Alright, folks. It’s Sara, I’m back, and this time I’ve brought someone else with me. But first for a very quick recap – I’ve told you how we bought our house here, and I’ve shown you what we’ve done with it so far here. I’m pretty proud of how far our little ragtag renovation team (comprised of my father, brother, boyfriend, and self) has taken this 1921 bungalow. I feel really confident about designing a handful of the spaces myself, and I’m even pushing myself and designing a bathroom, mostly by myself. I’m growing a lot in terms of my design know-how and confidence after 5 years at EHD. AND YET…
There are some things I was feeling really at a loss about; fireplace hearth material? Building a built-in bookcase in our TV room? (My uneducated, non-specific drawings aren’t getting us nearly as far as my embarrassing bathroom vanity drawings did.) And there’s the biggest design brain melter: our open floor plan living room/dining room. One of the first things we did when we started renovation was knock down a partition wall between the living room and dining room. It made the space feel SO much bigger, SO much brighter. AND SO MUCH MORE DAUNTING TO DESIGN.
I was waxing poetically about my home design woes one day at the office and Emily interjected with “you literally work at a company with multiple interior designers, this shouldn’t be an issue. In fact, let’s just assign someone to you, document it, and share it on the blog!” Don’t let anyone tell you complaining doesn’t get you anywhere.
Enter Velinda from the design team, who we’ve been working with on the living room and dining room with since September. She’s been assigned as our design caseworker (aka design couples’ therapist), and I thank her every. Single. Day. for putting up with me, because it turns out I have a lot of opinions. Her first order of business was getting a sense of the functions these rooms will serve so she could tackle this long, narrow open space monster that Mac and I created. But, I’ll let her tell you how she did it…
Velinda here now, ready to run you through my section of this relay-race post. “New client” Sara is technically my boss, so no pressure. We’re only one month into this project, but so far Mac and Sara are still together, the house is still standing and I still have a job. So all in all, we’re off to a great start. But where exactly did we start and where are we now?
(Side note: for those of you following this series for tips on the designers’ end, I’ve got a few treats here for you. For you super experienced designers, leave a few tricks in the comment section along the way for me. Tricks and treats for all! Happy October.)
Let’s rewind to September and take it slow. Figuring out the function then layout of a space (spatial planning) is really the first step in the process. That means meetings and measuring, measuring, measuring.
In this first meeting, I sat down to learn more about Sara and Mac (utilizing a brief questionnaire… see Step #2 in this post if you’re curious). Here’s where the designer must play therapist… or pretend to be the special guest in a threesome and remember IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU! The couple is the core. This moment is about their thoughts and desires (design desires, people). So listen before you bombard them with your surely-brilliant ideas.
Just for fun, and because I know them as more than just ‘clients’, I adapted our standard, simple questionnaire introduced in a recent process post by adding additional, inciting questions just to stir up trouble. Like, “What’s been your partner’s worst design idea so far”? Y’know, just taking the professional approach. I learned that when Mac hates an idea, he squints and says ‘mmmmmmmm’ for a long time as if trying to imagine it… or hoping the idea fades from topic. Sara, when given an answer or opinion she doesn’t like about one of her design ideas, just re-asks the same question a few days later as if she never got an answer in the first place.
Less juicy, I realize, but I also learned they don’t actually eat at their dining table, but want one big enough to seat eight for game-nights. And they don’t need a television anywhere in this space because they have a dedicated TV room in the works off their master suite. (Still, Sara deemed “TV above the fireplace” as Mac’s “worst design idea”). They want to create as open a flow as possible from room to room to unite the rooms while entertaining (the biggest assignment for these two rooms), but still want them visually defined as separate spaces.
Seeing and Measuring the Space
In our first meet and greet, I also took in the space – first visually, and then inch by inch. Since we very recently covered our general design process here, I’ll try not to bore you with repeats. Instead, I’m gonna list out every measurement I took while exploring Sara and Mac’s space. Also boring? How about we just take a quick look at my go-to, time-saving tools for this step of the process and why I love them:
- Digital Measure: Game changer for quick measuring and easily measuring things out of reach (ceiling heights).
- iPad Pro/Pen (or I suppose any pad with a stylus): I’ll often do a quick, plan-view sketch for overall dimensions and layout, but then photos of every wall and draw dimensions directly on the pictures. Saves time, sure, but I do this so that I’m constantly looking at what’s actually in the space vs my own elevation drawing, increasing the odds I won’t miss the fact there’s an outlet or vent yet to be accounted for, etc.
- Tape Measure: You’ll still need it.
Later, I’ll refer to these images and measurements to create a 3D model.
Visually inspecting, I immediately loved the true-to era touches of their 1921 house… the built-in shelves, the fireplace and the newly-added window casing that matched original windows elsewhere in the house. I love that they went with a classic wood floor, too. I personally veer toward staying true to a home’s original character for the more permanent design decisions, which allows for more room to play with trends/modern elements in the furnishing and easy-to-update details. Mac said he wants a “sharp”-feeling space and is wary of anything too traditional (all of which confuddled Sara). To me, that means modern pops are in store, but this classic “blank slate” is a great canvas! But let’s not get too carried away with “pops” until we even know what fits in this space! Quick reminder, here’s what we’re working with:
Layout is one of Mac and Sara’s shared challenges, and I see why. Long, narrow spaces are always hard, plus the opening to the dining room isn’t centered to the living room, further reducing allotted space for furniture in the living room’s size due to needing to keep a clear path for walking from room to room. They’ve tossed their hands up when it comes to where to place their sofa and how to include any other furniture in such a narrow room, without closing it off to an open flow.
My first instinct was that their sofa isn’t necessarily in the wrong spot, but it’s definitely the wrong size for the narrow space they have due to their front door (see above). But they are obsessed with their sofa (by Article), so that’s great insight to have. I also noted the rug (from Neon Dove), though perfect in style for the home wasn’t anchoring the space well due to it’s size (but should work well in a different room). And while I love their vintage coffee table, it might also serve better in another space. I started thinking that using a round coffee table in here could immediately permit better flow. They also have a LOT of mantel space to cover so immediately started brainstorming something that could be a moment for that area. I love using mirrors in small spaces (visually expanding) and that mantel looks like the perfect plot of real estate for such a thing. And as far as the living room and dining room flowing, there would need to be some sort of piece or pieces in the middle that worked for both areas or was low enough to create a visual bridge… or both.
Research & Modeling
Now, it’s my turn to play (within their boundaries). From my measurements, I created a quick, simple model, within which I played with furniture scale and layout (The program I use is called SketchUp! My life-saving tool of choice). Designers, let’s not forget “space planning” didn’t start here, behind your computer screen. “Walk around” imaginary furniture and feel the room while you’re in it measuring, as space isn’t a 2D process of discovery! Going into this, I knew Sara didn’t love an “asymmetrical” look to a room (i.e. a single chair opposite a sofa) so symmetry was kept in mind. Here are the possible layouts I proposed:
And here’s a sketch I made of an idea they had proposed in our initial meeting:
When I took the ideas back to Mac and Sara, I was able to show them that placing the sofa in front of the fireplace would mean visually closing off the room and invading the path to the dining room. It would mean walking into the side of a sofa when entering the front door. Seeing the diagram, they immediately understood. Magically, and I don’t think I did tooooo much nudging, we all ended up sharing the same favorite two options: Layout C and Layout D. Layouts A and B divided the spaces too much due to a visual “wall” created by the floating sofa. In a bigger house, this could be fine. But we need all the visual space we can get.
They were pretty torn 50/50 between the favorite layouts. I leaned visually toward option C, but functionally toward Design D. Design C was the best solution for truly opening up the space and a chaise/daybed could be utilized from either room. It’s a less-predictable setup and would break up a series of chairs in the visual line from living into dining room. But functionally, a bench-like daybed is never going to be as comfortable as something with back support. Chairs could rotate between rooms if needed and just the right chairs would mean even a “predictable” setup is still “sharp” (don’t worry, we’ll go deeper into their design desires in another post next week). Regardless of ultimate layout, to break up said “series of chairs,” I pitched a bench at the dining table to reduce our chair-footprint. Mac and Sara both went for it. They’re still torn on layout, though. I know either layout could work, so we’ve moved forward sourcing for both options and we’ll see if there’s a piece or pieces that speak to them and solidify this decision.
Knowing the scales of what I’m shopping for and armed with lots of Pinned imagery and description from their questionnaires, I’ve leapt into the fun part. SOURCING! But, more on that next week. We’ll dive into the directions I’m steering toward and some of the initial (and abundant) feedback received from our backseat drivers; the eloquently-spoken Mac and the “bit-more-curt” Sara. Who will be left most satisfied? (Sara here one last time with an answer to that question: Me *thumbs up emoji*)
Catch up on all of Sara’s Makeover Takeover: Sara Buys A House Part I: Six Tips For First Time Home Buyers | Sara Buys A House Part II: The Renovation | The Designing Continues: Time To Pick Furniture | The Final Design Plan | A Fireplace Design Agony | Sara’s Moody TV Room Plan | How Much It Really Costs To Work With A Designer: The Final Tally Of Sara’s Project
It’s so interesting to read about the process!
Ooooo, fun, and challenging! Can’t help myself, my vote is for option C! I love that Article sofa too, but perhaps it will be best in the dedicated TV room? It definitely feels (in the photos) that it’s too large for the space by the door. Sorry Sara & Mac! I’m with Velinda, that spaces needs more of a loveseat there.
Interesting…. very interesting
Agreed!! A loveseat would be perfect. My vote is the Article sofa goes in the TV room as well.
A loveseat is far closer to the right scale. Or a small sofa?
I got an “apartment size” sofa from west elm for my office. It is between a love seat and sofa in length and is just right. Nice to have room for 3 to sit vs a loveseat. Also agree with others that the bench/daybed is not a comfy seating option. I’ve seen this done in much larger rooms with more seating options. Daybed is good for a party where someone is sitting for a short while, but I don’t think it’s a good option for this room with only one sofa.
As for layout questions, seems you could move their current couch around to test them out for a few days. I think the option the couple came up with looks really good, but I’m trusting that in the space it may look too crowded. It appeals to me because it feels like walking in along the back of the sofa could sort of create the feeling of an entryway plus make the living room space a nice cozy conversation circle. But it’s probably just too tight to do all of that.
Loved this article. I currently have my entire apartment gutted to the studs. We were able to take down a partial partition wall between the double parlors and now I’m perplexed at how to layout out furniture in the first living area which also serves as the entry to the apartment. It is a long space with an alcove and big window to right where I will be placing a desk. The middle sitting area is the problem. Thinking two swivel chairs and a table or a chaise/daybed so they can be used from both sides. Loved reading that these are the ideas you are considering
Sounds tough! We all need a Velinda in our lives.
Could also do a sectional sofa, I suppose. I really like their current sofa. I feel like there must be a way to make it work.
I LOVE OUR CURRENT SOFA TOO!
If you are interested, here’s a budget-friendly front door makeover: https://www.chrislovesjulia.com/budget-friendly-exterior-entry-makeover/
That was awesome! Thanks for the link. I have one of those fussy glass ovals in a front door that is otherwise great & had no idea there was any remedy, short of replacing the whole door.
We’re HOPEFULLY (*fingers crossed*) changing out our front door to get something that feels more period to the home!
Thank you for sharing! What a transformation! I will be bookmarking this page.
I have an 1810 farmhouse I’m renovating and the ground floor with a massive off centered hearth is long and narrow! I’ve been dealing with the same issues, and the hardest part is finding petite sofas! I plan on a dining table on one end and a similar set up to D! Thanks for sharing
I know Velinda has been looking high and low for petite sofas (more around a loveseat size I think), and we finally have a few good options. I think we’ll be sharing them soon!
I have the Article Burrard love seaseat. Is it too deep for your space?
Great post. Oh if we all had an Emily ?. Thanks for sharing the different ideas and why you chose the winner.
What Ben Moore white did you end up going with? Looks great!
It’s called ‘Simply White’ – I’ll be 100% honest though, it’s a liiiiiiiiiiitle starker white than I was hoping for. I wish I had gone with something with a drop more warmth in it, like White Dove. If the opportunity ever arises to repaint, I’m gonna do it! But there’s not really a reason to right now, alas.
Option D. This house is pretty sweet, can’t wait to see the results.
If they don’t eat meals at the dining table then maybe consider setting it up for working in there. Get comfortable-for-working chairs and add some storage for paperwork/projects that will be easy to hide away. I sometimes design a table that has a shelf suspended below the table surface so you can quickly tuck work out of sight. That way you don’t leave projects lying in plain sight for days, but when you do want to get a project done, you have a place to do it.
We’re turning the front bedroom into an office/guest room (with a sofa bed)! But in our last apartment we actually did exactly this, and turned our dining room into an office and lounge area. But we do want to occasionally have friends over for dinner. We just end up playing boardgames far more often than we have a sit down dinner.
Could you do two cozy chairs that swivel for layout D? That way, they could face either direction at need…
10000% this option!
What about instead of a daybed, using two smaller profile barrel-armed swivel chairs? The rounded arms will soften all the rectangles in the room/s, they’re low profile, comfortable, not leggy, and can be utilized from both rooms. West Elm and Room and Board both have smaller swivel chairs. We recently bought one from Ethan Allen that we love – it’s super comfy and the stock light taupe fabric is ultra soft and holds up to kids.
The sad truth is I’m just not a swivel chair person! This is a very sound idea, with lots of good points. But I’m an irrational person with a weird grudge against a swivel chair. It’s a sad fact indeed.
Maybe open your heart a little to the swivel, Sara? I also think it would be a great option and there are chairs out there that have a lot of style. Such a great solution.
I got swivel chairs for the exact same reason. I have a similar layout with open space living and dining and they are lovely but to honest one doesn’t tend to need the swivel. Stationary chairs would have done just as well. So don’t worry too much about your grudge.
In theory, the swivel chair is great, but in reality, I hate them with a passion! I physically shuddered when I read the first swivel comment above. I like things to be neat and in their place and the constant need to straighten our living room and office swivel chairs (especially with children and a husband who couldn’t care less about the angle of a chair) just about drove me insane for years. We were gifted those chairs and I’ve finally managed to save up enough to replace them with completely stationary chairs – our home is so much happier now:)
Some swivel chairs have a set return on them, so they always go back to the same position–no more swivel-induced insanity!
STRONGLY vote for Option D. Daybeds look wonderful but you NEVER see photos of people using them in any practical way. VERY uncomfortable. Also, vote that the two chairs swivel further incorporating them in both rooms. They can face one another when two people want a private conversation, rotate to the dining table for spectators not playing games and rotate back to the couch for group conversations. The swivel makes things so much more practical.
We live in a 1920 Craftsman House and have kind of the same layout. We need to have the tv above the fireplace because there is just no place else. We went with layout A. We have a low sofa with a small table behind it for some storage/service area. It works perfect and is breaking up the room just the right way. That table behind the sofa is the perfect place for a vase with flower, candles and for displaying my cutest accessories (it’s assessable from both the living-and dining area). The two chairs at the window side are very versatile. When we’re watching a movie we can slide them easily in front of the tv and have our movie-night setup.
That actually sounds pretty good. Our house had a weird addition added sometime in the 40s or 50s, and we’re actually turning one of those added spaces into a dedicated TV room (it’s too small to really be anything else). But I think if we weren’t doing that then Option A would be our option too.
This is going to help me so much for space planning my living room! I hope you share thoughts on how to choose the right rug, sofa, chair size for a space – this is where I always fail with pieces that are the wrong scale!
I’m sure Velinda will be talking through planning out the scale of pieces for our small space in one of the upcoming posts!
LOVE hearing about the design process! And I ditto the recommendations on swivel chairs — works for both spaces.
I like layout D, but I also like their original layout idea, if it’s not too cramped. But I think flow is better with D. I love SketchUp to death! It’s quick and gives a great idea of how the space will look and feel, and you can make components easily. I also love the look of a chaise or daybed but agree the lack of a back is not good if you plan to have a couple of people over and sit in that room. For the same reason, I hate a bench at a dining table. I like a back to lean into. And to be able to get in and out of it easily, as with a chair.
The fireplace wall is so charming. I think I’d replace the front door with a heavy wood craftsman style door with a high window in it (looks like a craftsman style house, yes?)
I agree with you, Velinda- honor the architecture of the place.
Can’t wait to see what you do! I’m sure it will be great.
Yes! We are working on getting a replacement door that fits the style of the house better! If our living room was wider we could more easily consider having the couch face the fireplace, but it’s just not wide enough.
http://doorsbydecora.net/product/craftsman-frank-lloyd-wright-door-dbyd-4017/ this one is not bad
Can you share how in the world you made such great layout sketches? It would benefit all of us so much to know how to digitally manipulate our spaces before committing to purchases. Would be a great post!
It’s just Sketch-Up with a “sketchy” style on it (like a filter). The program is very user friendly and free! You can find many tutorials to get you started online.
I would go with the big ottoman. I never find myself comfortable in chairs unless they are big enough to curl my legs up in. Sometimes day beds have like a movable cushion for some support.
Love all this, it’s so informative and fun. Looking forward to the next steps!
Outside the box here, but, I think the best option might flopping the use of the rooms. Beautiful article sofa would go against window wall of dining room, two chairs in the opposite corners of that room, round coffee table (or no coffee table). Bigger (but awkward) living room would have big round table with lots of chairs around to accommodate use for the most people – -game nights.
I love these process posts. They’re so incredibly helpful. And as always, love Velinda’s voice. What a fun project! Sara and Mac’s home is LOVELY. They did a great job with the renovations. The wood floor is a perfect tone.
Thank you so much!!
I love C, with the chaise pushed a bit toward the built-in to create a “reading chaise” making room, hopefully, for a little hutch where the shoes are. But I also wonder, when is it right to angle a chaise or a couch? I so rarely see that.
Very intrigued as this living/dining space is similar to my own home. Also like my own home, they seem to lack a defined entryway or closet. Where do all of the shoes and jackets go is one of my biggest questions. We have added hooks for jackets and a little landing strip table for keys, mail, etc. but where oh where to put the shoes? Ha.
Megan, great question… definitely still a piece of the puzzle to be solved.
Yes, this was going to be my comment too! There was no mention if there will be an entry way spot for keys etc and shoe storage!!! How to do this practically and with style in a narrow spot?!
How exciting to see your house dream start to come to life. I really hope you go Design D. And I suggest swivel chairs . But please know, I SOOOO understand why you like the chaise lounge plan. They look so cool in a room and are very unexpected! However I made the mistake of getting a chaise lounge and it was never comfortable for me or my husband and my guests NEVER wanted sit on it. They all ran for the couch! Ha. For some reason unless you are a couple, people prefer chairs. I know chairs are very expected but they can made to be very fun and I think more comfortable seating for all! I went for look and did not really consider how I was going to use the room. The chaise is okay for one person to sit or lay down on to do some reading on a lazy Sunday but not great for game night, cocktails or visiting for some reason. Maybe it is jut my chaise lounge and friends!
Ahhhh good input!!!
I relate to this design issue (long room containing living & dining room) so much! My layout is similar to ‘A’ but the dimensions of the room are different so the flow is much better…but this has me thinking! Only problem is that I do need the TV to be in there and with a fireplace on one wall & a window on the other my options are limited. Can’t wait to see how this turns out!
My eyes lit up at the sight of the daybed, but then I thought swiveling chairs might be perfect between the rooms like that. Can’t wait to see what you come up with.
Lil, thank you! Swivel chairs could definitely be a good solution, but they’re not super into a swivel. They’d need to be really narrow swivel chairs too, but I love a good swiveling club chair and the flexibility they provide.
If entertaining more than a few people at a time is more common, then I think the chaise is a great idea. Who was that guy–Christopher something on HGTV, who mentioned how they work wonderfully during parties, because people can sit on both sides and converse in opposite directions and then turn and join the other side’s convo if they want. Comfort? Not necessary if that’s the only time it’s used.
Heidi, I can totally see how that’s true… great point.
I want to add another vote for the daybed option )since it doesn’t seem to be winning). As someone who also has a very small home, I’m more inclined to have people over for cocktails than lounging in front of the TV, and more flexible, “perch” seating has worked better for us.
I suspect this will likely be true for Sara as well, since there’s not even going to be a TV in this room, and I bet once parties get going, they end up in the dining room with games.
Our house is a similar layout, and we started with Plan B. We closed off the fourth side with a long, skinny ottoman and to our surprise, it is almost always used (usually by one person, or a couple) We also were able to fit in a chair, on an angle next to the fireplace. I think we may have more width to the room than you do, but it is not a large room, and the furniture is close together at the corners (no end tables), which we find to be ideal for conversation! It is a little awkward walking around the sofa to get to the dining room, but I have to admit that we like the two sofas for curling up for naps with dogs! When the sofas wear out, (I wish, they are almost 20 years old now), I will think about replacing one of them with 2 comfy chairs
Awesome post and so fun to see design process in spaces and budgets that feel “real.” Just wanted to say I bought a modern daybed from Room & Board and LOVE its modern, sharp feel. Pros: It functioned as a guest bed since it was generously wide and I had a one bedroom apartment. The dog LOVED it. it really DOES create so much visual space. This is hard to overstate, but does require one with low arms, which again, limits actual comfort. It can always go up against a wall if you move with it. Cons: No adult wants to sit there longer than a few minutes. Even though I love the look of it, I would get rid of it except my 14 year old stepson sprawls on it every day and pretty much ignores the couch and chairs we have. Appreciate you might not have the space to get one as wide as mine (its twin bed width and length) but wanted to share a few thoughts from someone who has lived with the modern day bed look.
Michelle, such great feedback on a daybed! Honestly, if we had the space to do a true daybed, it’d be even more tempting since it could dual purpose as a guest bed (brilliant!). We’d be looking at more of a bench size though, b/c we have about 60″ of width there, MAX, to allow for a path to the dining. But I really love your review of your experience with this! I think daybeds can be such a perfect solution for multi-purpose spaces!
Don’t like the idea of the bench at the dining table (never did). I’d hate to be the person sitting on the bench with no back support (like the chaise, eh?). Plus getting in and out if you’re in the middle is like shuffling in and out of an airplane row.
Agree with others the sofa’s fine — just way too big for the space. I was also going to suggest putting it in the TV room, but others beat me to it!
Agreed! Benches are not comfortable for very long and they’re kind of annoying to sit in/get up from if you’re not on the end. And if you’re wearing a skirt, it’s very hard not to flash the other side of the table. The bench trend must go! Apparently I feel very strongly about this. But really, if the primary purpose of the dining room table will be to play games at (I imagine for a couple of hours), I really think you should re-think the bench choice. As for the living room space, what about a chaise with a low back? Or something like these tete-a-tete chairs? https://tinyurl.com/y2aqlyg9
I like the original layout design. I like having a little entry hall to kinda separate from just walking straight in the living room. Then you could also have a little table to the left of the front door for keys and things. Then I’d do a chairs tucked in the corner in front of the bookshelves instead of facing each other. I haven’t been in the space though, so I don’t know what would really fit.
This is exactly how I see it as well!
Awesome ideas and content! I really love the modeling and the layout, very perfect!
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I like D as well – you could get a projector and pull down screen for TV watching from the couch to address that…
I would look at option E (the one you nixed) again. My favorite for sure! An end table on the one side of the sofa near the entry door would be a great way to designate an entryway space. A large square ottoman in the center would anchor the space so nicely.
I think a round table would be perfect in the space.
I also have a 1921 bungalow with one LR wall with a fireplace flanked by two bookcases, one long mantel running the length of that wall, and little windows on top of the mantel and above the bookcases. It’s a busy wall. Recently I put up linen curtains to hide the books, with matching curtains for the windows above the mantel. It reduced the visual stimuli on that wall, which makes the room feel serene, and even modern. I struggled for the longest time with how to arrange furniture in the room. I finally let go of putting the furniture around the fireplace. Now I have three areas – the entry, which is a separate alcove with an armoire with shelves to hold shoes, purses, briefcase, a basket for keys and sunglasses, etc. The adjacent wall has hooks for coats and hat. The second are is the tv area with an eight foot sofa opposite an eight foot vintage library table, which holds the tv and its accouterments. Third the fireplace area is on the far wall from the entry with a five foot sofa on one side of the fp and a chair or two (I love chairs so… Read more »
Huh? Why the sketches of square-ish spaces in a post about a “long, narrow” room? I was looking for help with my 2×5 m living room, with doors to kitchen, bedroom, and entryway. Doesn’t look like I’m going to get that here.
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What about 4 chairs around a round coffee table? For shoe storage you could do an upholstered storage bench up against the wall which could be pulled over for additional seating if needed.
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