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The lounge: A place to start and end the day

A lounge on the bedroom floor isn't a feature common to most homes, it's true. But one West Coast firm we work for, Blakewood Homes, insists on the space in any home it builds.

Early on, I didn't see the point, even in a high-end home. An upstairs relaxation nook in a home with no shortage of them on the main and lower floors? It's an additional expense, and one potentially beside the point. Would anyone ever use it?

I've since designed a number of the rooms. I now see them as fine gathering spaces, whose character is improved by being tucked away from the home's common areas. If not exactly necessary, a bedroom-floor lounge can be intimate and wonderful place for a family to spend the first and last hour of the day.

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We recently designed one such space, just off the upstairs hallway of a stately Vancouver home. Here's how we approached the project.

The big idea

The lounge is one of several rooms in the home that strive for an air of "country estate." We wanted the space to feel more approachable and relaxed than the formal areas of the home.

Our most important task was to connect the lounge to the hallways around it, without causing it to be overwhelmed by their transience. It's difficult to achieve intimacy in in-between zones like doorways and hallways: they're more not-there than there. And design intimacy – as it is in its other forms – is about presence, not absence.

To create a visual connection, we wainscoted the entire hallway of the upper floor, essentially wrapping the perimeter of the room. Then, within the lounge, we kept all the millwork details and finish colour the same as the wainscot, creating architectural consistency and a feeling of unity.

The big spend

A fair assumption: if you require custom cabinetry for a room, it's going to be your greatest expense. Our lounge had two millwork elements: the bench seat and media cabinet.

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Putting built-in seating in a room instantly draws people in and invites them to relax. Here, we extended a bench the length of the room at a seat depth of 20 inches. Take note: this is the absolute minimum depth for a seating area where you'd like people to lounge or relax. When possible, I like to make a bench deeper and upholster the back. In this case, though, depth would have compromised the space and our overall plan.

For the media cabinet, our original proposal was for a tall, wardrobe-style unit. (The goal was to hide the television.) But, this being a less formal area of the home, the clients felt that the added step was unnecessary. Plus, they wanted to keep the costs down by making the unit more a console than a wardrobe. The finished piece, which has closed storage for electronics and open storage for books, works beautifully.

The big save

In a furnishing plan like this one, a sofa will make or break the budget. My philosophy is usually to go big; a quality sofa nearly always repays the extra attention and expense – one reason we seldom allocate less than $4000 to its purchase. But, since this lounge is a secondary area of the home and we'd already spent a good deal elsewhere in the home, we felt it wise to be economical.

I'm a fan of Ikea's Karlstad sofa for such situations; its slim profile, neutral effect, and boxy form allow it to fit easily with a number of different styles. It cost us $700. To dress it up, we peppered the sofa with a collection of designer toss cushions and one quality throw.

Accompanied by the custom upholstery on the window seat (which, I should add, cost as much as the sofa) the entire room has a simple, accessible elegance, but isn't being fussy or precious.

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The twist

A room with a light colour scheme can feel like it's going to float away if you don't ground it with something heavier in form and colour. Here, we decided to incorporate elements of black and navy blue in the room to make it more substantial. The black coffee table has the most weight in the space while the striped rug adds an unexpected graphic element.

But it's the art I find most interesting. The obvious choice would have been a light, ethereal piece or, for substance, a moody landscape painting. Instead, we chose a geometric print from the 1970s. Its movement and angularity adds poignancy to the room and keeps things from looking bland.

A note on lighting

On the West Coast, daylight through the winter is dim and skies are overcast. It's important to illuminate a space like this with a warm glow. The limited space wouldn't permit the large side tables and low-slung table lamps I prefer for lounging spaces.

Instead, we put in two wall sconces and a free standing reading light. The result is ambient light throughout the room and great task lighting for reading a book.



Wall Colour: CLW1048 Spray River, General Paint,

Millwork/Trim colour: OC-17 White Dove, Benjamin Moore,

Coffee table: Pottery Barn,

Cushion: Custom fabrics,

Sofa: Karlstad sofa, Ikea,

Rug: Pottery Barn,

Sconces: Norwich Sconce, Hudson Valley Lighting,

Bench: Restoration Hardware,

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