Apartment Stories: Looks Great, But Doesn’t Feel That Way

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Nora and Jake’s loft in the west village is beautiful. They are the only people who don’t think so. And they are not wrong. Not that they are complaining. It is just that things are beginning to bug them.

The apartment is a top floor loft that gets plenty of light and stretches from the front of the building all the way to the back. They have colorful, fun art hung along their walls, a nice big modular sofa that you never want to get up from, and a quiet, lavender hued bedroom in the back. It doesn’t feel huge, but it is light and airy – a lovely nest up above the rumble of the streets….

When I first spoke to Nora on the phone she mentioned that there was a problem with her living room, where the elevator enters the apartment. It was a nice big space, but it was never used and felt cramped by the dining table and loveseat that sat, pretty but unloved, in the center of the space. She also said her apartment felt “cluttered and inefficient.”

How could one person walk in and call this space beautiful and the other – the owner – call it cluttered and inefficient?

The reason is that what looks pretty, doesn’t always feel pretty. They are two separate things. The first, looking pretty, has to do with the second level of the home, the heart level, where things look and feel good, and the other has to do with a lower level of the home, the breathing level, where things work well and feel good as you use them.

1. head – intellectual – higher goals – work, relationship
2. heart – emotional – immediate desires – surface comfort & stimulation
3. breath – rhythmic – unconscious flow – deep comfort and invigoration
4. bones – physical – structure, foundation – security

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Nora and Jake’s loft apartment suffers from a major New York problem, it is narrow. As a result they had configured the largest space – the living room/dining room – with all the furniture along one of the walls. As I walked in from the elevator my natural path was to follow a pathway along the opposite wall in order to walk through the room. Not only did this have a “hallway” effect along one side of the room, it meant that I would never interact with their dining room or living room, unless I chose to use one of them. I merely walked along side, like a tourist on a train walking by rooms that didn’t have to do with me.

This is bad flow.

On the “hall” side of the room, there was way too much energy flowing through, while on the other side, where furniture sat against the wall, there was none. Energy lay trapped and stagnant along this wall. This room looked good at first glance, but its energy flow and arrangement were way off. Nora was right to feel uncomfortable about it.

The solution? Energy likes to meander left to right and back again, never straight and never stopping, so this narrow room needed to be arranged in a way that would allow us to get out of the “hallway” along one side and pass through the room.

The prescription?

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

One: Take out the chairs and the leaves to the dining room table (which wasn’t used much anyway), and place the smaller table in the windows at the end of the room, getting it off the wall and opening up the space. This table should carry nothing more important than flowers on it and will now be enjoyed from every angle of the room.

Two: break up the modular sofa (ugh!). Unfortunately the modular L-shaped sofa was comfy, but killing the room, by having a Berlin Wall type effect. Everyone wanted to be on the sofa side. No one wanted to be on the other. Keeping one half of the sofa and getting an armchair that would stand opposite would allow you to enter the living room through the middle of the room.

Three: with the open space that was now created a really nice, soft rug and low table was recommended to go with their funky modern loveseat. This open space would be for relaxing and working on the computer when facing the windows.

There are many ways to skin a cat, but you can’t avoid the fact that this room falls far too easily into a “bowling alley” configuration and needs to be fought tooth and nail to break this up. Nora and Jake still have to wrestle with whether or not they want to give up the modular sofa, but they will be happier when they do.

When you get home, take a look at your home. Is most of the furniture arranged against the wall? Are there dead spaces that you never get to? Furniture you never use? Do you walk through your rooms via “hallways” or do you move in and around them? Remember if you want a home that looks AND feels good, pay attention the flow, not just the nice art on the walls.

Go with the flow. MGR