design by samantha gluck | photo by alison bernier | from: house tour: a warm scandi-inspired home
I think it’s safe to say that we all have been staring at our furniture a bit more these days. Strange coincidence, I know. But if you’re ready/desperately want to shake things up in your space that requires the lowest of lift on a zero budget then this post might just give you the inspiration to do so. A few weeks ago we did a “design agony” call out to all you lovelies on Emily’s IG stories asking you to send us that space in your home that just doesn’t feel quite right. The number one design dilemma we got asked was, “Help, how do I layout my living room?”
Now, what if I told you ALL OF THEM had a common denominator. We realized it wasn’t so much how the furniture in the space was laid out as much as there was just too much of it or not enough in the right scale. Shocking and true. The good news though is that it’s a pretty easy fix. That’s how our new “Design Mistake: Too Much Furniture” was born.
So are you looking at your room again, now thinking this may be your problem too?? Well, today we are going to give all of the tips and tricks you need TO FIX/AVOID this happening to you with the help of our real reader’s living rooms agonies. We all get to learn together
Join me as we get into the mistakes below…but first let’s just take a moment longer to stare at someone else’s furniture like the living room of Samantha Gluck above. Ahhhhh thanks lady, that was soothing.
Why it isn’t working: When there are 8 chairs, 4 tables and 2 sofas in one room it might be time to eliminate a few to make that large space actually feel spacious. The solution might be as simple as removing the sofa and side table (which is too tall and long for the sofa) that is closer to the camera. Now let’s replace it with the two white wood frame chairs to help balance out the visually ‘heavy’ sofa. And instead of two club chairs in the corner, take one away and add a small pouf instead. There, that’s better. Although, I do think that having all the pieces match in a similar color palette helps the space not feel too overwhelming, unlike the next space.
Why it isn’t working: This room has A LOT going on between the amount of furniture, colors and sheer stuff in the space. Did you spot that second TV yet? Yeah, it took me a minute too. Saw that dog right away though, “hi puppy!” Getting rid of things can be a difficult task. Many of us hold onto items for years because someone important in our life gave it to us or there is a funny story behind it. What is hard to know at the time is that once that unnecessary piece is gone there will be space to breath again, both mentally and visually. Visual breathing room is an important element in all areas of art and design, including our homes. Even in a home FULL of things, like in the home tour Jess showed our eyeballs this past Monday, the furniture layout wasn’t overcrowded which made a huge difference in the space looking intentional instead of a crazy packed vintage store.
Why it isn’t working: Then again we aren’t telling you to be a crazy “minimalist” like in the home above. You don’t want your home to feel empty and sad. If you want a perfect example of going minimal, look to EHD’s own alum, Mel Burstin’s home. Update: we are still drooling all this time later. The space above, on the other hand, is lacking that feeling of home because it’s missing texture, warmth and you know, a side table.
So how do we find that balance between having to squeeze our bodies between two chairs, a table, and a sofa or being able to do a “front handspring step out, roundoff back handspring step out, roundoff back handspring, full. twisting. layout” without hitting a single piece of furniture? (Anyone else been binging some 90s/early 2000’s movies like, Bring It On, lately?) That is up next…
photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: portland project: the living room reveal
Alright, Back to the Future…I mean, furniture. There are a lot of pieces in this living room from the Portland project and yet it still felt balanced thanks to those handy living room rules we like to follow here at EHD.
In case you need a refresher here are a few to start with:
Give 30″ to 36″ of a walkway between large furniture pieces (if your living room allows for it) if not then at least 18″-24″. Make sure there is no less than 3.5′ and no more than 10′ of space between seating. If possible sofas should never be flush to a wall. Pull it out 3-5″ and give it some breathing room. Your coffee table should be at least half the length of your sofa and should be no more than 4″ higher or shorter than the top of your sofa seat cushions. 16″ to 18” is the ideal distance between the sofa and coffee table. Your area rug should be large enough for at least the front legs of the sofa and all chairs to rest on top of it. Side tables should be no deeper than the depth of sofa and keep your side table close enough to set down a drink with ease. Which is typically 2-3″ from the height of the arm. Accent Chairs should have around 42” (size of your room willing) between a set of living room accent chairs to be able to fit a small table in the middle. For a smaller room just place chairs side by side. When pairing a sofa and accent chairs choose seat heights that are within 4″ of each other. Make sure your console is the same height or a few inches shorter than the back of your sofa. It should also ideally have about 6″ of space on either end. The distance between TV and sofa should be about 7′ and an optimal height for the center of the screen is 30 inches above the lowest seat height in the room.
Got all that? I know, it’s a lot of information and this is only the living room. Sometimes interior design can be overwhelming which is why we love to help out when we can. So today I am personally helping three of our very own readers with this agony/mistake. Before we begin, can I just say that you all are amazing? I love getting to work on these mini-projects and get to know all of you better, it’s such a fun part of my job.
Now time for the good ole real life, real deal stuff…
The “Hard to Pass-through” Living Room
First up we have Allie’s living room which doubles as a pass-through room. The doorway opening in the first photo is the main entrance to the house and the one on the right was taken from the dining area. This type of room is no easy feat to create a nice flow.
Especially when you add a piano to the space that is sitting along the only wall it can occupy. But here are a few things she will be able to try on her own to open things up a bit more.
Fingers crossed showing you the space from above (floor plan) will help to give you a better idea of what we are working with. To clarify, items highlighted in pink are ones we are suggesting to move & those with a dotted X are to relocate to a different room or possibly sell/donate. Anything that is in blue is new or just currently owned pieces of furniture that have been relocated.
Allie’s Current Setup
Like we mentioned, in the beginning, the layout of the pieces in the space is already great, it’s what we would’ve done as well. Here are the few tweaks that I am hoping she will be able to make…
Instead of the yellow upholstered chair, I’d love for her to use that in a different space and swap it for a crowd favorite, the Ester Chair from Target, from the other side of the room. The reason is that the one from Target has a lower profile with open wood arms which makes the piece feel visually lighter when sitting right in front of the bookcase. It will also unblock the area to the dining room and lighten up that side of the living room which already feels a bit heavy with the black piano.
This next suggestion is a bit more of a long shot since it would require a new sofa which was not the point of this post. But ideally, the chaise on the sofa would be flipped to the other side near the piano. This would help to open up the room since there is a decent-sized bar cabinet on the left side, as well as avoid not “walking into the side of the sofa” when you first enter the space. In addition, it will also help to balance out the chair and ottoman near the bookcase. Pairing all of this with an oval coffee table will give the sense of flow (and shape contrast) I think Allie has been wanting for her home per.
The “Two Far Apart” Sofas
Molly has the classic long and narrow living room dilemma. This type of space brings up the age ole question, to zone or not to zone? However, she had the room, so why wouldn’t she create more sitting areas for her guests? I completely agree but I believe that when creating a “new zone,” having it serve a different function helps to truly make it feel purposeful.
Molly’s Current Setup
So what are we suggesting to do for Molly? Start by eliminating the elements that feel more like they are crowding the space than adding to it, this would be the settee and lounge chair by the door opening.
To help make the space feel cohesive, Molly could try facing the two sofas towards each other in the center of the room. Ideally, she would have a larger rug, a 9’x12′ would work great, and layer that cowhide on top for some added texture. Right now the console table feels like it is cramped along the wall with two windows. So instead, she could try placing it under the smaller, higher up window with a big vessel with branches or layer some large leaning art next to the table lamp. In addition, she could try is adding in a small game table and chairs or keep that lounge chair in the corner. If she prefers the lounge chair, I think adding a small pouf and side table will really help to define the zone.
The Bigger Is Not Always Better
Last but not least is our “not enough furniture/too large of scale” living room. Before I could even mention it to Rachel, she emailed me saying that she regretted buying this L-shaped sectional. She thought since her ceilings were tall (12′ in the middle and 10′ on the sides) that meant she should fill the space will large furniture. When picking out furniture think about the useable floor space and how you need the piece to function day to day (instead of just how high the ceilings are).
Rachel quickly realized the first time her extended family came for a visit, that she needed more individual seating rather than one long piece. She also mentioned that the side of the sectional by the window rarely gets used (even though it’s the larger side) since it is hard to see the TV from that vantage point. (FYI the table to the left is a temporary nail studio so wasn’t included in the graphic below.)
Rachel’s Current Setup
This is one that I am suggesting a fresh start, well actually Rachel brought it up first. She is ready to sell and figure out a new sofa that would fit better in the space and for her family’s needs. One large item that I think the space is lacking is an appropriate size rug, a 10’x14′ would give enough coverage for the necessary furniture and help deafen the inevitable echos that come with high ceiling and hardwood floors.
By adding a more narrow sofa with a chaise will help open up the window area for other seating options. Swivel chairs are great for a space like this that needs to function for conversation and/or binge-watching Netflix. And although it wasn’t shown in the photos in this post, Rachel did tell me she put a lounge chair and ottoman in the corner by the dining room opening which I think is great. Lastly, to balance out all the boxy shapes, a round coffee table and side table would help be the cherry on top.
Well, that’s it! Maybe you need to remove a chair (or two) or maybe you need to snag a side table from another room (or the internet) to make your space feel so much better. Regardless, a quick little “edit” might be the answer you didn’t even know you needed. So, let us know if you are now inspired to play around with your furniture this weekend and maybe repurpose a piece to a different room. Or if you need a little personalized guidance Either way we will be with you in the comments to help answer any of your quandaries. See you down there! xx
In case you want to check out our OTHER design mistakes: The Generic Sofa Roundup | Rugs That Are Too Small | Painting A Small, Dark Room White | Bad Wood Finishes | How To Hang Curtains | How To Hang Art Correctly | Generic Art | Not Having A Plan | Who Pays For Design Mistakes | My Biggest Design Mistakes -And What You Can Learn From Them | When to Hire vs. DIY
***Opener Photo Credits: Design by Samantha Gluck | Photo by Alison Bernier
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