We are back for another round of Design Agony. Needless to say, we have been getting a ton of pleading requests because designing can be hard (check Em’s Instastory highlight for more). And in an effort to help ease the stress and idea that “there is no answer,” we are here to help…with at least one answer. Today, we have three never-before-seen agonies: two that are product/styling based and one that is yet another layout conundrum. Furniture layouts can truly be the hardest, so we will likely always have one agony that addresses it because we GET how stressful it is. With that said, let’s get the weekend off to a happy start by chasing these agonies away.
Agony: How to Balance A Bold Color In An Open Plan Space
Our first agony comes from Ray who decided to go for it when he bought these awesome forest green velvet dining chairs (pictured below). How could he not, right? The only issue is that the rest of his living/dining room is totally neutral and adding in these bold beauties made the rest of the space feel visually off-balance.
Here are the photos that Ray sent me of his space. Lovely but could definitely use some green sprinkled around the other side of the room to make the two spaces talk a bit more to each other. The other issue is that his space is already so nicely decorated that spending a ton of money on anything new is not what he wants to do. Very understandable.
So I searched the internet for all things forest green, conferred with the design team and came up with these four items that he could easily pop into his living room. We think that taking away two of the larger pillows on the sofa (the dark patterned one and the solid gray one) and replacing it with the green jacquard pillow and velvet lumbar pillow is the way to go. This way we have our green accents, are tying in the velvet and the size/shapes of the pillows are more varied. The tassel pillow could replace the tan and faux fur pillow on the accent chair closest to the fireplace with it. Then for the final touch, Ray can switch out that tan box on the ottoman for the green marble box. It will create greater contrast and adds in a different texture.
Ray could also play with a lighter gray-green tone if he didn’t want to go all-in forest green. Playing around is key once the products are in the space. But when dealing with a bold color like this, the idea is just to pepper it into a neutral space (aka not go overboard) and make sure that the rooms feel balanced to the eye.
Agony: Rectangle Living Room Layout
Here we have another rectangle shaped living room brought to us by Ashley. She and her partner just moved into their “grown-up house” and need help with this room. “How would one lay this room out?” she asked. Well here is our recommendation…
The chairs are probably going to need to be relocated into a different room because the design team recommends pulling the sofa forward and all the way to the left wall (looking towards the back wall) so it sits in front of the doorway and centers with the fireplace (Ashely said that black cabinet is temporary so don’t worry about crowding). Then depending on the remaining space, one of the chairs might be able to fit in the corner, with a side table, where the sofa currently is for a separate reading nook. But a large plant in the corner would look equally as great. Also, if/when you are in the market for a new sofa, consider one that is a little slimmer in its profile and has more space between the floor and the bottom of the sofa. It will help make the room feel lighter.
HOT TIP: Don’t feel like your sofa always NEEDS to be pressed up against a wall. In fact, if you find that you actually have an opportunity to “float” your sofa in the center of a room, it could really help to fix most of your layout problems if you’re dealing with a long narrow space. It opens up other areas that you can assign another purpose to (reading corner, closed storage, small work space) without things feeling cluttered or ever wall being full.
Bonus Round: Ashley also asked about what to do with the large empty walls in the space. We touched on this topic in the last post but on the wall next to the fireplace, a nice large diptych or triptych would look great and then potentially on the back wall some kind of slender shelving or a large art ledge. You just want to make sure the two walls don’t compete for attention and don’t be afraid of some negative space.
Agony: The Useless Alcove
So. Many. Homes. Have. Random. Alcoves. Why? Not sure, but when Jenalyn asked for help styling her alcove, I knew this could be relatable to (hopefully) many people.
The main goal here is to create quiet visual interest. You don’t want too much going on up there that it makes you feel overwhelmed. A neutral color palette here is key unless the style of your home requires otherwise. Okay, now that that’s covered, let’s get into our two suggestions for Jenalyn.
The first suggestion is to use all neutral/tonal pottery that look similar to each other such as in the photos above by ceramicist Luke Eastop. You just want to make sure that the pieces differ in size and shape so that it looks interesting and intentional (not like you were just storing them up there until you found a better purpose). Also, make sure to factor in the scale of the alcove. Anything too tiny or too large will look off.
The second suggestion is similar to the first but has a more eclectic feel like how I arranged my open shelving in my kitchen. Pick a very simple color palette (for Jenalyn we would stay more neutral) and then play with all sorts of vessels. Bowls, baskets, vases, pitchers, etc. Just make sure they aren’t too crowded and have room to breathe. Remember to vary scale, height, shape and material. Below, I have rounded up a bunch of beautiful vessels in various budgets to help to inspire Jenalyn to tackle her agony.
1. Eva Tall Jug | 2. Beechwood Bowl | 3. Rimini Ivory Basket Planter | 4. Celia White Vase | 5. Audrey Small Low Round Glass Vase | 6. Slim Glass Vase | 7. Judy Jackson Tiny Stoneware Bottles | 8. Livsverk | 9. Audrey Tall Oval Glass Vase | 10. Matte Porcelain Vase | 11. Chunky Seagrass Woven Serving Bowl | 12. Shape Studies Vase | 13. Lyle Round Vase | 14. Cylinder Vase Bowl (set of 3) | 15. Narrow Seagrass Vase
Agonies be gone! And again hopefully, some of you have found some answers or inspiration for your burning design questions. This was not the first and won’t be the last so stay tuned for our next round of agony squashing.
If you have any design agonies of your own, feel free to DM Em on Instagram (be sure to write DESIGN AGONY in the prompt so it stands out) and check out the Design Agony highlight on her profile to see what we’ve covered already. For an issue you’re having that might be a deeper dive, be sure to email us at email@example.com.
Love you, mean it.
Want more Design Agony? We have them…well, the answers to them! Click through for more useful solutions:
- 3 Awkward Window Problems Solved + Shoppable Solutions
- Sara’s House: A Long Narrow Floorplan Design Agony + Designing Begins
- 3 Design Agonies, 1 Post: Tricky Lighting, Big Empty Walls and Foyer Styling