In furnishing the living area, follow personal preference rather than trends, for trends change and few people can afford to replace furniture merely to seem abreast of fashion. Comfort and durability are the essentials.
Try out a chair or settee in the shop or showroom before buying it. The seat should be ample enough and the back high enough to give good support to the small of the back. Since nobody sits frozen in the same position for long, a chair should allow you to wriggle or relax in different positions. Stretch covers that can be stripped off the settee and easy chairs for cleaning ease maintenance. Bouncy floor cushions are decorative; young people like them and they provide informal seating at party time.
Make sure you have enough small tables in the living area to match chair heights. In most households they are constantly in demand — for snack meals while watching television, for putting down books, magazines or cups of tea. You can make a small “occasional” table using blockboard for the top and 2 in. by 2 in. (5 by 5 cm) softwood for the legs. Apply a coat of gloss paint to the top or a self-adhesive plastic fabric.
Think twice before throwing out old furniture, unless worn and rickety beyond hope. You could repair, re-furbish or re upholster it yourself. Or it might be readapted (e.g. a sound table top might be divorced from its worn base and top, placed on two drawer units, making a new table with storage either end).
Make the maximum use of wall space in the living area for storage, whether built-in cupboards or storage frames. This avoids cluttering up floor space and eases the “traffic” problem in a much-used living room.
A centrally heated home has the additional advantage that the settee and chairs do not have to be grouped around the fireplace. This gives greater flexibility in furniture arrangement. But many people are still obsessed in arranging their furniture around a “focal point”, traditionally the fireplace and now more probably the television screen. In fact a focal point or points emerges naturally in a well-planned room: it could be a display cabinet, a colourful mural or even a large lamp.
A more important practical consideration than any focal point is the grouping of furniture to ensure that the traffic lines are right.
Dining area. This may be a room in its own right or within, but partially divided from, the main living area.
If the dining table is also used, as it commonly is, for games or cutting out dress patterns, it should have a durable surface. Melamine and polyurethane wood finishes are examples of tough surfaces that do not require polishing. Plastic laminates are available in subtle colours. Being heat-resistant, they obviate the need for table mats and can be wiped clean.
A round table takes up less floor space than a rectangular table with a similar seating capacity. On the other hand, a rectangular table with an extension leaf can be enlarged to accommodate guests and, whatever its style or shape, your dining table should be large enough for this purpose. If you are retaining an old dining table but buying new chairs (or vice versa) make sure that the relative heights enable the chairs to be tucked neatly in under the table: both dining tables and chairs used to be made about 2 in. (5 cm) higher than they are today.