Going diagonal in asymmetrical rooms


It's difficult to arrange furniture symmetrically when a room' focal point or architecture is not also properly balanced. Too often, a designer refuses to go with the flow of such a space, and will instead try to force the furniture into a standard layout. As a result, the room usually takes on an even more awkward appearance.

A better approach in such situations may be to arrange the main pieces on a diagonal. By this I mean that groupings of tables and chairs should be placed at a 45-degree angle to the walls. They will then be free-standing, as opposed to parallel or perpendicular to the walls.

At first, such a layout might look a bit strange or seem wasteful of space. Many of us assume that furniture has to be placed squarely against a wall, perhaps because we feel more secure when a bed or a sofa abuts something solid. In many cases, however, a free-standing, diagonal configuration will prove to be an attractive and efficient alternative to a strictly symmetrical placement. Traffic patterns and conversation are often made more difficult in an oddly proportioned room where the furniture has been lined up in a predictable pattern.

In older, renovated houses with chopped-up rooms, it's not unusual to see windows that are no longer in balance with the space. Other kinds of odd architectural intrusions are also frequently found in interiors that originally were much larger. Camouflage, always one of the most useful techniques in a designer's repertoire, becomes essential in these situations.

This is precisely how designer Margot Gunther solved the problem presented by the unshapely room shown in the photo. She angled the bed to the corner, and then clustered a few more pieces around it. In this way, the furniture grouping becomes independent of the windows and fireplace, which are out of balance with the room's dimensions.

An asymmetrical arrangement like this needs to be reinforced by other patterns in the room. Here, for example, an area rug with its stripes perpendicular to the corner was placed on top of a bordered carpet. A small, gingham-type check was meanwhile applied to all the walls in order to camouflage ducts and unfortunate dry-wall "cover-ups." And a coordinated paper affixed to the ceiling has stripes that run parallel to the length of the room.

All the wall-coverings and fabrics seen in this model are from Sunworthy Wallcoverings' "Cottage" collection. These various juxtapositions of stripes and checks serve to emphasize the diagonal and free-standing placement of the furniture. In other words, when the rules of traditional design are broken, it's best to go as far as possible in whatever new direction is being taken. In this instance, the room has been given a distinctive and pleasing character because its designer departed in a planned and comprehensive manner from the principles of symmetrical design.

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