How To Layout A Long Narrow Living Room: An Interior Designer’s Perspective

We are just a couple weeks away from the One Room Challenge reveals!  Last week we had the photo shoot with our photographer and I’ve seen a couple sneak peeks.  I just can’t WAIT to share the final reveal of this project with you all.

While we’re waiting on photos, I thought I’d share how we decided to lay out the room.

You’ll remember from the Week 1 post (all posts for the One Room Challenge can be found at the bottom of this post), that this room is long and narrow.  It’s about 24′ long and about 11’6″ wide.

I get questions all the time around how to lay out a bowling alley living room!  It’s not super intuitive.

Here’s how the original owners had the space laid out:

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When you have a long narrow space, it’s important to break it up into zones.  The previous owners had the right idea here as the divided the space in half with the sofa using two chairs to create a focal point around the fireplace.  In the front half they had an armoire with a TV and two smaller love seats.

This isn’t bad, but it wasn’t quite perfect.  The front half with the armoire felt tight and the two love seats were awkward for conversation.

And, though I loved the furniture layout in the back half of the room by the fireplace, the rug was undersized and the furniture didn’t allow for the California Shutters to open up.

We solved for the shutters by removing them and replacing them with drapery panels.  It’s SO much brighter in here!

Most people wrongly assume that painting a room a dark colour will make it feel dark and cave like.

But it’s not colour that makes a room feel dark — it’s a lack of lighting!

Had we left the shutters on, then it would definitely feel dark in here (and we never would be able to open them AND have furniture in the room because of the fixed elements in the space which dictate the furnishings… like the fireplace and french doors that open into the room).

Sorry about my rant tangent there!  It’s just such a misconception that colour and light are the same.  Back to the layout.

So, when we work in a long, narrow living room we want to divide the space into two or more zones.

In this room we have two distinct zones and the architecture dictates where to divide them since the room squeezes in about half way down between the two windows.

As you can see in the back half of the room, we kept the furniture around the fireplace.  Now, we could have used four chairs here instead.  Or  done a sectional against the window (but that would have partially blocked the window and we didn’t want to use blinds that would hide the stained glass).  So, we kept the layout pretty similar to the way the past owners had it with a couple of tweaks.

First, we used a larger rug.  The one we have is an 8’X10′ rug and will leave about 18″ of space on either side.

This is important for a couple of reasons:

1.  It protects the floors.  The hardwoods in this room are 120-years-old.  They’re in decent condition, however in one area are beginning to chip up.  There’s no more room for refinishing so eventually they’ll need to be replaced, however since they’re still in good condition we want to keep them safe for as long as possible.

2.  Visually, a smaller rug makes a space look smaller.  And this space is already only 12′ by just less than 12′ when we’re dividing the space so we have no room to make it appear smaller.  Ideally, a rug should allow for either the front feet of all the furniture pieces to sit on it.  Or it should be large enough for the entire pieces to sit on the rug fully.  Because we need to leave some floor border showing, we went with front feet on the rug.

The other thing we switched up in the space was the lamps behind the chairs.  The previous owners had reading lamps here, which was okay functionally, but this room doesn’t have any overhead lighting so we needed more light that could radiate outwards instead of downward.

We completely changed the layout in the front half of the room.

When considering layout, we need to consider what we’ll use the room for!

We do the following things in this room:

– I work here often on my laptop because I don’t like sitting at a table or desk.
– When we have parties, this is a gathering room for conversation.  We often have 20+ friends over and we want to create different conversation areas throughout the home.
– We also watch TV in this room sometimes, although we mostly use our back family room for that since it’s on the back of the house and more private.
– I use this room every week for girl’s night (when things are normal and gatherings are okay again!).  There’s usually 4 or 5 of us that will come back for some drinks after dinner.

Knowing all of that, I wanted the front half of the room to be a great conversation area and one of my favourite arrangements for that is four chairs in a circle!

You’ll see in the reveal that we picked up four great feather down Bergere chairs.  They’re the perfect size for the space.

The front half of the room is a bit smaller than the back half because the wall juts in, so we opted for a square 8′ rug instead.  We found one to match the rug we have at the front of the room which was many years old so that was awesome!

The rugs don’t have to match, they just have to complement one another.  However, in this case with all of the pattern on the walls from the wallpaper, I didn’t want to introduce too much new pattern and it was important for the accent colours of Navy and aqua to also be present in the rug.  So it made sense to get a matching one (which I really don’t do very often!)

We needed to add more lamps to the front half of the room which we talked about in the lighting post a couple of weeks ago (again, all posts are linked at the end if you want to check them out).

And we set a console table on the back of the sofa to give room to put drinks and food when we have company.

As well as a side table underneath the arched stained glass window to create a focal point in this half of the room.

I missed the other small table when doing the floor plan for you.  There’s actually a small side table beside the chair on the bottom right of the picture also so that person has a place to comfortably put their drink also.

Notice that we didn’t use a coffee table here.  Instead, we scattered the end and console tables throughout the room to create the same function.

This allowed it to feel more open and airy.  Although a round table could have been placed in between the chairs and the other tables left out instead.  I opted to go the way we did because I really wanted to highlight my favourite stained glass window and make that a focal point.

So, that’s how the room is laid out.  In just 2 weeks it’ll be all of the One Room Challenge reveals and I’ll be able to share the photos with you so you can see how all of the little details came together.  It really is a showstopper.  We’ve shared with some friends and the response has been overwhelmingly positive so I can’t wait to reveal it!