Friday, February 22, 2013

Ask Abby: Side-By-Side Fireplace and TV Combination

For this month's "Ask Abby" post I chose the first submission I received which came from Annabelle in regards to her grand-room:

Defining the Space:

First things first - while this is a big open room, we have a few too many things happening in it!  I would suggest moving the kid and exercise equipment elsewhere, and take the room down to it's two most basic purposes.  As I mentioned in my post about how to work with open spaces, the first thing we want to do with this big, open room is clearly define it into a living room space and a dining room space.  I would suggest doing this by investing in some new furniture pieces that will work better in the space.

 (*tip* sell your existing furniture on Craig's List or Kijiji and put the money towards some new furniture!)

Whether new or used, I would suggest looking for a small sectional with an open-ended chaise on the right side in an ivory, or chalky off-white colour. It looks like you have young kids, so you will probably want to go for something leather or stain-resistant and washable.  It is important that the sectional is open-ended on the right side so that the arm of the sofa doesn't block the view of the TV.  Using a sectional sofa in this space will help to conserve space by consolidating seating, and will help to define the living-room area by clearly separating it from the dining room space.  Moving it away from the wall and into the room will open up the window and direct focus towards the TV and fireplace.

In regards to the dining room furniture, I would replace it with something more contemporary in a darker wood, preferably with upholstered seats as illustrated (*Tip* Use my tutorial on DIY upholstery to learn how to do it yourself!).  I would also suggest replacing the tall hutch with a lower side-board for more versatility (more on this later).


It looks like the current flooring in the space is tile. If possible, I would suggest replacing it with a softer, dark hard-wood, or laminate. 


In her email, Annabelle didn't mention a particular interest in any one colour scheme, so I just played around with it!  I really liked using a soft, warm grey on the walls as the base, a deep plummy purple as the secondary colour brought out in the drapes, and a punchy pear-green accent here and there. 

Base colour suggestion, " Abalone" 2018-60 from Benjamin Moore:

Secondary colour suggestion,  Organic Cotton Twill Plum :

Coordinating fabrics:

Curtain tops: Premier Prints Suzani Vine Dosset Grapvine
Dining room chairs, Throw Pillows: Waverly Shine On Twill Graphite
Ottoman, throw pillows: Duralee Breckenbridge Purple
Throw Pillows: Swavelle/Mill Creek Indoor/Ourdoor Hockley Pear 

 Rug suggestion: Tuscan Elmer Rug from Rugs USA

Other than how to divide the big, open room appropriately, this space presented 2 really big design challenges:

1) Side-By-Side Fireplace & TV Combo:

Placing both a TV and fireplace in the same room always presents a design challenge because they are rivaling focal-points.  A fireplace is an architectural focal point and should be the main point of focus when placed in a room; however, people will naturally direct their attention towards a TV when it's placed in a room.  The best way to get around these dueling focal points is to either combine them together or totally separate them, and there are several ways of how to do that.  My personal preference is to combine them in a central, vertical arrangement with the fireplace on bottom and the TV on top, but sometimes that is just not going to work as in the instance of Annabelle's grand room.  The reason why a vertical fireplace/TV arrangement will not work in this space is because the fireplace is not located in the center of the wall, instead it's pushed into the corner of the room.  So, we're going to work with the side-by-side fireplace and TV arrangement which is a little more tricky to pull off successfully.

*Click here for more information on successful fireplace and TV arrangements*

Step 1: Enhance & Balance:

I would suggest bringing more emphasis to the fireplace by encasing the surrounding walls in stone.  Currently, the fireplace seems rather insignificant and it shouldn't be.  By making the entire wall stone, the fireplace will receive the attention it deserves.  However, we also need to enhance the TV nook so that it is not overshadowed by the fireplace.

I would suggest building a short bench for the TV to sit on (this will probably have to be a custom build).  It can't be too high, because you don't want the TV to be higher than the fireplace insert (the TV and fireplace should be as equally aligned as possible). I created the bench with drawers for some closed storage, but you could leave the compartments open for electronic devices. I would also install some shelves into the top section of the TV nook to balance the new height of the fireplace added by the stone, and make better use of the otherwise empty space.  I would paint out the TV nook in white to draw attention by creating contrast with the stone of the fireplace.

Step 2: Bring It Together:

We've enhanced and balanced the TV nook and the fireplace, but we still need to pull them together into a combined focal point.  I would suggest doing this by creating a large, fairly thick, dark-wood mantel to span across the width of both the fireplace and the TV nook.  The mantel will create a strong, horizontal line which will pull the fireplace and TV together into 1 focal point.

2) Working Around the Windows:

The next big challenge this space presented was difficult window placement.  From what I could see in the pictures, the space appeared to have 2 large windows, 1 set of sliding glass doors and 1 small, oddly placed window stuck in the corner.  Moving windows = a major renovation, so I tried to work with them as they are.

The large window on the broad wall was simple enough.  I chose this window as my architectural boundary separating the living-room area from the dining-room area.  Using long drapes on either side of the window helped to make the window appear longer and created some vertical lines which helped to break up the broad wall.

The large window beside the sliding glass doors was more of a challenge.  Because of the dark drapes in the photo, I couldn't tell precisely how close the window was to the sliding glass doors, but it appeared pretty close.  The only window treatment that really works with a sliding glass door is a drape, but draping the doors alone left the window feeling totally out of balance, especially in relation to the placement of the dining -room furniture.  Thus I draped both the window and the sliding glass doors on either side, using separate rods placed at equal height.  This is a little more crowded than I would prefer, and the drapes will end up partially covering the window openings even when open which is not ideal, but it just seemed to be the best solution out of all the others I tried in this space.  The long drapes across the end wall create a secondary focal point for the space and bring drama and elegance to the dining space.

The small, irregularly placed window in the corner was tough to work with.  I chose to cover it with a simple roman-blind, and place a side-board beneath it (the main reason why I felt a side-board would be better for this space than a hutch).  I positioned the window on the right of the sideboard, leaving a blank patch of wall space above the left side of the sideboard.  The challenge was then to use this patch of wall space to create some asymmetrical balance with the window.  I did this by placing a tall vase with some long twigs in the space.

The last suggestion that I would give for the windows is to frame them in with some casing which will help to give them the emphasis that they deserve in the space.

Thanks for your submission Annabelle - I hope this gives you some ideas of how to work with your space!

If you would like to "ask Abby" about a design dilemma in your home please email me at  Please label your email "Ask Abby," describe your space and dilemma to me as well as what you would like to see or need from your space.  Include pictures of every wall in your space and some approximate dimensions.

If your submission is selected for an "Ask Abby" post, you will be contacted by email.


  1. Thank you, Abby for the step by step process you laid out. I LOVE learning about what makes good design and your explanation really helps! Lovely!

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