How should I furnish this room?
August 29, 2020 9:09 AM   Subscribe

Calling all design nerds! I just moved, and am stumped on how to set up the furniture in my combo living/kitchen/dining room.

You all helped me pack my car, and plan my cross-country road trip to my new home. The car was filled, the grand canyon was grand, and now I am getting settled in my new home.

Except, I can't settle, because I'm at a total loss as to how to set up my main living area in my new apartment. Here are photos:

the room!

Two of my coworkers (faculty housing) have lived in this apartment prior to me and each set it up differently. One faced her sofa towards the fireplace, used a rolling cart to hold her television that she would move out as needed, and put a dining table in front of the window that you face from the doorway to the room. She left the rest of the room pretty much empty, with some storage pieces in corners.

The other took a different approach entirely; she placed her sofa perpendicular to the fireplace, effectively dividing the space in half. Her television/entertainment center then went in front of the window that currently has the AC unit in it, and she used the rest of the space in front of the sofa as a living room, and devoted the space behind to a dining table.

I'm torn between both of these approaches. On the one hand, it would be nice to face the fireplace, but when I tried that with the sofa that's in here (which I should note is loaner furniture until my own arrives) it felt very cramped and I wonder if it would be too hot to be that close when there's a fire going in it. Perpendicular couch makes a lot of sense, and it's how I have it now, but I'm confused as to what shape and size dining table I would need and where exactly it would go.

The furniture that will go in the room is as follows. I haven't got a dining table yet and need to buy one, so suggestions on that are welcome! I also don't own any club chairs like the blue one that's been loaned to me, but would like to incorporate at least one.

-Sofa (same size as the one that's in here now)
-2 tall bookshelves (approx 6' high, 3' wide)
-1 short bookshelf (approx 4' high, 4' wide)
-entertainment center (that is actually an IKEA Kallax unit in which I store more books...I have A LOT of books) with TV on top.

Furniture I don't own yet and will buy:
-Coffee table
-Dining table/chairs
-club chair(s)/ottoman(s)

Thank you all in advance! Usually I'm quite good at designing my rooms, but this one is stressing me out; I've been in a sort of transition phase for the last few years while in grad school, and this marks my return to a more "normal" and stable adult home.
posted by nancynickerson to Home & Garden (18 answers total)
I highly recommend measuring the room and the furniture, and then making a scale layout of the room on graph paper. Then you can cut out the furniture bits and rearrange them to your heart's content. I have been doing this since I was a teenager and my mom showed me how - it's very easy and can save a ton of sweat and heartache. You don't have to be super precise with the furniture shapes, an armchair can just be a rectangle for example. You can also incorporate Ikea furniture that you're considering buying, because the website has the measurements.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:18 AM on August 29, 2020 [14 favorites]

Instead of planning on graph paper, you can also just do it digitally with a tool like this. I would consider a narrow kitchen island with barstools instead of a dining table. I would use a shorter loveseat and place it perpendicular to the fireplace (on the left side of the fireplace, if you're facing it), with bookcases and/or the entertainment center on the wall you'd see from the loveseat, and another armchair facing the loveseat. I would use bookends and also store books on top of the kitchen cabinets and on the mantel.
posted by pinochiette at 9:45 AM on August 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

what showbiz_liz said --

when my parents moved their house a couple decades back, my mom used this method and it worked remarkably well. You might even say shockingly well. A few pieces of furniture, we thought, no way will they even fit through the door. They did and then once inside, their fit in the new place was snug to the point of of thinking the space was built around them.

The flip of this is that there were a few pieces that they didn't even bother trying to move. They were either garage-saled or given away in advance of the move.

as in battle, blind optimism is your enemy on moving day
posted by philip-random at 10:01 AM on August 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

Is needing to also work in this space a consideration in the era of covid?

Do you watch a lot of TV, especially during the day? If that's a big factor to you, figuring out where the entertainment center will work and not get a lot of glare from the windows is important.

How important is cooking and food storage to you?

Do you expect to use the fireplace a lot? If it's going to be an occasional use thing, you could consider putting the sofa in front of it (facing away from the fireplace) and move it temporarily on the occasions you want to use it.
posted by Candleman at 10:19 AM on August 29, 2020

Are you sure you must have a coffee table? Maybe it's just my bias talking, but I find they are a waste of space, and their function is easily taken over by side tables and folding tray tables.
posted by MiraK at 10:47 AM on August 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

I would use the little bumped-out alcove where the club chair is as a reading/office area -- the two windows should provide good light -- and put a comfortable chair there + one of the tall bookcases, with the other tall bookcase on the side of the window that is closer to the door, for symmetry. Short bookcase goes on the wall near the kitchen window. Kallax + TV goes on the side wall between the kitchen counter and the door if it fits; if too big, then between the two bookcases (though this would likely hide the window.

The sofa looks way too large for the room; I'd sell it and get a smaller loveseat. Agree with what pinochiette said about a bar-height island and stools; this would also give you more counter space/storage in the kitchen.
posted by basalganglia at 10:49 AM on August 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Great ideas so far--thanks! I will check out the tool linked above; I usually do a floorplan sketch but not quite so detailed.

To answer some questions:

-no workspace necessary; I have my desk in a different nook in the apartment.
-I don't watch that much TV, and definitely not during the day
-cooking/food storage not important. I'm not a cook by nature and in lieu of a dining hall during COVID we're getting quite delicious take out meals every day.
-during the winter, I expect to use the fireplace most days.

I'm loathe to change couches; I reallllly love the one I have, which is an antique and has sentimental value.
posted by nancynickerson at 11:00 AM on August 29, 2020

I agree the couch might be a little large for the room. It's a little hard get a feel for the space to the left of the fireplace with the kitchen counter there, but would it work to put your couch at a perpendicular to the fireplace and make your kitchen area into an L? Or angle the couch a bit and add some kind of bar-height surface immediately behind the couch/hypotenuse of the triangle? If so, then you could have 2 chairs on the sides of that surface for eating, while potentially being able to use the surface as a console table while lounging.

That would leave the area to the right of the fireplace for your bookshelf and comfy chair purposes. The coffee table might need to be very small or absent, depending on the size of the space in the middle. A large enough rug (i.e. that will fit under the front legs of the couch and the chairs in whatever configuration you put them would then create the visual of a living room separated from the kitchen space.
posted by past unusual at 11:08 AM on August 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Please have the mods delete this if it is not helpful, I just wanted to let you know that it took me a long time at my last apartment (I just moved) to find the perfect place for my furniture. You have a really charming space and it’s OK if it takes you a while to put things where they belong.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:35 AM on August 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

Bella Donna that’s actually super helpful; I think I’ve been treating it as more high stakes than it needs to be.
posted by nancynickerson at 11:42 AM on August 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

One other question/thought - if you're only going to be here for a year, it's likely that covid will keep you from having people over, so you might optimize for solo living rather than hosting.

Based on your answers, I'd probably start with the sofa parallel to the wall with the kitchen cabinets pretty close to them and stick a small table to eat at in the gap near the oven and maximize the "living room" feel. My gut feeling is that trying to have the sofa facing the fireplace and have a coffee table will leave the area feeling cramped and cluttered.

Or skip the dining room table entirely and get a larger coffee table and eat at it if that's something you do. I have two dining room style tables and end up eating at my coffee table most of the time anyway when I don't have people over.

But Bella Donna is right - you don't have to get everything perfect your first go. I lived in a weird almost studio apartment for three years (it was a large single room with a small kitchen) and it took a few tries of switching things around to get it how I liked it. It feels like your biggest constraints are going to be where your existing shelves will physically fit, so wait for them to arrive and see where they have to go and then figure out what else to try.
posted by Candleman at 12:27 PM on August 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

sofa perpendicular to the fireplace is nice because it's still a nice way to enjoy a fire, you can put a chair or 2 opposite for a nice conversational grouping. There might be room to put a thin sofa table behind the couch, where the windows are, and a chair, and have both a couch and desk facing a potential tv. I happen to like watching tv news while reading news and mefi and stuff.
posted by theora55 at 12:45 PM on August 29, 2020

It does not look like any decision you make is permanent nor does it look like anything you have is particularly heavy or hard to move. To move the couch by yourself without pain or scratching the floors, put some towels under the legs and slide it around. Fwiw, and I am designer challenged, I vote for something along the lines of the second person you described that lived there.
posted by AugustWest at 2:03 PM on August 29, 2020

My apartment has one combined living/kitchen/dining space and we have our couch sort of dividing the space into two and the dining table (which is pretty small) pushed up to the back of the couch. It sounds like this is similar to the way the second person had your room set up. I like it because we can use the dining table as needed while using the couch, and it divides the space up. We have a storage bench/ottoman thing and a small c-table instead of a formal coffee table because we don’t have a lot of space between the couch and the Kallax we have our TV on.
posted by MadamM at 3:03 PM on August 29, 2020

Update: I guess the biggest "permanent" decision I have to make right now is where my bookshelves live, since once they've got books on them they become heavy and a pain to move. Most of my belongings (save for my sofa which is coming from storage) came yesterday, and considering all of your points plus just like, my gut feelings about the space, I decided that bookshelves go on each side of the window that (now formerly) holds the air conditioner. I ended up putting the smaller bookshelf in the bedroom, which is bizarrely the same size as this main/multipurpose room.

I will update this again when I have placed sofa, chair, and figured out a dining nook! Candelman, your point about eating at the coffee table is a good one; that is what I tend to do when I'm on my own, and I do doubt I'll get to do much entertaining during the rest of our covid-time. MadamM, I dig your dining table up against the back of couch idea too!

Thanks to all!
posted by nancynickerson at 5:32 PM on August 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Consider buying nesting side tables instead of a full coffee table, which will take up so much space. That way you can pull out tables as needed.
posted by Elsie at 1:29 AM on August 30, 2020

For dining, how about a tall narrow table with stools against the wall to the left of the fridge. Sofa perpendicular and to the left of the fireplace; TV and bookcase etc. on the wall where the litter box is now and the blue chair stays where it is (or tv/bookcase where blue chair is and blue chair moves to where litter box is).
posted by SA456 at 7:32 AM on August 30, 2020

Could you post pics when you’re done? I’m curious as to how it will all turn out. :)
posted by gt2 at 7:25 PM on August 30, 2020

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