Help me decorate this small apartment?
June 24, 2006 11:50 PM   Subscribe

How would you arrange living space in this oddly shaped area?

Drawn from memory after seeing it today. For scale, the width of the image is about 26 feet. I probably have the scale entirely out of whack, but the shape of the open area is probably pretty accurate.

So, arranging the small bedroom and office will be no problem. I'm a bit unexperienced at arranging a living area in a weird shape like this (the area in beige). The floors are carpet in the bedroom/office, but hardwood in the open kitchen/living area.

The area marked as kitchen is the fridge/cabinets/sink/stove/etc. I'd like to get a dinette somewhere near it. The rest of the area, I'd like to have a layout that could entertain at least a few guests. I don't own any furniture right now, so it's a clean slate.

The stairs are the entrance to the apartment (in-law apartment, over a two-car garage). Not that it matters much, but I think I want a Japanese (minimalist) decor, if that's not too cliché at this point.
posted by knave to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, I don't have or need a TV, so nothing TV-centric, please. :)

posted by knave at 11:54 PM on June 24, 2006

If possible, leave a path between the bedroom and the bathroom, and a path between the stairs and the kitchen, otherwise you'll be bruising your hips.

I'd put a small table under the window near the stairs to hold keys, mail etc. I'd possibly put the entertainment unit against the bathroom wall and the couch opposite it, if I could do it without ruining the pathway to the kitchen. The problem with this, is of course, you will notice every time someone goes to the bathroom. But in an apartment this small, I guess it can't be helped.

Then, I'd put a dining table near the other window, and maybe a chopping block on wheels in the kitchen.

And then, a month later, I'd move it all around again, because I'm like that.

Here's a thought - make the office the left part of the beige and your living space in the room marked office?
posted by b33j at 12:04 AM on June 25, 2006

I like b33j's suggestions and second all of them - having paths, small table etc. etc. Dunno about the office and living room switch, though.

if possible, can you sketch out some scenarios of what would look good using Visio or something similar? I know you said you didn't have furniture, but visualizing things via software - or even just plain ol' drawing - might help. Also a book on feng shui (don't laugh!) would be a good idea; it can provide some inspiration on the minimalist decor as well.
posted by rmm at 12:32 AM on June 25, 2006

It also depends how many people will be living there. Will it just be yourself? Or another, as well?

Also, do you plan on having people over? How many?
posted by Monday at 12:39 AM on June 25, 2006

Response by poster: Just me living there. And as I said, I'd like the ability to entertain a reasonable number of people, on occasion. For example, maybe have 5-6 people over to play poker.
posted by knave at 12:49 AM on June 25, 2006

Ah, a classic! There are two things you need to consider. The first is where you will be having dinner; the other is where you will entertain. Put a table that can have its legs removed (Ikea or Crate and Barrel are good places for this.) next to the wall abutting the stairs. This will utilize the space near the fireplace and leave open enough room to navigate the rest of the environment. If you choose to make that hall an entertainment area, it is essential that you place the table far enough away from the doors to your office and bedroom that it does not become a problem. If you can then mount a tv on the wall of the adjoining the bedroom and the office, that wraps up entertainment. I hope you don't own this place, it would be pants for raising kids.
posted by parmanparman at 4:02 AM on June 25, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the ideas so far... I don't own it, don't have kids, just a place I'll probably be for a year or two.

Also, there's no fireplaces. :) I probably didn't make it clear but the little boxes on the outside walls are just windows.
posted by knave at 4:19 AM on June 25, 2006

i would put a sitting/entertaining area against the wall of the stairs (two sofas or chairs facing each other with a table between). Then a dining table in the kitchen and then leave the rest open. That's what i'd do. I like your japanese/minimalist idea.
posted by amethysts at 6:38 AM on June 25, 2006

Starting from the top of the stairs and moving counter clockwise:

A reading chair, chaise or other comfortable piece of furniture with a small table & lamp. Chose a chair that can be moved easily so you can bring it next to the couch for entertaining.

On the small wall between the office & bedroom doors: a ledge or small table for keys, mail etc. It's more logical to put this at the top of the stairs but putting it here (especially if there's an outlet for charging electrical devices) gives you better access while you're in the apt. Add a skinny mirror (or mirror tiles in a frame)

Wall outside bathroom: stereo cabinet and TV. You may not watch TV much but you probably have one and if you use one of those wall mounts, you could swing the set around to view it from different places.

Kitchen area: second the bar height table idea. Something like this would probably work well. The lack of a back might seem uncomfortable but they can be stored under the table when not in use.

Under the window, a deep bookcase that's sturdy enough to use as seating with pillows or a pad.

The stairway wall: the couch with one of those ottomans that can serve as a coffee table or extra seating. A seagrass rug in front of the couch will help delineate your living area.

If it was my place, I'd look into getting a tall but skinny screen to place at the top of the stairs near the door hinge. It will give you a sense of an entry space. Alternately, use a length of material 12 to 18 inches wide, staple dowels to both ends and attach on end to the ceiling.

Don't overlook lighting. In a small space with only 2 windows, lighting will be important. LitesNow track system is easy to install and removable with dental floss. (Amazon carries it).
posted by jaimystery at 7:15 AM on June 25, 2006

I'd just like to reiterate that Knave said that he does not own or want a tv. This actually makes decorating much more fun because you can put your furniture in a circle and makes conversation easier when you have guests over. Anyway, my suggestions: I'd put your kitchen/poker table next to the window that is right near the kitchen (up against the wall, and you can pull it out for guests). I don't know your dining needs, but I think that would be a good spot for a small table -- maybe a simple high bar table with two stools. I would arrange the furniture with the sofa facing the bedroom/office and having its back to the dining table (so perpendicular to the stairway wall and kitchen). Then maybe two chairs with their backs to the bedroom/office doors and facing the sofa with a low table between the chairs and sofa. By not putting any furniture up against walls, you give the room an airier feel -- I think it'll make the room feel bigger. I also like the earlier suggestion of putting a small table at the top of the stairs for keys, mail, etc. If you didn't have an office, this would be an ideal place for a little desk.
posted by echo0720 at 7:29 AM on June 25, 2006

I second placing a sofa against the stair wall. I would put a coffee table in front of the sofa, and two chairs facing the sofa. This is a good arrangement for conversation and entertaining, and you can always move the chairs to other parts of the apartment.

I also like the adjustable table idea.

Adjustable table. Another adjustable table.

You may want to check out the catalog West Elm. Some of their products have a minimalist, Japanese vibe.
posted by LoriFLA at 7:31 AM on June 25, 2006

If it were me, I'd want an area with a sofa, coffee table, and a comfortable chair or two opposite it. It's hard to be sure without the measurements, but it looks like the main challenge of the space, if that's something that you'd want too, is that there's no where to make such a living area feel anchored -- the only wall long enough is the one by the stairs, and a grouping there would probably jut into the area where you want your dinette.

So, one possibility I see is that bathroom wall. It's too short to anchor anything now. But, what if you put a shoji screen in front of it, and another extending it to the right, doubling it in length? Would you have enough room in the alley you'd create behind it to still access that part of the kitchen?

If so, now, you can put your couch against that, coffee table in front of the couch, and chair(s) facing it. Define the whole area with a jute or seagrass rug carefully selected to fit the size of the arrangement, add plants to soften the edges, and I think you'll be able to make good use of most of the space. And, you'll still have a place near the window-end of the kitchen for a good-sized dinette.
posted by daisyace at 8:13 AM on June 25, 2006

I highly recommend the books, Use What You Have and Trade Secrets of Use What You Have Decorating. Both titles are by Lauri Ward. In my opinion these books do a fabulous job of explaining furniture arrangement that makes sense for a given space. The focus of these books is using the furniture you already have, but they can definitely be used to purchase the right furniture for your space. I wish I had read Use What You Have before I purchased furniture. I made some costly mistakes.
posted by LoriFLA at 8:36 AM on June 25, 2006

i'd recommend that if you were to draw an imaginary line extending the ends of the kitchen cabinets, you should put the breakfast table just within that, so it leaves space but the table is still sort of "in" the kitchen.

next, leave the space just outside the bedroom and office doors empty- you don't want to overcrowd the area. I'd put a two- or three- person couch with its back to the breakfast table, with two single-person sofas diagnoally on either side. and a coffee table in front of it.
posted by alon at 9:08 AM on June 25, 2006

The screen behind the couch is to create a bit of privacy for the bedroom, and an almost hallway to the bathroom from there. Though, realistically, unless there's a compelling reason to do so, I'd also switch the bedroom and office.

Inserting a temporary countertop (IKEA sells them, as I imagine do other places) gives you more work surface in the kitchen, as well as someplace to eat around, or have kibbitzers hang out at your poker games.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:34 AM on June 25, 2006

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