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Like most people, my living room doesn’t fit the typical measurements. We live in a modified bungalow, which means that there is a central wall supporting the home. This room is long and very narrow, 12 feet wide and 30 feet long.  It was once a living room at the front of the house and a dining room near the kitchen, but as we don’t need a separate formal dining area, and its so small anyway, we’ve made it into two sitting areas. It is also the pathway through the house from the front entry to the kitchen. There are two huge picture windows, one at the front and one at the side, a (non-working) fireplace, and four doorways, one from the entry way, one into my office, one into the hallway that leads to the bedroom and bathrooms and one that leads to the kitchen. It is, in short, a hot mess to arrange and decorate. So many obstacles, it made my head spin for years.

The first thing I did was create zones.  Thinking of the long room this way helps break things down and create useable spaces. I needed to work around not only the pathway through the space, but also to create spaces for kids to play with legos and have dance parties as well as seating and tables for family movie and game nights. And for my sanity, I needed it to clean up quickly, as there has to be some space in the house where I don’t have to see something plastic and colorful for at least five minutes a day. Finally, the furniture had to fit the scale of the room and there needed to be enough seating that our family and friends could all find a perch. Our living room has gone through a lot of transformations as I figured out what works. And while I still rearrange the furniture pretty frequently, I think I’ve mostly figured out form and function now. So let’s take advantage of all that experimenting and look at the current structure and analyze what’s working well in this space. We’ll start with the floor plan today and next time we’ll look at layering in the other elements that create interest.

This is the view from our front door. I wanted to create conversation area for adults with a clear floor space for when its occupied by shorter folk. The chairs are all light enough to be easily pulled back if more space is needed and toy bins are hidden on the shelves and behind chairs. Everything is on legs so that the furniture visually takes up less space (and so legos and marbles are easier to retrieve).  The bookshelf balances the height of the fireplace, the rug is http://www.flor.com/, as standard size rugs didn’t fit the space properly.

Next we have the TV area. Two couches, so we can all fit, a small round coffee table, a console and shelves.  It should feel crowded, but again, because everything is up just a bit off the floor, it doesn’t. The console actually stores the kids shoes and winter ephemera, as well as various remotes and the dvd player. The view from the couches shows off the wall of shelves between the two doorways, which somewhat camouflage the TV. I’m still looking for the perfect cord solution. Also shown, a small boy who would like Mom to stop taking pictures of the house and come play already.

These shelves are rarely so clear. In our home, any horizontal surface is generally covered in a variety of papers, kid projects, hair bands, etc. Anyone else have that problem?

In a small space, it often feels like everything should be pushed against the wall to maximize the floor area. And I confess, that was my first thought as well. Now, however, we have the couches dividing the space and I really like it.  It takes finding the right scale furniture, both of the floating couches are just 60 inches wide, to avoid having the room feel too crowded.

The final area of the living room is the desk area under the front picture window. I work from home frequently and during the summer I find it useful to move out of my office to this window to keep an eye on kids playing outside. It also serves as a homework area for the kids, a desk for all Finn’s hobbies and a great place to set up drinks and appetizers when we entertain. There are adjustable stools tucked under the desks.

So that’s my approach to our narrow living room. What space challenges have you worked with, I’d love to see your spaces too.  I’ve put together a Pinterest board if you’re interested in where everything was purchased. Some things are, of course, no longer available.  Next week we’ll look at color choices and accessories and how they can tie areas together.