How to Furnish an Awkward Living Space

Author: Alecia Pirulis  

Living and dining room

You finally found an apartment that you love – quirks and all! That’s great. But if one of those quirks happens to be an awkwardly-designed living area, you may find yourself bumping into furniture or wondering why the couch looks so out of place. And what are you supposed to do with that narrow wall? Here are some solutions for your awkward living space:

1. When front door and living room collide.

You have no entryway to speak of – the front door opens right into the living room.

Try creating some separation with room dividers. Place two room dividers between the living room and front door, leaving a space between the dividers where people can enter the living room. Free-standing screens work great. You can also use open bookcases to separate the space, or suspend curtains using side-mount or ceiling-mount curtain rods.

If you want to use what is already in the room, try positioning the couch as the divider – put it parallel with the front door, facing into the living area. Place a long, narrow table behind the couch and add some tall, decorative items (such as vases filled with flowers) to create the illusion of an entryway.

2. Not having walls to break up living spaces.

You love the open-concept floor plan of your apartment. But with no walls to separate the living and dining spaces, you feel as though your couch is sitting in the dining room — especially if the shared space is small.

Create separation by using a throw rug, either for the living area or under the dining table. If you are allowed to paint, try using a complementary color on one wall in the dining area to create a focal point and add definition to the space. Group your living room furniture together – resist the temptation to keep everything against a wall. As long as you can walk around the couch, placing it in the center of the floor is fine – especially if you’ve created a cozy conversation area with chairs and end tables.

Leave “traditional” thoughts behind. A living room doesn’t have to have a full-sized couch and a coffee table. If your room is tiny, a couple of comfortable chairs and perhaps a loveseat is enough. Instead of a space-gobbling coffee table, try strategically-placed end tables or a round storage ottoman.

Make sure the room is cohesive. Your furniture and color choices in the living and dining areas should complement each other. Unlike divided living spaces where the furniture and colors can be completely different, the eye will take in all of the great room at once. While the spaces don’t have to match, be sure some common elements are repeated throughout the space – for example, the color of the throw pillows in the living room might show up in the vase on the dining room table (or in a painting, or on the chair cushions).

3. Your living room resembles a hallway.

When a living space is long and narrow, trying to decorate can become tricky. It’s difficult to create a cozy atmosphere when your living space could double as an airplane runway.

Work with the space. You might want to consider narrow furniture, such as a long sectional sofa that can rest against one wall. Place an entertainment center with a flat-screen TV on the opposite wall. A cozy rug and some throw pillows will help “fill out” the space. Think vertically – adding taller elements will help create a sense of openness. Avoid placing furniture in the walkway – keep a clear path through the room.

If your room is especially long, consider creating different seating areas with chairs and tables. This will help break up the room and create a more intimate feel. A variety of strategically-placed rugs (a long, rectangular one in front of the couch, a round one underneath the two chairs and end table) will also help create the illusion of several intimate spaces, rather than one long continuous space.

4. Those awkward angles, offbeat design elements, and narrow walls.

You looked at the apartment and thought, “Oh, this is different – fun and funky!” Now, you have to decorate that different, fun, and funky space. Perhaps it is the angled fireplace, the columns in the middle of the room, the huge bay window, an odd cut that leaves a narrow wall and tiny niche – how are you supposed to arrange furniture around that?

Embrace the room’s quirks! You loved it when you saw it – so play up the room’s oddities. Angle the couch in front of the fireplace and add add a bookcase next to the fireplace. Create a cozy book nook in that odd little corner, or find a small, narrow desk and turn it into a home office. Place two parson’s chairs in front of the bay window with a small, round table and plenty of plants (don’t let that great light go to waste!). A narrow wall is the ideal place to display small photo frames or a collection of mirrors in a variety of shapes – think floor-to-ceiling to draw the eye up, making the wall seem larger than it is. Columns in the room can help divide up the space – work with them to create cozy seating arrangements, or use the space between the columns to create a “built-in” with bookcases. Make the quirky elements of your living room the focal point and suddenly that “odd” element becomes an asset.