Arrange seating to open up fireplace area

The Baltimore Sun

My living room has the sort of contemporary style seen in many interior-design magazines. It's gotten kind of boring, however, and now I'd like to introduce a couple of different-looking pieces.

I'm thinking of substituting a pair of love seats for the two lounge chairs that now flank the fireplace. But would seating pieces of that sort look too heavy in the middle of the room? Wouldn't they cut off the view of the fireplace from other chairs?

It's actually pretty common to situate love seats on either side of a fireplace in a spacious room. That arrangement makes for a cozy situation for those in the love seats, but it can make everyone else in the room feel excluded from the focal point.

Your own choice should hinge mainly on the primary function of your living room.

If it's used mostly as a lounging area for family members, then there may not be a problem with the layout you're considering.

But if you do a lot of entertaining in the living room, some guests will almost certainly be left outside the center of the action.

Have you noticed at parties that many of those in attendance will perch on the edge of even ottomans or benches in order to take part in a conversation? It's preferable to make them feel they're being treated as equals.

Consequently, let's consider a way to open up the fireplace area. A love seat could be placed perpendicular to one side of the fireplace, with a square or round coffee table in front of it and a large upholstered chaise across from the love seat.

That kind of arrangement will make the seating group open to the rest of the space, rather than being focused solely on the fireplace.

Another option is a classic-style chaise designed with clean and austere lines. A piece like this can meet your twin objectives of enlivening the room while allowing the fireplace to be seen from other seating pieces.

Rita St. Clair is a Baltimore-based interior designer. Readers with general interior design questions can e-mail her at

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