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Fix It Friday: 4 Ways To Tackle The Tricky Empty Corner (+ Real Reader Homes!)

Fix It Friday Friends! I’m back with another installment. You’re either here because you have a similar issue you need help with, or (like me) you love having a peek into other people’s homes. I blame my parents for raising me basically *inside* model homes in builder communities across the greater Orlando area (but for real, it was one of our favorite pastimes). Anyhow, today, we’re tackling the thorn in the side of every room/space: the empty (or troublesome) corner.

Coincidently, while I was working on this piece, EHD alum Brady posted a reel on Instagram about how to fill an empty corner. His formula? Pretty armchair, sculptural side table, table lamp, art. As is usually true with Brady’s design suggestions, he’s definitely not wrong. This is a SOLID recipe for filling a corner. It works in a bedroom, in a living room, and in an office.

design by emily henderson design | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: a budget and rental-friendly living and dining room (with 80% thrifted finds)

Another failsafe combination? A small piece of storage furniture, such as a tall or short bookcase, a small cabinet or console table.

Or a plant. A plant almost always works.

designed by velinda hellen for ehd | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: sara’s living room & dining room reveal

But today, I’m tackling four readers’ corners with a few more customized solutions, because not every empty corner is created equal. In some, I offer straightforward advice (tree! console!). In others, I see a chance to spin around some furniture orientation to open up more room to work with, turning a corner into a whole-room opportunity. Let’s dive in.

Coffee Corner Conundrum

From the reader: “We recently bought a new house and from the first time I saw this spot, I envisioned a lovely little ‘morning coffee corner’ with a round table and big cozy chairs; except now that we live here, I’m having a terrible time with scale and room layout in general. I suppose a dining-height table isn’t the right size for this corner, but I just love the look of an oak pedestal. My style is very vibrant, and vintage, with a touch of English cottage / low-key coastal. As for budget, we’re flexible.”

The second I read “coffee corner,” I knew I needed to help this reader figure it out. How fun is that? I agree that the scale is not right for this big, open space, but I can help her remedy that while still keeping her beloved pedestal table. In the extended version of the reader’s message, she mentioned all the existing furniture was left over from a recent move, and they will be taking their time to fully furnish their home. Let’s look at a wider shot of this room, so you can get a better sense of what we’re working with:

In the floorplan she also sent (#prepared!), I saw that there was a formal dining room/dining area if you went straight past the fireplace (opposite the coffee corner), so we didn’t need anything overly spacious here. I immediately knew what I wanted to do here: a corner banquette. I thought it would fill the space nicely, offer her that cozy English cottage vibe she said she loves, and also offer another moment to bring in some quirky style. She also mentioned the windows to me, but figuring out this corner would require me to figure out the rest of the room, and that’s not really why we’re here today. (But for the record, a pretty Roman shade or bamboo roller shade on this window and the other large ones would be nice and charming.)

Banquette | Sconce | Bolster Pillow | Existing Table (similar)

I found this beautiful block print corner banquette at Ballard Designs. It’s a bit pricey at almost $2,800, but I think it would be well worth the investment to make this part of the room feel really locked in and permanent. They offer different sizes and pieces, so she could get the lengths she needs depending on the measurements in there. The green plays well with the red tones of her wood table but also pulls from the existing sofa. She can very well throw some pretty pillows in the mix, but a formal velvet bolster is such an ice, clean look (and the velvet also references the sofa, too). Oh, and I also suggested a long arm sconce to add even more drama and interest. This one is plug-in, which won’t require adding any junction boxes, and can easily be plugged into the outlet that I believe I’m seeing under the smaller window. Hang it in the empty space to the right of the small window.

A Sofa Switcheroo

From the reader: “I have been struggling with what to do with this space for years! I’d love to add some storage to this area. I have a large cabinet to the left of the fireplace, so not sure if I should do something similar or change it up. My style is Anthropologie-like. I love fun pops of color, but yet again struggle to use it. I’d love nothing more than to complete this space and keep the budget under $1,500. I’d love this space to feel more cozy and fun!”

I thought long and hard about this room, wondering what the right answer for it was, and then it came to me: the sofa is in the wrong spot. Anything you put in that corner is going to be blocked by the sofa where it is, and if not blocked, very tight (at the very least). I 100% understand why they put it where they did, but I want to suggest something different: Spin the sofa 90 degrees, so the back that’s on the bottom right is actually on the left (near the dining room). This will open up the space under the windows and create access to the nook. Plus, “closing off” the dining area would make this space feel more like its own and cozy as the reader wanted.

From there, I’d move the fabric wall hanging and plant into the space between the windows, add floating shelves top to bottom in the nook to create storage and even some pretty styling moments, and add a show-stopping lounge chair in a great, dramatic color.

Floating Shelves | Armchair | Side Table

These shelves are from Rejuvenation and are available in a ton of widths. I wasn’t sure what the width here was, but guessing about 36 inches. Four shelves should do the trick. There’s always the option of getting a custom built-in solution, with some closed storage below if needed, but that is, of course, far more expensive. If that space happens to be closer to the 43-inch mark, they could save some serious money with the Lack shelves from IKEA. The bulk of the budget goes to that beautiful chair from Anthropologie. The bordeaux color gives the reader that jolt of color she mentioned loving, but it’s deep enough that it’s not shocking to the senses. It also seems to go well with the rug that has some muted red tones in it, I think. A pretty, stately table (from Target!) could either go on the side of the sofa after it spins or to the side of the chair to create a true little reading corner.

From Empty Hallway To Decor Hallmark

From the reader: “Longtime listener, first-time caller. There’s a nook at the beginning of our hallway that just feels like it’s asking for some sort of moment. It’s 36 inches wide. Around the corner, there’s a gallery wall of family pictures, but otherwise, the hallway is just a hallway. I’m still trying to figure out this space after three years in our home. And there’s also a nook in our hallway that just feels empty.”

Haven’t we all had a hallway nook just like this at some point that we didn’t know what to do? I had one EXACTLY like this in a hallway twice this length in my old apartment. The nook was the halfway point of the hallway and I never was in love with what I ended up doing—I placed a small side table with a vase and flowers, and hung some art above it). It was totally fine, but it wasn’t special and basically just became a spot that collected dust. I don’t want that for this reader!

Before settling on what to do here, I reviewed some other photos of the space nearby the reader sent to get a sense of style and color. It reads a little vintage, a little mid-century, a little quiet modern.

Back to the hallway corner nook…

I’m of two worlds here. They could either keep things simple and add a tall, dramatic leafy tree which would add so much life to what is otherwise just a transient space. Or go more decorative with some furniture, decor, and art. It’s hard to tell how much light makes it in there, but my guess is…very little. A low-light tree would be important, or she can always go faux (which is never my first option).

Combo on the Left: Console Cabinet | Glass Vase | Frame | Top Art Print | Bottom Art Print | Lamp
Combo on the Right: Indoor Tree | Concrete Planter

For my first option, I’m suggesting this pretty, warm modern console cabinet that leaves a few inches on each side of the nook so that it’s not a tight fit. Plus, more storage is never a bad idea in a home, right? A petite lamp in a cool color (like this olive one) would add some ambiance to the hallway. I’d pair it with a glass vase for visual lightness. She can add flowers or dramatic branches to it. To fill the verticle space, how about two pretty abstract prints in walnut wood-toned frames (this matches some of the wood tones in the living and dining spaces)?

And in option two, I love the bushy-ness of a Benjamina Ficus. It does require indirect light, so it may or may not work here. It’s also not pet-friendly (but the reader didn’t mention having pets). There is also a Dracaena Marginata which can tolerate medium to low-light situations but is also toxic to cats and dogs. A simple concrete planter would pair well with either of those tree varieties.

Opening Up A New Perspective

From the reader: “While we love so many aspects of our modern city home (floor-to-ceiling windows! waterfall counter! roof deck! etc), there’s one area of our main floor that’s really confusing/hard to optimize and that is our dining room. We are looking for a storage cabinet/bookshelf/ tall console to help stow linens, drink, and barware, and display family photos or cookbooks in a way that feels light and airy and not too cluttered. This room also, and annoyingly, serves as our mudroom, so while we want to add something, we also want to be mindful that the room already works overtime as a landing zone for stuff. We are hoping to find something that’s closed on the bottom (toddler), and likely tall to help fill the space. We lean towards a minimal, modern style and have aspirations of our home feeling like a modern rustic house in the city – are we nailing it, not sure, but that’s our goal and we have no idea what to do here. Our budget is $3,000 to $3,500.”

Remember two readers ago, when I suggested spinning the sofa to open up more usable space? Well…guess what? I’m back at it. I think we have a missed opportunity here to use the full expanse of the long wall with the art on it. Also, to me, adding a tall storage piece to the small piece of wall next to the windows might feel a little off-balance. It would certainly work from a functional standpoint, but to me, it’s option B.

Option A? Turn that table and rug so that it’s parallel to the high horizontal window (and in line with the island for a better visual flow). I’m not sure of the table size, so there is a chance it wouldn’t fit comfortably that way. Perhaps that’s the whole reason the table is oriented the way that it is, BUT, if they haven’t thought of it, I want them to.

Here’s another angle of the room plus the rest of the first floor, which is one big open-concept space:

To me, that big wall is begging for a moment. I know the reader mentioned this being both a mudroom and dining area, and while it’s a little out of the path of travel, a long open surface on a 90-100″ credenza might be super useful.

Here are some of the product boards I came up with, one in case they *can* turn the table, and another in case they can’t:

Combo on the Left: Sideboard | Lamp | Candle | Tray | Match Striker 
Combo on the Right: Bookcase | Lamp | Tray | Plant

Okay, so the left combo has a sideboard that’s 96 inches. The reader mentioned her room is 123.5 inches by 163.5 inches, but I’m not certain which length is for which direction. Either way, those 96 inches are large enough to provide ample storage and surface area without devouring the space. They can leave the art where it is, and maybe flank it with two matching lamps (or not). I just love accent lighting in dining spaces to make them feel so romantic and magical after sunset. These are from Wayfair and under $90 including the shade which, sadly, is a great price these days for lamps. I rounded it out with a long, narrow tray, a candle, and a match striker, but honestly, they could just stack cookbooks in a few piles and it would look just as nice.

For the right combo, I found a tall bookshelf with closed storage that would fit within the 56.5 inches of space to the right of the windows. The wood tones match some of the other furnishings in their home, it’s clean and modern but a touch rustic due to the organic grain. A mini lamp never hurt anyone, a catchall tray also never hurt anyone, and a trailing plant—you guessed it–never hurt anyone (I don’t think…).

That’s it for this Friday post. Corner conundrums turned corner conquests! If any of the readers who submitted their homes and made it into this piece make any changes, keep us updated! The same goes for any other recipient of Fix It Friday advice. Update us all, pretty please! Also, if you have a Fix It Friday topic you’re hoping we tackle, drop those in the comments (remember, they should be easy, tangible, small areas of the home that need a designer’s perspective). Some we’ve already done: bedding, foyers, windows, color palettes, mantels, and outdoor spaces.

Until next time.

Your friend in fixable design, Arlyn

Opening image credits: Design by Emily Henderson Design | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Portland Project: The Living Room Reveal

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Erin Dae
11 days ago

Great post! Thanks Arlyn for all the fun ideas and thanks to all the readers letting us peek inside their homes.

11 days ago
Reply to  Erin Dae

Agree! It’s really helpful to see these achievable suggestions in real life homes.

11 days ago

Arlyn, I love these suggestions, and I think we might incorporate bits of the corner banquet/swing arm wall sconce in our situation. How do we go about becoming one of your potential design problems addressed on the blog? I must have missed that somewhere. Thanks in advance, and I sure hope you ladies had a lovely, rejuvinating and inspiring getaway!

Zoe P
11 days ago
Reply to  Christina

We did a similar solution for a corner and my bf documented it all on IG stories, if you’d like to see! We did a hanging plug-in pendant lamp and swagged it over the center of the table. We have picture railing along the top of this room which made it very easy to tuck and hide the lamp cord.

9 days ago
Reply to  Christina

They post them on instagram stories.

11 days ago

Rotating furniture is such an easy experiment and as evidence here, often is the right solution.

11 days ago

Great ideas, would love a post from reader that followed suggestions and how it worked out.

11 days ago

I think that last room should try a round table. Buy one from a thrift store to see if you like the size and shape before investing in a final one – or as I have found out my “practice” one often ends up being the perfect one.

11 days ago
Reply to  elizabeth

Good idea! Or oval with changed orientation! I think the current table looks too small and ‘smooth’ for the space, especially with the rectangle of seating just next to it at the kitchen island. A table with more characterful (older) wood would balance some of the very modern elements here.

11 days ago
Reply to  elizabeth

I had the same thought! The table is too small and there are a lot of rectangles in that space. A round table + a pretty banquet would be beautiful. The thrift store is a good idea, but there are lots of sites where you can see what an item looks like in your space. (I use the Target app for this all the time, even if I’m not planning on buying that particular item at Target.)

Zoe P
11 days ago
Reply to  Angela

I actually don’t mind the shape or current orientation of the table as much, but I think this space would really benefit from a larger table as the table + rug feel puny for the space. I’d love to see a longer table take up that space and go past the “boundary” of the island. Don’t worry as much about jutting slightly past the door.

11 days ago

Ooh this was so great! Nice fixes—sometimes you just need to move stuff around and buy a few hard working pieces. I love the solutions you came up with!

Ann T
11 days ago

What about dormer window areas/nooks? Or is that too niche? Seems like all the ideas online involve building a bookcase!

11 days ago

These are such good ideas, Arlyn! I wish we could get an update post with any readers that employed your suggestions!

11 days ago

I’d love to see a Fix it Friday about non-functional loft spaces! There are so many of these in more recently built homes. We just moved into a house with one & I have no idea what to do with the space!

7 days ago
Reply to  Caroline

Some sculptural art or large-scale pottery? This space seems to get light and is accessible from the stairs, so maybe a large plant on the right side?

11 days ago

I think there was one article in the series where you Photoshopped the proposed ideas into the space? That really helped me envision what the “after” would look like, instead of only a product board. If that’s not possible, would love for some of the homeowners to eventually provide an updated photo of their spaces.

Sarah F
11 days ago

I love these posts! I’d love to see a Fix it Friday with ideas about designing the end of a hallway—one that stops with a wall. And/or designing a long hallway! Thank you!

11 days ago
Reply to  Sarah F

Oh yes, I too would love a long wide hallway with the end of the hallway style moment. Thank you Arlyn! I just love all the ideas and products you come up with!

10 days ago

Love all these! Thank you for the amazing content! Fix it Friday idea: Decorating a bathroom to give it that chefs kiss perfect finishing

10 days ago

This is one of my most favorite features you do. it’s so helpful and ‘real life’. Love it! Thanks.

9 days ago

Thank you Arlyn!! This was such a fun and helpful read!

Courtney Fj
9 days ago

LOVE THIS SERIES! Thanks, Arlyn!!

4 days ago

This is a treasure trove, Arlyn! Definitely spending a lot of time on this post and getting all the great ideas.