Sunday 19 January 2020

The Problem Room

Eva Byrne

Q: We are really happy with our home but don't seem to be able to get to grips with our living room. It feels uninviting and is rarely used. Any tips?

A: There is always at least one reason why a room is unloved and underused. Typical reasons include a lower room temperature than the rest of the house, acoustic issues, furniture arrangements, lighting and colour schemes.

A room that is physically cold will always be unappealing. Is the radiator adequately sized and located for the size of the room? Is it possible to upgrade the glazing, the windows or the wall insulation?

Timber floors combined with leather couches will result in a clattery, noisy room. Improve sound absorption with soft textures like cushions, rugs and throws to soften the acoustics where this is a problem.

Have a good look at both the furniture you have and how it is arranged. The largest sofa will be most comfortable opposite the fireplace. If the door location makes this impossible, consider moving it, preferably to a corner. Re-arrange the furniture as if the door were already moved, to gauge the benefit of this.

Now start placing the remaining pieces of furniture so that they 'talk' to each another and respond to the existing features in the room.

Evaluate the position of your radiators. Are they impeding the arrangement of furniture in a way that best suits the room? Get a plumber to cost for re-locating problem radiators to establish if this is a cost-effective solution.

The lighting and colour schemes you choose are crucial in bringing any room together.

Floor lamps will be useful in improving both general and mood lighting.

Where unsure about colour, consider painting the whole room white or off-white initially. This blank canvas will help you get a feeling for the room's full potential and allow you to explore colour options most suitable to your own taste.

Take time just to sit and 'be' in the space. Pinpointing the problems unique to the room is the start of your journey towards creating a space that you can love.

Eva Byrne is a registered architect with the RIAI and house design consultant contactable through

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