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Preconceived notions about how you should arrange a living room can lead to deadly dull design. Instead, embrace structural challenges, turn them to your advantage and watch the space come alive

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CREATE AN UNEXPECTED FOCAL POINT: Allowing the biggest piece of furniture to dominate and dictate where everything else goes can be a problem. Here, by sliding the sofa back against the far wall, we created a snug, private lounge area and the room felt as if it doubled in size. Canvas painting, Canvas Gallery ( Carlu ottoman, Sarah Richardson Design ( Fabric onottoman, Telio ( Coffee table, Era (416-535-3305).Stacey Brandford/The Globe and Mail

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EMBRACE TINTED MIRRORS: Believe it or not, they’re making a comeback. When used in a scheme of similar tones, a grey-smoked mirror creates a wide interior reflection and can visually expand cramped or awkward areas. Here, the mirror is placed so you can sit and look out the front window of the house while also appreciating the beauty of the garden behind. Pair of Lawren chairs, Sarah Richardson Design ( Custom grey mirrored wall, Adanac Glass ( Brandford/The Globe and Mail

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DEEMPHASIZE THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: If you have a challenging and dominating design feature that you don’t intend to change,embrace it. Instead of fighting the brick, we treated it as a neutral backdrop and added a slab of stone from an Ontario quarry with incredible veining. Pair of vintage chairs, Philz (416-461-9913). Vintage starbursts, Studio Pazo ( Brandford/The Globe and Mail

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DON’T JUST REPLACE – REIMAGINE: Breathe new life into favourite old sofas or chairs with strong clean lines by reupholstering them. Vintage furniture is often of good quality,with tailored proportions well-suited to a tight space. Decorative pillows, West Elm ( Fabric on sofa and chairs, King Textiles( Brandford/The Globe and Mail

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RETHINK STANDARD DINING-ROOM FARE: There’s no rule that says you must have a long sideboard and eight identical chairs in your dining environment. For a more contemporary look, consider using a tall vertical storage cabinet as a visual barrier in an open-concept space. And since we’re eschewing the norm, why go with a chandelier when you can hang a pendant? A stream-lined contemporary light fixture can up the ambience, especially when it has a geometric pattern that casts an arresting pattern on the walls. Dining-room chairs and built-in unit, IKEA ( Dining table, lacquered side table and root side table, Crate & Barrel ( Pendant lights, Design Within Reach ( Brandford/The Globe and Mail

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