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Design Agony

How to Arrange furniture with Two Focal Walls

Vicky Ling_ Living room layout_header

Hi guys, it’s Remi (a Jr. Freelance designer here at EHD, who helped with this project) with a design agony question, this time coming from Boston. Vicky reached out looking for some help on her living room layout and some tricky walls.

What extra seating (loveseat or chairs) should I buy to pair with my West Elm sectional? I want to add seating and make the living area cozier, but still want to have a pulled-together feel. The seating has to be comfortable. I am not happy with the current layout either. Due to the size of the TV we can’t use our mantel as the center of the room. I do want the sectional to keep facing the TV, but I also want the shelves next to the mantel to show (because they will eventually be decorated).

The rug is already 9’x12′, but it still feels kind of weird in some way. Maybe it is the way it’s positioned or the rug itself.

My living area, dining area, and kitchen are one big open space. It has been very challenging to decide the layout because I only have 2 walls that I can use technically.

Another question is what to do with the TV wall? My Fiancé insisted on the position of the TV and it left all the empty spaces above/around it. Don’t want to do an art wall because I want to keep it simple. Any ideas?

Vicky Ling_ Living room layout_Before

As you can see, there is a lot of open space above and around the TV,  and on the wall behind her sectional there are many unsightly plates (thermostat, alarm, plugs, etc). Aside from the coffee table feeling a tad small, the furniture had some good bones for us to work with,  but the layout feels like it needs something else to help it feel more conversational, so we were ready and willing to take on the furniture layout challenge.

Vicky-Ling_-Living-Room-Layout_-Options

After pulling together a handful of options we passed along these 4 options to think about and while we don’t necessarily think they all work, we do like to show clients the pros and cons of laying out the room certain ways. It gives them a good sense of why we do things and the logic behind the advice and answers that we give them.

Vicky Ling_ Living room layout_option 1

The first layout felt a little weird in that the two chairs facing each other feel disconnected to the sectional and not very conversational. It does leave a good visual opening to the fireplace but the way that the sectional kicks out doesn’t really work well for TV viewing.

Vicky Ling_ Living room layout_option 2

The second option was the most similar to her current layout in that the sectional and chair stayed in the same position (we moved the chair closer to the sectional) and introduced another chair on the opposite side of the TV. This feels conversational, leaves the fireplace area open to the space but does mean that the side chairs aren’t really facing the TV. That isn’t a total deal breaker, but some people do like their chairs to all face the TV depending on the way they use the room and how much time they spend watching TV there. This was definitely a favorite option of ours.

Vicky Ling_ Living room layout_option 3

Option 3 is the one we prefer the most.  And while it does block the mantel slightly, the chairs speak well to the TV wall and sectional. Ideally the sectional would be a sofa and sit directly opposite the TV, then the side chairs could flank it. But since we have the existing sectional to work with this layout feels like a good balance and is open to the adjacent dining area.

Vicky Ling_ Living room layout_option 4

As a suggestion we added a low daybed in front of the fireplace. This added more seating whilst being low to the ground which helped with the request of keeping the fireplace/shelves open. While we thought it was a good option, we felt this didn’t feel as cozy since since daybeds typically don’t have a back to them. It also might start to feel very solid and platform-y in there with the day bed and sectional being very angular.  We suggested that Vicky try out both options 2 and 3 in her space to be sure and see what worked best for her, and the way she lives and uses the room.

Vicky-Ling_-Living-Room-Layout_-TV-Wall-Solution

1 | 2

After settling on a living room layout, we got to looking for solutions for the TV wall. Since most pins show off elaborate gallery walls (which are great, but too busy for this specific client and space), I sketched out a couple options to show Vicky what we had in mind. We definitely needed to bring task lighting and greenery into the space to add some life, and we loved the idea of mounting the TV speaker to the wall in order to clear up some styling space on Vicky’s floating media cabinet.  Now, while Vicky didn’t want a full on gallery wall situation we did like the idea of bringing in two larger pieces of the same size, that would feel less cluttered than an organic gallery wall and still help to fill the blank wall. Another option would be to add two larger sconces to the wall or to do a more uniform gallery wall with art shelves that can be swapped around and kept in a tidy grid-like fashion. We did this type of gallery wall in this living room for target and loved it.

Vicky-LIng_-Living-Room-Layout_-Switch-wall-solution_-Second-entry

Source

Since there was plenty of room in the walk way behind the sectional, we suggested that Vicky move her console to the ‘switch wall’ and center it on the open space between the two closest switches. Adding a mirror would open up the space, and accent lighting and a tall plant would distract the eye from any switches or plates that couldn’t be moved. Treating this room similarly to an entry console will make her space feel bigger, more organized, and less empty. After we sent this all to her we got this response:

Thank you! I think I love #3 layout the most. I just have one question about it: do you think it’ll work with a love seat? I much prefer a love seat over two lounge chairs, but I understand that love seat will cover the shelves (I think I am OK with that now).

I also love the #1 solution for the TV wall and the switch wall idea! I may need help selecting some of the new furniture/decor items as well.

We wrote back saying we felt that a love seat would feel too heavy in the space and would completely block the view of the fireplace shelving; however if she wanted to add seating she could always add a lounge chair tucked at an angle where her current pink chair is. Vicky loves her new living room layout and we are very pleased with how it is progressing. Hopefully we will be updating you all soon with some furniture selections for her space!

Are there any common problems that you constantly find yourself running into that we could help solve? If you have a question that you think might be a good fit for our Design Agony Service,  or are in need of any other services head on over to the services section of the site to see if we might be able to help you!

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  1. This was a really beneficial read for me. I have forgotten that large plants can be a great solution to funky spots. We’ve been living in a renovation for the past year and a half and my visualization of our finished home has finally started to come together in my mind now that I’ve got something green imagined up in it. Thanks for sharing these dilemmas and the process for arriving at a solution!

  2. While I appreciate the information in this guest post, I became so distracted by the seeming affectation of the use of the word “whilst”, it’s difficult to focus on the content.

    1. Whilst commenting on an excellent (and free) blog post providing sound, professional advice it would behoven to restrict opinion when not fully appreciating the finer points of English. The word was used thrice!

      1. I think Kate has the right to make constructive criticism re Remi’s writing style.

        1. Thanks for the feedback guys, we try to make the copy as approachable for readers as possible while not stripping away the EHD crew or contributors voice. Hope that the message and content still came through in a clear way
          xx

    2. I actually kind of love the “whilst” – it makes me feel fancy.

    3. Is Remi from the UK like Ginny? Because the use of whilst (instead of the word while) is entirely normal for us in London! But maybe we’re just affected…

      1. I agree, I’m from the UK too and I didn’t notice the use whilst at all! Seems normal to me.

  3. I wonder if extending the built in shelves around the fireplace to touch the walls on either side would help that area feel less awkward. Right now it seems like there’s too much space to leave it empty but not enough space to actually put anything there. I know it’s easier said that done however. A conundrum of space indeed, I look forward to seeing the homeowner implement the team’s ideas. Many of us have difficult-to-design rooms with no clear solution so seeing how professional designer’s tackle them is quite useful and eye-opening.

  4. I love the Design Agony series! My living room is on the long and narrow side and the only place that makes sense for the tv is in the corner… how do you decorate around a tv in the corner?!

    1. Check out another one of our recent design agony posts where we chat about how to lay out a narrow living room. https://stylebyemilyhenderson.com/blog/lay-narrow-living-room
      Maybe you can find some helpful tips to use in your own space.
      xx

      1. Thanks! I loved that post, it was definitely super helpful for the layout. I’m seriously considering submitting my room for a Design Agony because the corner situation has me stumped. The TV is just on a stand in the corner. There are french doors on the wall to the right and the left wall is completely blank… BUT no furniture can really go against the left wall, or it will block an entry way. Right now that whole section of the room is very sad and plain looking, it definitely needs some help!

  5. I definitely think some styling and larger art work needs to happen on either side of the shelving/fireplace wall. Building out could be a good option but as Emily K said more difficult and expensive to do . Could really use some tall plants or something to create some height. Looks like plenty of room to play with to me and still keep a clean look. Good post. Thank you.

  6. If they own that place, I would have suggested ripping out that fireplace and shelving. It’s clearly tacked on squeezed between the windows like that, and not very attractive to boot. I realize this isn’t the question she asked, but it would solve the problem of two focal walls.

  7. Hi Remi! I feel like a I missed a post introducing you! Google didn’t help — it just tells me you’ve done Design Agony posts before. Is there an intro you could give me a link to? I just feel out of the loop! I read this blog religiously but must have missed something . . . !

    1. You are right Susie, so sorry for the lack of intro. Remi is a freelance Jr. Designer here at EHD and we have added a little intro at the beginning so that everyone stays in the loop. Thanks for always reading.
      xx

  8. I’d like to see this same room after Vicky implements the solution. One of the walls in my living room contains the breaker box–how’s that for ugly? My solution was to hang a poster-sized piece of art over it.
    I liked layout #2 best. My two-cents–pull the rug back, out from under the floating tv stand. Pull the sofa back several inches (front feet resting on rug, back feet off). Make the left corner a cozy reading space w floor lamp and footstool or lounge-type chair. Put cute bar cart on the right, against wall, a bit behind chair on right. I liked wall solution #1. I might put some storage for dishes against the switch wall, like a modern-style china cab. Either that or maybe a coffee bar.

  9. I love this series too!
    Winning on getting major pro advice for my space.
    We just moved to a apt. In Hollywood that is 3rd floor mid-century vibe. I’m dealing with a similar issue. It’s a vaulted ceiling too (amazing). Living/kitchen all in one space and one wall huge wall to decorate.
    I’ll be watching for more ideas! Xx

  10. This post was extremely helpful in helping me continue to evolve as a Wanna Be Designer. 😉 I like how you guys present multiple options, even when they aren’t necessarily your favorite, to help the client come to the best decision. Thanks for sharing this post!

  11. Love this series and how you walk through the thought proccess with us as well as giving the client options. Reading their interaction is helpful and interesting. Great stuff! Would love to see some after photos too 🙂

  12. Love the little sketches to go along with the suggestions and the photos! They’re so adorable and make it much easier to visualise the ideas in that specific space too 🙂

    1. Agree! Those were my favorite part, so helpful!

  13. Does it seem obvious to anyone else that the TV should go on the switch wall? Yes, her fiancé insisted it be on the giant empty wall, but she can just insist otherwise right back.

  14. So happy to read your post about that..

  15. I read your all blog and so excited to learn more…

  16. This is much Interesting post. Please share more info here in this site. I like to make a progress. Thanks for share ..

  17. Great post! I had a very similar design challenge (didn’t want to put the TV on the mantel for various reasons), though my room is a bit longer. My solution was very similar to Option 1, and I did a few large frames around the TV and now it’s one of my favorite walls!

  18. A very nice treatment to the project. I being from Custom Wallpaper industry would have loved to see subtle Vintage Wallpaper on this wall, but frankly it is a remarkable job. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  19. I am truly pleased to read this website which defines our thoughts. I would like to thanks for providing these

  20. Design Agony posts are so helpful! They would be so much more satisfying with ‘after’ shots, though. 🙂

  21. Interesting post ! I really like it . Appreciate it . Thanks for share such kind of informative post .

  22. My parents face a similar problem. I had suggested to them to do something like layout #3, but with swivel chairs, so they could turn the chair to enjoy the fireplace from time to time. Loving this series!

  23. i have a similar dilemma in my new home. you mentioned that you would prefer not to have a sectional and use a sofa and flank it with two chairs in option 3. would the chairs face the sofa in this scenario? i would like to purchase a sectional in my new home, and would wonder what are the criteria where you would use a sectional versus a couch?

  24. thanks admin This was a really beneficial read for me. I have forgotten that large plants can be a great solution to funky spots. We’ve been living in a renovation for the past year and a half and my visualization of our finished home has finally started to come together in my mind now that I’ve got something green imagined up in it. Thanks for sharing these dilemmas and the process for arriving at a solution!

  25. arrange furniture two focal walls thanks for sharing this.
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  26. Whilst commenting on an excellent (and free) blog post providing sound, professional advice it would behoven to restrict opinion when not fully appreciating the finer points of English. The word was used thrice