Social Networking Navigation
« Any therapists out there? | Main | Long and Narrow »

Negative Space


Hi Christine,
Great blog...LOVE IT!  Since I discovered it, it has been like a great book that I can't put down...the house falls apart around me, the kids run wild, and who needs dinner or clean clothes...psh! I previously sent this email but didn't get the attachments attached correctly, so disregard the first.
Our living room is one of our home's top problem areas. The room feels disjointed and without any feel or focus. It is also what you see when you walk in the front door. With an upcoming addition of a nice big family room in the basement, our living room can now get some much needed TLC.
I have included 2 photos of the room from opposite angles.  The room is 13'x17' including a 2' strip of tile by the front door and an additional 3'x4' area by the stairs.
Challenges are:
-no entryway, front door opens directly into living room (guests enter through front door, however we enter through the garage)
-LOTS of traffic area
-lack of seating for our family of mom, dad and 5 rascally boys
-large window above stairs needs something but it is hard to access, the blinds are boring but easy to open and close from the top of the stairs
-the fireplace (wood pellet stove) is more about function than looks


My "makeover" goal is to create a welcoming atmosphere as you walk in the door with a feel that can continue throughout the house. Once we finish the family room we will move out everything except the piano (probably including the deer mount, who made his home on the wall while I was out of town!). So I will have a clean slate! I have considered a small sectional for the corner by the stairs...what do you think? Is leather or upholstery more resilient to kiddos?  Eventually we want to install hardwood flooring throughout but that is probably a year or two off.  As far as a color pallet goes...your post "Jackie's Rug" on April 23, 2009...I love the colors in the Dumain Rug. 
While I wouldn't say it is my dream house, I do love our little home and am anxious to make the most of it. I would LOVE to hear back from you! Thanks!



Hi Melody,


1.  Just because it is a heavily trafficked area, does not mean that you need to create a straight as an arrow line from the front door to the kitchen, or from the front door to the bedrooms.  YOU decide how the traffic will flow, not the laziest person in the house who doesn't want to take an extra step or two to go around a coffee table.

2.  I don't know that you'll fit seven grown adults in this room.  However, as long as your boys are small, they can fit.  You simply have too many architectural limitations. 

3.  I would move the piano.  Either that, or move the TV, but this room is too small for both of them. 

4.  I like the idea of the sectional in the corner. 

The rug you liked, I can't find anymore.  I found one very similar:

It is called "Botanicals" available from

Since your large window goes down the stairs, Use a Roman shade in lieu of drapes.  You can double up these treatments with a woven wood roller shade beneath them for more variations in opacity as well as increased texture.

The shade below is from Pottery Barn

Add some grasscloth wallpaper.  This will give you instant atmosphere!

 (photo from made me drool)

Keep your moldings a crisp white.  Put in a larger baseboard and case your windows.  Here is a new floorplan I drew for you:


I would get an actual sectional, not a sofa with a chaise, which will be easier to find in the right size- so don't be tempted.  The chaise doesn't look good pushed up against the wall.  You might need to order one to get the right size in.  The Ashford sectional, below, by Bernhardt, like many, are available in many different combinations of sizes.  Don't get leather.  With the brown in your rug, it would lack contrast and put me to sleep.  I'm getting a little tired of everyone having brown leather.  There are some very durable upholstry fabrics out there. 

Notice that you have a chair in the corner by the closet, and so do I.  However, mine is pulled out quite a bit more into the room.  This does two things:

1.  More interesting negative space.

2.  Better conversation orientation. 

The chair I selected for you is the Scarsdale chair by Bernhardt.

Do not skip the coffee table.  Notice that I left ample walk space, without treating the room like a hallway.  The coffee table below is from Bernhardt.

I want to talk a little more about negative space.  If you were to draw a shape on your floorplan of the blank area, this is your "negative space."  If your shape looks like a large rectangle or kidney bean, that is a bad thing.  I sketched in your current floorplan to show you how bad your negative space is: 


On the other hand, if you find that your negative space shape looks more like below: that is a good thing.  This is considered more interesting negative space. 


So that it all sinks in, everywhere you go, start looking at the negative space.  How is the negative space in your best friend's house?  How about your childrens' bedrooms?  What about the patio?  For a textbook explanation of negative space- check out this post.  For some super bad negative space- check out this post.

One last thing.  Notice those plants I drew in?  Those are actually super important.  Go get yourself some of those. 

Oh yes, and the deer head isn't working in this space.  (I said it really nicely huh?)  If he could put that up while you were out of town, you can do all of this while he's out of town.  Especially the wallpaper.  Husbands always say "no" to wallpaper.   Next hunting trip is now called, "Wallpaper Weekend!"




References (10)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    If you like football, you possibly have a preferred group from the National Football League or two and have a list of players who like to have noticed.
  • Response
    NFL is truly a single of the biggest sports in America. It has a main following.
  • Response
    Response: plastic surgery
    Christine Fife Interiors - Design With Christine - Negative Space
  • Response
    Response: plastic surgery
    Christine Fife Interiors - Design With Christine - Negative Space
  • Response
    Response: plastic surgery
    Christine Fife Interiors - Design With Christine - Negative Space
  • Response
    Response: plastic surgery
    Christine Fife Interiors - Design With Christine - Negative Space
  • Response
    Response: deer hunting tips
    Christine Fife Interiors - Design With Christine - Negative Space
  • Response
    Response: consider laminate
    Christine Fife Interiors - Design With Christine - Negative Space
  • Response
    Christine Fife Interiors - Design With Christine - Negative Space
  • Response
    Response: weight loss
    Christine Fife Interiors - Design With Christine - Negative Space

Reader Comments (5)

Well, crapola. I have three areas of negative space in my living room.
And I have a brown leather sofa.
And it's pushed up against the wall.
And my husband hates wallpaper. :)
Would love to see what you end up doing! Love the rug, chair and wallpaper suggestions.

March 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie

Thank you SO much! This totally made my day....I was completely giddy when I saw it!

Couple questions....
Should I wallpaper the entire room or just an accent wall?
The big window is to big for the roman shade. Can I hang two side by side or should I buy material by the yard and have them made?
Any suggestion on type of hardwood when the blessed day arrives?

I'll send updates as it progresses.
Thanks again! I love it!!

P.s. DH is happy to remove dear head since your advice is getting him out of a leather sectional :-)

March 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelody

I'm a victim of negative space! I keep wanting to get a coffee table/ottoman to our family room, but my husband likes the open space. Working on convincing him of the importance of a table. Any tips?

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterwendy

Melody- wallpaper the entire room- you can skip the wall that goes down the stairs.

April 5, 2012 | Registered CommenterChristine

Carpeted living room seems to be hard to clean. You really need to be careful no to spill anything on the carpet. It will be troublesome to wash it.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>