One of the things I love most about design is having to problem-solve. You know, the sort of situation you find yourself in when you have an awkward entryway, a tiny space, no storage, or a unique room layout. In my case, I’ve got all of the previous happening in my living room area. It’s also a very open space. Contrary to popular opinion, I quite enjoy spaces that aren’t completely open, because walls help to define a space’s intent and serve as a reminder of how I should be designing the space. For instance, I grew up with a den – for playing in and watching movies with my family. A closed-off kitchen, that had just enough room for a dining table and chairs. When it was time for dinner, we all knew it was time to disconnect from all of our devices, go into the kitchen, sit down as a family, while we ate and shared about our day. Our living room area was a small space where my mom would sit and have a phone chat with my grandmother, or with a friend who stopped by briefly to share some news. This was her “woman cave.” We didn’t go in there too much so that my mom had a place to disconnect, read, and nap (I totally get it now). That said, I love how purposeful walls can make a room feel, but I will knock one down if it helps the overall function of a space – that’s a post for another day.
This living room layout is one of the reasons I enjoy areas that are not completely open. If we plan to have movie nights in this living room, there are really only two ways we can lay out furniture: with the sofa protruding into the hallway area, or with the sofa up against the wall, leaving us to mount the television in the hallway on the wall. This left me strongly contemplating not having a television in the living room and putting it in the bedroom instead, but that would go against my beliefs of the bedroom being a place where we find our peace, let our minds disconnect from everything, and rest. So TV in the living room it was. In addition to the unique layout of the space, it’s a bit on the small side, which I’m typically used to, growing up in a city where space is a unicorn. But with the unique layout and being limited on space, I had to be intentional about sourcing pieces that were to scale and would allow for storage.
On the left is what we are looking at if we choose to mount the TV in the hallway. This was a common setup for the majority of my neighbors. A couple of my neighbors were nice enough to let me in their homes to scope out their layouts. This can save a lot of time and of course, money since it’s free. In addition, I scoured the internet looking for condos in my community that were recently remodeled and sold. I like to look at the staging in these spaces. I love doing this sort of visual research when I’m working with condos or single-family homes in a neighborhood that all share similar-to-identical interior and exterior architecture. Moreover, I should also mention that the nursery lies behind this hallway wall, so hanging the television on this wall would more than likely interrupt naps and bedtime sleep (my little guy is an extremely light sleeper – like his momma). This means we were down to one layout – the one where the sofa protrudes into the walkway. Which isn’t the end of the world I suppose, as I was still able to allow for three feet in the walkway behind the sofa.
Scale For Space And Furniture Layout
A fun little app I like to use when laying out my own spaces and furniture is magicplan. It’s very simple to use, and you don’t have to be a CAD expert. Though I spent countless hours in school learning programs like AutoCAD and Revit, I tend to outsource this work, as I’m not thrilled with spending so much time drafting 2D and 3D renderings. I’m still getting the hang of momming for goodness sake. Nonetheless, magicplan is good for personal projects, as you can take measurements with your phone by just walking around a space and guiding your phone along the walls. Doing this helps you get measurements, and a visual idea of how to lay out furniture, this counters having to make numerous returns because furniture pieces do not fit. It truly helps to make sure everything is to scale in a room.
I felt like it would be beneficial to the space to have a smaller sofa in place of the sectional I had in our last place. However, we are a family that enjoys plopping down and kicking up our feet for movie night, so it was important that I source an ottoman to complement the sofa. I’ve learned that having a sofa and separate ottoman provides a bit more flexibility in terms of laying out a space. In our case, our Sixpenny Amelia Sofa can stand alone and our Amelia Ottoman can create a sort of chaise that can be left-facing, or right-facing, or put in front of our window as additional seating (as you can see above). We can even use it as a coffee table (we just add a tray and sit our beverages on top of it). I’ve also learned that for our little family, a polyfill works best, as our little one loves to climb up and down the furniture daily – this fill keeps its form much more than down. I also grew tired of sinking into our old sofa while trying to nurse – this was a constant battle. In addition, one side of the sofa kept a completely different shape, as my husband favored sitting in that spot. Because we are in Las Vegas now, we opted for a medium-weight linen fabric, in the color Jasmine Rice. I sourced a small round wooden stool for our coffee table so that it could be moved around as needed, and an antiqued wooden stool small enough to be used as a side table on either side of the sofa.
When I have a client that is concerned about storage in a small living room space, I almost always advise having a console with two-tiered shelves inside, and to mount the TV on the wall over the media console, to allow for shelf space on top. I also suggest having an ottoman with a removable top that can house items like blankets, trays for beverages, games, etc., but in our household this can get a bit scary, as we are more on the minimalist side of things and believe in Fumio Sasaki’s version of the Concorde Fallacy. This is basically the place some of us find ourselves in, where we are too overwhelmed with options, and this eventually leads to radical decision-making as it pertains to ongoing purchases, which leads to decisions we typically regret later on.
All that to say, I have to be careful about just how much storage I give myself, because I tend to want to fill it up even though I don’t need anything. I took an inventory of the living room items we do have and use on a regular basis and specified the perfect media console for our blankets, books, and my husband’s game system and controls (which I’m very appreciative of now design-wise as it relates to aesthetics… if you have a gamer-partner you know exactly what I mean by this). Moreover, I’d like to end this section by stating: there are a variety of ways to design a home, keeping in mind the people living in it. None of them are wrong or right. They are simply the way we choose to live, with our values in mind, while making ourselves comfortable at home. Minimalism isn’t for everyone, but it makes me happy in my home.
Here’s the thing about not having walls… you’ve got to define the space using other items, like area rugs, colors, floor lamps, or some sort of divider. In my case, I’ve used an area rug to do so. I also like that the space feels cozier when I apply the ottoman left-facing to the sofa, which further divides the space from the dining area. I moved the sofa away from the window so that it feels a bit more separate from the front door and exactly 36” from the walkway wall, to give the walkway a feel of its own. This way, we don’t have to worry about bumping or brushing up against any furniture during our truck to the kitchen.
Voila! This is the living room layout I’ve come up with, given how we function as a family. I’ll admit, it was a bit tricky and in the beginning and I felt like it was also a bit wonky But having lived in it for some months, it’s quite enjoyable. I am curious to know what you would have done differently. I love hearing different design perspectives, and welcome your design ideas! That said, how would you have laid out my living room space?
*Design and Photos by Ajai Guyot