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DECOR : Friendly Advice to Make Yourself Comfortable

From Associated Press

Certain rooms exude natural grace and a feeling of comfort. Their inviting arrangements draw us in, coaxing us to stay awhile. Such rooms spring from timeless decorating principles that have long guided room-shapers. For gracious rooms of your own, try taking these rules to heart and home.

Begin with function: Decide how you plan to use the room, listing the activities you and your family would like to do there. Feel free to change room labels and use your space creatively. Who says that your dining room can’t function as an office or entertainment center? Why not dine in the living room or in the guest room just off the kitchen? Look at your furnishings to see what new pieces you need and which ones should be traded away or shuffled to another room.

Find a focal point: A room’s focus works as a cornerstone on which you build your arrangement of furnishings. It becomes a magnetic element that catches the eye and draws you into a room. If your room doesn’t have a natural focal point, such as windows with a great view, a bookcase wall, or a fireplace, substitute a large-scale or bold-colored furniture piece or accessory. Or, group small elements--a wooden folding screen, a distinctive chair, a basket of dried blooms--into a welcoming focal point.

Float furnishings: A lineup of furniture around the edges of a room creates an awkward “waiting room” that’s anything but welcoming. To set up furniture arrangements that invite conversation, pull pieces away from the walls, gathering them into warmhearted, close-knit groupings. If you place major seating pieces no more than about eight feet apart, you’ll never have to shout across the room.

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Direct traffic: Although traffic passes through a room, it doesn’t have to travel through the center of it. Think of furniture as curbs that funnel traffic around conversation groupings. Allow a width of two to three feet for traffic lanes and for pullout space behind dining chairs. You can narrow some pathways, such as the area between a sofa and a cocktail table, to about 18 inches.

Do a balancing act: Combine furnishings of different heights and hefts for interest but avoid placing all of your tall or weighty pieces on the same side of the room. Use weighty pieces to balance architectural features. For instance, echo the height of a tall window or fireplace on one side of the room by placing an armoire or bookcase on the other. Or, if you have a large piano on one end of the room, balance it with a conversational seating arrangement on the other end.

Try a fresh angle: Because a diagonal is the longest line through any room, a grouping placed at an angle can open up space, creating an illusion of width. An on-the-bias gathering can also help you take advantage of two focal points. For example, tilt a sofa so you can enjoy a fireplace on one wall and a great view on the adjacent one.

Think convenience: Put a spot for drinks or books close to every seating piece. This can be a true end table, a stack of books, or a glass-topped basket--just be sure it’s roughly the same height as the arm of your seating place.

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