How to furnish a long, narrow living room
March 23, 2013 9:32 AM   Subscribe

We're moving soon! Yay! Our new house has a difficult room, though: a long, narrow sunken living room that is making it difficult to plan. How can we best make use of the space?

This is the floor plan of the room in question. It's 20' 6'' x 10'.

The entryway at the top of the picture is the step up into the kitchen and dining area, so we can't put furniture in front of that. On the bottom left, there's a window; at the bottom right, french doors out into the backyard.

We want an area to sit, and will probably spend a fair bit of time watching TV in here, too.

The obvious choice (and the way the previous owners have it) is to put a couch at one end, and the TV at the opposite end. That's all well and good, but it limits the amount of seating area we can have for when we have visitors. We are okay with having some free floor space; with a baby on the way, we'll probably welcome it before too long.

We currently own a couch, a love seat, and an Eames-style lounger, but were planning on getting a new couch and do have a rec room downstairs.

I'm hoping AskMe has some suggestions or can point me to some inspiration for how to best use this space.
posted by synecdoche to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Why not watch telly with friends in the rec room, and make this room into a book reading Internet fortress?
posted by oceanjesse at 9:36 AM on March 23, 2013

This is just off the top of my head, so take it for what it's worth. I'd be inclined to divide the room roughly in half. The TV and associated seating would go in one half, while the other half would be devoted to entertaining and other non-TV related purposes (like baby play or reading). Having the access from/to the kitchen at approximately the center point is a bonus. Guests can hang out near the dining area and kitchen for snacks or appetizers, and family can be watching TV or playing in the other area when casual meals are being prepared or cleaned up.
posted by DrGail at 9:45 AM on March 23, 2013

Think of it as two 10x10 rooms and put the couch in the middleish, facing the tv on the left wall. Eames goes with a side table or some thing at the other end. Loveseat can either go against the left back facing the window, or grouped with the chair on the other side.
posted by rhizome at 9:45 AM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

How about put the couch centered on the window, and the tv on the wall directly across to the left of the step up into the kitchen? Then put the loveseat on the short wall on the right, with the Eames-style lounger and a second armchair arranged as a separate conversation area.
posted by mchorn at 9:46 AM on March 23, 2013

I'd put the lounger and bookshelves & toybins on the right side of the room, leaving a natural pathway from the kitchen through the room to the french doors. Then on the left I'd get a new sectional that hugs the outside walls w/a huge ottoman coffee table so the whole space is intimate & cozy but the ottoman can be pulled back and used as seating if needed for guests (but the sectional would leave you plenty). The tv would be on the wall next to the step-up into the kitchen.
posted by headnsouth at 9:49 AM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

You don't want the TV facing the window, there will be glare unless you keep your curtains drawn all the time. French doors might have the same problem.

If your TV is flatscreen, hang it on the wall to reduce space, and put the couch opposite it but fairly close (not past one of the entry ways). The back of the couch becomes a kind of room divider; you could even hang a divider curtain behind it, or put a small shelf, something to mark off that half of the room. (How close your couch is will determine the comfortable height for your TV.)

If you could do that in such a way that the side with the window had your other grouping, then that becomes a reading nook with the natural light/pleasant to hang out in.
posted by emjaybee at 9:52 AM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Would it work to put the TV in the upper left corner on an angle, and either the couch or the love seat on an angle facing it, with one arm of the couch near the window and the other roughly in the middle of the room kind of near the steps up to the kitchen but obviously not blocking it? Then build a secondary seating area on the patio door side with bookshelves or a small writing table and the lounge chair. The secondary seating area would still have some view of the TV if you put the TV high enough.
posted by drlith at 9:54 AM on March 23, 2013

My partner and I have two rooms like this in our house -- a living room and a sun room. We started with the long room plan, but we find it's a lot comfier and more functional to kind of divide the room up into a few smaller areas based on function. We just did this by arranging furniture around focal points in the room.

We have a fireplace in the middle of one of the long walls, which became one focal point. We have a rug in front of the fireplace, and around this space we've arranged a seating area: sofa on one side, two chairs on the other. This leaves a usable amount of free space between the back of the sofa and the wall behind it, so we put our piano and other music stuff there -- it could just as easily be a small office-type space or a play area (if we had kids). On the other side of the room, we've created a reading nook in the corner: chair, bookshelves (that create a natural built-in-looking cozy space), small table and reading lamp. If your room doesn't have any natural architectural focal points, you could arrange things around a piece of art, a cool piece of furniture, or your television.

Arranging our lighting to suit the spaces and their different functions has been really helpful in dividing the area up into "stations."

In our sunroom, we have one beautiful gigantic window that became the focal point, so we arranged seating around that; on one side of that we have a "mud room" area (not a separate room, just a space) where we keep our outdoor stuff, dog stuff, and our dog's food and water area. On the other side, we have a planning/workspace for projects with a big desk, which we also end up appropriating for meals and entertaining sometimes.

It took us a while to figure out what worked and looked best for our family, but some of the resources I used were:

*Ikea catalogues (they have great ideas for maximizing use in unusual spaces, even if you don't like their furniture)

*The design gallery in MyDesignGuide will create a personalized floor plan for you (if you pay), but I found enough good ideas just by browsing around on the site that this wasn't necessary for us.

* YoungHouseLove, especially the home tour area of their site; they have some good, creative solutions for their spaces.

On preview, emjaybee mentions the same idea re: sofa as room divider.
posted by Spinneret at 9:55 AM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Less expensive, less formal solution: amass a vast flexible empire of bean bag chairs.

Fancier, more formal Japanese solution: install a long low table with sunken heated space underneath for your guests' feet.

These two solutions are not mutually exclusive, especially if you have nifty fitted boards that convert the empty sunken space around the table back into floor.
posted by feral_goldfish at 9:58 AM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you are getting a new couch any way could you get a sectional? Additional seating, cozy feel, & lots of squishy places to get comfy with the new one!
posted by MayNicholas at 10:25 AM on March 23, 2013

I'd put a big farm table down the middle with a few occasional chairs....make this your dining area and make your dining area into a cozy, TV sitting room.
posted by pearlybob at 11:34 AM on March 23, 2013

Headnsouth said most of my thoughts!

I would add that a corner hutch in the upper left to house the TV would help negate the window issues and allow more visibility from the other side of the room. A sectional with a chaise portion would work well with the back against the bottom left area and the chaise section forming a natural divider for the path to the French doors. The chaise portion allows for seating facing the bookshelf/storage wall. Consider a fold-out desk on that wall. That could be a nice spot for menu planning, bill paying or homework for future children.
posted by cat_link at 12:31 PM on March 23, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions! I forgot to mention--we can't hang the TV on the wall between the kitchen and the living room because there is no wall. At least, not a full wall. It just comes up a few feet. It's "open concept."
posted by synecdoche at 1:12 PM on March 23, 2013

I love to figure stuff like this out. So much easier than moving furniture.

Could you put the TV on a corner unit facing into the room next to the double doors?
posted by kjs4 at 4:45 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

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