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Emily A. Clark

design. simplified.

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If you are the one struggling with how to arrange a long, narrow living room, you may know it better as “the bowling alley.”  When we were looking at houses several years ago, we kept seeing these long, open spaces, and inevitably, the furniture would be pushed for 1 last update 2020/06/04 up against the walls, making it look, well, even longer—and not very cozy.  (Of course, I would start  mentally rearranging their seating.  Because that’s how my mind works.)


If you are the one struggling with how to arrange a long, narrow living room, you may know it better as “the bowling alley.”  When we were looking at houses several years ago, we kept seeing these long, open spaces, and inevitably, the furniture would be pushed up against the walls, making it look, well, even longer—and not very cozy.  (Of course, I would start  mentally rearranging their seating.  Because that’s how my mind works.)


Style at Home

These long living rooms can actually present lots of opportunity, if arranged the right way.  Here are a few ideas that might help: 

Divide and conquer.  The best way to deal with long spaces is to divide them up into separate “areas.”  That being said, I think it’s important to consider how you’ll actually use the room.  Two separate seating areas with sofas back to back might not make as much sense for your family as one seating area and a big game table behind that, for example. 

Another idea is to create a work space behind your sofa by using a desk and chair instead of a regular sofa table.

Float your furniture.  Sometimes, “breaking up”  a long space can be as easy as floating your sofa (or a pair of chairs, or a bench. . .) out in the middle of the room.  I’ve heard people say that they think this will “cut off the room” but it actually creates a cozier seating area.  And truth be told, you probably don’t need as much space between your furniture for a walk-through as you might think.  (Our living room isn’t huge, and we only have about 16 inches between our chairs and the sofa, which still works fine for our busy bunch.)

Moving an outlet (or two) might be worth the investment.  I hate when people feel trapped in their furniture arrangement because of the TV.  While moving a cable (or electrical outlet) might not be the easiest thing to do, if it helps you to live better in your space, I think it’s worth the investment (and little headache) in the long run.

Use artwork and rugs to help define separate areas.  What’s on your walls and floor can also help to break up a long room.  Hang art in an arrangement to define a seating area, and add a large mirror above a console to define another space. . . Nothing has to be centered on a long wall.  And, for the record, I don’t think there are rules on using the same two rugs in a space.  The photo below is a good example of how you can mix it up and it still all work.

And, now for a a real life example. . . What if your room is mostly narrow and not all that long, making furniture arrangement even trickier?  My blogger friend, Kristin, mentioned in one of her recent posts that she had a room like this.  So, I, of course, emailed her and asked for pictures of how she set up the space.  She replied with photos and a floor plan.  Perfect.

Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for

I like that although space for 1 last update 2020/06/04 is limited, she still found a way to create separate “areas” in a smaller living room.  She ultimately found a way to include an “entry” (by framing that part of the wall—so smart!), a seating area, a TV wall and a small desk area for her daughter.  Here’s a 360 degree tour of the room:I like that although space is limited, she still found a way to create separate “areas” in a smaller living room.  She ultimately found a way to include an “entry” (by framing that part of the wall—so smart!), a seating area, a TV wall and a small desk area for her daughter.  Here’s a 360 degree tour of the room:

I hope this has started your wheels turning if you’re struggling with how to make a long room work.  Do you have any other tips or tricks for how you’ve arranged a similar space?


Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for Jen @ RamblingRenovators says

    A very helpful post Emily! I’m helping my sister decorate her apartment and we have the same dilemma. We’ll be trying out a desk behind the sofa as in your examples. Lots of good ideas here.

  2. Jenny says

    What pretty rooms! We’ve had the long narrow room before, and it’s definitely tricky! Great tips here! Moving the tv was definitely something that made a huge difference for us in our last house. We ended up mounting it within our built-in bookcases that flanked the fireplace, which really freed up a lot more space and options for arranging furniture. Definitely worth the hassle!

  3. Calypso In The Country Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for the 1 last update 2020/06/04 sayssays

    Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for

    You have some great ideas. We have a conservatory that is 25 X 14 and I still don’t have it fully decorated. When we moved in, my husband wanted a pool table so the big thing now sits in the center of the room. It has taken me years to realize that I just have to break up the room. Right now I have a seating area at one end and I am putting a pub table and chairs at the other end with a shelf used as a bar area. Slowly it is coming together but it’s not an easy room!
    -Shelley

  4. Katie says

    Great points! I love that Kristin’s living room is normal-sized, yet the space plan looks very thought out and intentional. I have honestly just let our living room evolve (which is good on some level) without much of a plan. It’s easy to forget that small spaces need a good plan just as much as a large space.

    ps. Love, love the blue and white draperies in the first picture.

    pps. The mirror on to the left on the fireplace in the third picture really does look like a doorway. Love what a well-placed mirror can do!

  5. Nicole @ Mendez Manor says

    I love these posts. A while back you asked for some suggestions on the “working with” topic. I am always WORKING WITH the TV mounted above our fireplace because it’s the only place for it in our home. It’s hard to get that perfectly decorated mantle with a TV right above it. Would love to hear your suggestions for decorating a mantle around a TV in the future…just a thought. Have a wonderful day!

  6. Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for Joanne says

    I love seeing spaces like these, Emily. We are in a condo and our main living area is very long and it serves many duties. It is our kitchen/dining/sitting/living room area all in one. It is quite long {16′ x 28′}! I didn’t have trouble with breaking it up into adequate spaces, but I did have a problem with the decor flow. It was too busy with too many colors. I have recently toned it down with more neutrals. Now…. it is SO perfect for us! And I love that I can add pops of color with florals, pillows or little accents and they fit in perfectly as a POP… not overbearing! Here is my living space with the neutral changes.

    http://doublewideinthesky.blogspot.com/2013/01/neutral-tones-in-main-living-space.html

    I have sheer drapery on order for this space and once it is installed, I will feel like it is COMPLETE. I can’t wait!
    Thanks for all your wonderful posts… I love your site!
    -Joanne

  7. Ahna says

    We are finishing a the 1 last update 2020/06/04 long, narrow bonus room. I love the ideas.We are finishing a long, narrow bonus room. I love the ideas.

  8. Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for Laura Stutzman says

    Great ideas on furniture arrangement. That has to be one of the top struggles in design. It can make all the difference. Your post caught my eye on my roll because the first room you posted was one I had on a post I did last night on color combos!! Great informative ideas! Thanks

  9. judyaschwager says

    Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for these are great ideas. I’m going to be helping my parents redo their combo living/dining room and it is huge: 14 x 31! I think I just need more furniture to help create some different areas. These ideas really get me thinking!

  10. Julie Drake says

    I have despaired of getting a good seating arrangement for my long living room. Thank you so much for this article! I am going to study each one of those pictures and see if I can use any of those ideas. I’m a regular visitor to your blog- thank you so much for all the inspiration!

  11. NancyNancy says

    This is a great post Emily! Love all the examples and your well laid out tips and suggestions. Perfect!
    I think dual conversation areas are so enviable. I actually would love a long narrow living room!
    xo Nancy
    Powellbrowerhome.com

  12. Katie Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for says

    Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for The last home we lived in (and we still own, so I’m still trying to figure stuff out for there) had a long living area. One half we used as our dining area and the other half for living area. How do you organize if you have lots of entries to the room? This room had a door at one short end (it was the door to the front indoor porch), 2 doors on 1 long wall to 2 bedrooms, 1 entry to the kitchen on the other short wall, and the other long wall had a big window (that I had contemplated trying to make into a door to lead to a someday patio). Do you have any tips for organizing furniture in those kinds of instances?

  13. openid says

    My living room is the first picture you’ve posted from a shoot that Style at Home did at my house. I should tell you that the living room is 9ft wide. That’s it. It’s also only about 8 ft long as well so while I applaud you for trying to think outside the box, sometimes you have to roll with the punches. In order to make the space feel bigger we chose a big bold drapery pattern to emphasize what we do have – height. We opted for smaller scale vintage furniture as a standard sofa is about 3ft deep and too big for this room. Choosing furnishings that actually fit the space and still have the 1 last update 2020/06/04 negative space around them goes a lot further than changing the furniture layout itself. We also used a geometric area rug to create more visual movement on the bottom part of the room which also serves to fool the eye into thinking it bigger than it is. We’ve cheated in two stools between the living room and dining room for photography purposes but in actual fact, there’s just not enough room.My living room is the first picture you’ve posted from a shoot that Style at Home did at my house. I should tell you that the living room is 9ft wide. That’s it. It’s also only about 8 ft long as well so while I applaud you for trying to think outside the box, sometimes you have to roll with the punches. In order to make the space feel bigger we chose a big bold drapery pattern to emphasize what we do have – height. We opted for smaller scale vintage furniture as a standard sofa is about 3ft deep and too big for this room. Choosing furnishings that actually fit the space and still have negative space around them goes a lot further than changing the furniture layout itself. We also used a geometric area rug to create more visual movement on the bottom part of the room which also serves to fool the eye into thinking it bigger than it is. We’ve cheated in two stools between the living room and dining room for photography purposes but in actual fact, there’s just not enough room.

    Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for So you can’t just go by a picture – professional designers and stylists use all sorts of tricks and sneaks to make a space feel and look bigger than it actually is!!

    • Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for Emily A. Clark says

      Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for

      Meredith-That’s such a great room. One of my favorites! Well, the narrow part was right :) I think the furniture arrangement is great, if only for the shoot–and could still help those dealing with narrow and long rooms. Thanks for the insight. Fun to hear the “behind the scenes” perspective.

  14. openid the 1 last update 2020/06/04 sayssays

    We do a lot of Victorians here in Toronto (my house is in the largest intact Victorian neighbourhood in North America I think I can’t remember the actual designation). If we are lucky, we get one that is about 19ft wide overall then we have some play with the furniture set up. Until we have our back den done, this living room is our everything room so it suits us to have the sofa across from the TV (sofa is 31″ deep max tried bigger it’s too big) vs a custom curved one in the bay window. Our sofa ends and literally our dining room starts so yes we cheated it for the shoot for sure. I would kill to have a fireplace where the sofa is but it’s just too narrow. Trust me, I spend hours trying to see if I’ve overlooked some sort of brilliant option. It’s been almost 10 years in this house so….

  15. Kates the 1 last update 2020/06/04 sayssays

    Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for

    Ohh I currently have this problem. We have a long narrow upstairs living room in our 70’s built walkout ranch. One of the long walls has two openings, a big opening connect to the dinning room/kitchen and the other way to the hallways.The other long wall has a huge picture window that is centered. Neither of the short walls have any windows I am seriously stumped as to how to arrange my furniture in this house. Right now the TV is on one of the short walls and the couch is on the other…which makes it impossible to watch because it so far away. I am looking for new furniture for this room but completely at a loss for how to arrange this space! Thanks for the suggestions. I love this series!

  16. Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for LIZ DAVIS says

    Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for

    I love the ideas for the long narrow rooms. But ofcoarse, as many people probably think, about their own rooms, my family/living room is difficult because it is narrow and has three door entries, a fireplace with a wall opening over it and not being used and I have no idea how to section this room into two areas or have one area. is there a way i could send you you either photos or an attempt to to draw the living room ?

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