Expert Advice: 6 Ways to Design Around Beams and Columns
Turn these these awkward structural features into pretty and functional elements of your space
Whether you live in a home or in a condo, there is always that one structural support that takes away the seamlessness of your walls and ceilings. We’ve all had our fair share of beams and columns—awkward ones that get in the way of your design style, like that beam in the middle of your living area or that big column in one corner of your room.
Beams and columns are parts of a space that you cannot avoid. They are load-bearing, so tearing them down isn’t an option. Often times these are strategically placed in the corner of a room, but in cases when they are not, the only thing you can do is to work around them. Here are some ideas you can consider when dealing with these structural features:
1. Light it up
Use a beam to your advantage by turning it into a cove ceiling. Extend the beam by creating a cove to house your indirect lighting. This will work for beams that are against the wall or those at the center of an open layout. Most cove ceiling designs have two coves that are parallel to each other. It's best to keep this in mind as you might have to mimic the cove ceiling on the other side of your room.
In cases where the beam is horizontally in the middle of an area, add two more cove features at the two ends of the room. Doing this can also help divide spaces visually, like the living and dining areas. Your new cove ceiling features can also house recessed lighting fixtures.
2. Accentuate it
Finish the beam in an accent material like timber strip panels. This idea can work for beams above furniture pieces that are set against the wall as seen in the TV, study, and kitchen areas. You can use shallow LED pin lights to add lighting features as well. You can also paint it in a complementary color to make it look like it is part of the design, like in the photo above. (In the same photo, the designer also disguised the column beside the bed by wrapping it in the same wallpaper.)
For lone beams that are off-center, consider duplicating it to create visual balance. You can also use beams to frame a space by adding new posts on both ends. Simply clad the beam (this can also serve as storage space depending on the measurements used) in the same material as the posts—this accent frame can help divide open spaces.
3. Clad it
One of the most used strategies when it comes to hiding beams is by cladding it. A dropped ceiling is created by aligning the higher part of your ceiling with the level of the beam—making a uniform height. More often than not, the floor to beam height is sufficient enough to cover the standard ceiling height of 2.4m, but make sure you double check these measurements. The new ceiling can be used to house recessed lighting fixtures as well.
1. Cover it up
Cover a huge column in an accent material like brick, stone, timber strips, or even wallpaper. The new material will help spike some interest in the space and will convert your column into an accent feature. You can also anchor the furniture pieces against an accent column. Doing so will work for areas like your kitchen nook/bar, entertainment center, TV space, or display shelves.
RL Tip: You can mount the TV on it, too! Clad the column with a decorative finish and you'll get an instant TV wall. For spaces with an open design, you can place a plant or a piece of art on a pedestal again the column.
2. Mirror it
You can take this tip literally, by wrapping an existing column in floor-to-ceiling mirrors, like what architect Angelo Siochi did in the photo above. This will make the column seem to "disappear" by reflecting all the visible surfaces around it.
If there’s a wide column on one side of a big room, balance the space visually by putting up a floor-to-ceiling storage cabinet on the other side. Mimic the measurements of the column if it is at least .45m to .6m deep and .8m to 1m wide. If this is not the case, you might have to clad the original column to cater to standard dimensions. Make sure you have the column finished in the same material as the new storage space, consider using a combination of materials to break the monotony as you are dealing with larger scaled features.
3. Build around it
Make the column appear as if it's part of the plan by adding storage space in any of its sides. Use it as a support or as an accent, or consider using shelving that surrounds or embraces a column.
You can also extend narrow and shallow columns to align with the width of a furniture piece or an appliance. For example, a study table against a wider column will look so much better than a narrow one.
Interior designer Vera Villarosa-Orila is an alumna of the University of the Philippines and is one of the go-to designers for the Real Living Makeovers. You can get in touch with her through e-mail: vera.villarosa[at]gmail.com.
Do you have questions or concerns about your home's layout, furniture, and color scheme? Send your questions to reallivingonline[at]gmail.com with the subject: Expert Advice. We might answer and feature your queries online.
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