2. Determine what style(s) and color palette you like.
If you are unsure, then begin by finding out what you don't like. Try to collect examples of things you like via clippings from magazines, catalogs, and pages from local and internet vendors. Include pictures of rooms, settings, and furniture that you find attractive. Do you think leather couches are beautiful, or cold and impersonal? Are you a 'metal and glass' person, a 'wood person,' or neither?
3. Decide what objects you need in the room and try to visualize them as groupings.
Most designers recommend beginning with the largest piece—typically the couch—and working from there. For conversation and relaxing, perhaps you just need a couch, chair, and ottoman for the main entertainment area. Do you need a coffee table and/or end tables? What about a multi-purpose table that can do double duty as both a worktable and a dinner table? Do you need a place for the kids to play and store their toys, or room for a large TV and entertainment center?
4. Measure your space and think about scale.
If you are going to use fewer pieces, they can be larger—but the more pieces you add, the smaller in scale they will need to be. Most designers suggest that a good rule of thumb is to allow at least 24 inches between pieces, so that you can easily walk around and between them. Some homeowners find that drawing rough sketches on graph paper, using blue painter's tape to mark the dimensions of your intended pieces on the living room floor, or even creating cardboard cutouts can serve as excellent planning tools.
5. Think 'less is more,' look for opportunities to accessorize, and resist the temptation for being overly 'matchy.'
By picking timeless, simple pieces, you can create flexibility and the ability to add visual punch with carefully selected accessories. As one modern homeowner put it, "It is much easier to change the pillows or pottery than that large red-leather couch." Also be careful to avoid the temptation to match all of your pieces or lay them out in perfect symmetry—a common amateur mistake that detracts from the overall artistic composition of a space.
6. Don't lose sight of 'outside-in' opportunities.
With their walls of glass, Eichlers and other mid-century modern homes are architecturally designed to blend in with their surroundings, blurring the distinction between the outside and the in. This look can be enhanced through finding ways to minimize the visual mass of your pieces. For example, avoiding things with heavy bases, gravitating towards a subtle color palette, and elevating objects off the ground allows the furniture to blend into the background. Allowing the eye to see beyond or even through the furniture and to the outside also makes the interior space appear larger.
7. Create a focal point.
The focal point is that impact item that you see when you first enter the room. Focal points help provide a sense of organization and purpose. "If it's the fireplace," says designer Severin Secret, "consider adding a piece of art or a grouping of pottery to it. If it is not the fireplace, then use something else that stands out—like a beautiful Noguchi glass-and-wood coffee table against a light floor. This really makes a statement."
Photos: Roger Allyn Lee, Jim Herold, Paul Hance, and Rainer Hoffman