainly include a few bunches of chairs and tables.

As a general rule -- that seems to have been widely ignored until recently -- tables must never be too cumbersome for their main functions. The dimensions of a table ought to be in keeping with the role it will play, whether for dining or supporting a lamp.

Sometimes, however, a table will be chosen mainly for its decorative qualities. Such a piece is shown in the photograph. While it isn't particularly large, this 26-inch-high table from the Baker Co. is taller than would be expected, given its 30-inch width and 20-inch depth. Because ofthe rococo iron base and heavily weathered pine top with ebony inlay, it looks a bit like a French provincial center table. But the size of the piece makes it most suitable as an end table or tea table. It would also serve quite well either as an occasional table holding a collection of small decorative items or even as a bedside companion for someone who likes to stack books and magazines next to a reading lamp.

Along with its good looks, the major appeal of a piece like this is that it will accommodate many functions. The styling of this particular table is also such that it will look appropriate in all sorts of settings. Size, therefore, should not be regarded as the decisive factor in selecting a table or any other furnishing. Bigger isn't necessarily better, and smaller can indeed be more beautiful.

+ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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