Sunday, November 2, 2008

Three Very Short Steps to a New Living Room

Three simple suggestions that will help you revolutionize your living room.

So I was at a friend’s house the other month, a cute, turn-of-the-century bi-level in a southwestern college-town. You know the type: wood floors, an outside color scheme of olive and orange, pleasant backyard, etc. He opened the front door—wood, its plate-glass window with beveled edges—and let me in. And I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Did he actually live here? Could he? We stood in the entry foyer, which was completely empty of furniture, and I looked into the living room to my left. It was almost as though an alien had watched several films set in the 1970s United States, and had taken careful notes about the types of furniture humans have. TV: check. Couch: check. Coffee table, Barcalounger, second easy chair: check, check, check. But the furniture was just sort of strewn around the room (as much as a couch can be strewn, anyway), arranged haphazardly in a way that suggested the alien’s homemaking duties had been fulfilled as soon as everything had been purchased and delivered.

The friend I was visiting is an intelligent, dedicated individual, well-respected in his field and also not without a certain personal style. He’s a well-rounded person, and reasonably fir, psychologically (well, as much as anyone interesting ever is). So, why was his home in such disarray (if anything, things got worse in the other rooms)? And, more importantly, what could be done about it?

Since I don’t intend to use the Web as a forum for psychoanalyzing my friends, and given that I’ve talked since then with a number of people who feel similar degrees of disinterest in their physical environments, I think the latter question is the one to take up here. Specifically, I want to offer three thoughts about arranging living spaces with minimal extra effort.

Sure, there are about a hundred shows on TV dedicated to just this topic, but we all know that Trading Spaces costs a bundle; and the work they do there certainly requires a ton of time and effort. Following are three short tips for those who want to (or who think I might want them to) rearrange their homes a little, but who don’t want to think about it all too much.

1. Craigslist. Seriously, especially if you live in a big city or a city with a lot of students, there’s no need to buy furniture new ever again. Do you know your living room really needs a lamp behind the sofa, but don’t want to be overwhelmed by a billion glittering lights at the mall or at your local designer lamp boutique? Check out (or an equivalent service; there are several, many of them locally oriented) in your town or city. Just get online and browse the ads every now and then until you see something that appeals. This takes all the stress out of buying "home stuff," by the way. Instead of the whole "I’m on a mission; get out of my way, lady" mentality that’s hard to avoid if you’re seriously shopping for something, you can just check in from time to time to see if anything good has popped up.

2. Living spaces are for living in. Even if you have no friends, spend about three minutes imagining a lively conversation taking place in your living room. Then rearrange the chairs and sofas so that everybody (imaginary friends, if need be) can participate in that conversation at the same time.

3. If you make the TV the centerpiece of the room, the TV will be the centerpiece of the room! Nothing against television, but if you want people to actually talk to each other, it’s important to set up the space so that it makes talking easy. Most people’s default is to set up living spaces as little altars to the television, allowing everyone to see the TV at all times. If that’s what’s most important to you, of course, then I guess that’s okay . . . whatever. But if you want a little more human interaction, keep in mind that it’s your job to redirect people’s attention from the default position. So, don’t arrange the room around the TV. Arrange the room, and then figure out a place for the TV that will be more or less convenient.

Take these three suggestions, and they could revolutionize your living room. Most importantly, perhaps, they could revolutionize your living room with almost no real effort on your part. Happy minimalist rearranging!

No comments: