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Design

How To Lay Out An Awkward Living Room + Ajai’s Hack That Will Save You A Lot Of Agony

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. 

Sofa | Ottoman | Curtains | Rug (vintage from etsy) | Coffee Table (vintage) | Throw Pillows (no longer available from etsy)

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. 

Visual Research 

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. 

Create Storage

Faux Olive Tree | Media Console | Picture Light | Small Wooden Stool (vintage) | Vessel (vintage) | Wooden Dice (vintage)

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.

Create Boundaries 

Chandelier | Ceiling Fan

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

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DeniseGK
4 months ago

I would have faced the sofa towards the window and had the tv on a swingout arm from the same wall it is currently mounted on. Blackout curtains, mounted outside the wonderful sheers you have, would make tv viewing cozy and easy. Get them in a great color or pattern, and even when pushed to the sides they add to the decor and design of the room.

In the plans/sketches the sofa is drawn as if it just has its backside a little into the walkway, but the reality is that the front of the arms barely overlap the window wall. In my home, every family member and guest would be cutting the corner from the entrance too close and running into the sofa all the time. I could not have the sofa sticking out that much. I’d get a smaller tv so the sofa could be pulled forward before I lived with a sofa that constantly needs to be corrected and people with bruises from hitting the wood frame in the sofa.

4 months ago
Reply to  DeniseGK

Hi Denise! This is definitely a living room woe of mine. This is why we always enter the house from the garage.

Also, on shoot day, adjustments are made to make sure I can capture everything with the best light, so I moved the sofa around a few times. Thank you for your feedback! 🙂

4 months ago
Reply to  DeniseGK

I should also mention that a smaller tv is not an option lol. It’s the only thing my husband ever wants say-so in (football is BIG in my household). This way, I make all of the other home recommendations w/o his input haha…

DeniseGK
4 months ago
Reply to  Ajai

Oof, I feel you on that. The only smaller tv battle I’ve won is in the bedroom bc I was gunning for “no tv in the bedroom” and relented when he offered to get a smaller one. Sigh. I really need just one more room in my house.

Jenni
4 months ago

I think the layout you came up with is the best one for this space given that your little one’s sleep needs. I wonder if dens will become the next big “new-old” feature in homes. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and miss that cozy space that was set off from everything else. It’s interesting too that in our house, when some of us want to watch something we often would rather take our laptop and go to the smallest bedroom in the house than watch it on the big tv downstairs in the basement. Even our kids comment on how cozy the littlest room is. I think it’s because of the space as well as lots of quilts/soft spaces to land and warm lamp light.

4 months ago
Reply to  Jenni

Hi Jenni! Thank you! I sure do hope dens make a comeback. I tend to gravitate towards the homes that have them. Now that I have a little one of my own, I see how beneficial they truly are.

Rachel S
4 months ago

I love how calm and peaceful this feels – and I think your sofa solution is a good one! I’m really enjoying the updates to your home and your overall asthetic!

4 months ago
Reply to  Rachel S

Hi Rachel, thank you so much! I do my best to make our home a tranquil space. 🙂

Erin Dae
4 months ago

Lovely space and I like the explanations of why you made certain choices based on your family’s needs. I think the layout you chose makes the most sense, and I agree with your magicplan recommendation – I recently used this for our bathroom remodel and it really helped me visualize the space pre-demo since removing a wall was involved. (And it made sure I didn’t order a bathtub that wouldn’t fit, ha!) A couple of questions: first, why did you choose to put a picture light above the TV – is it just to help “camoflage” the fact that it is a TV and not art? Second question is a personal one – can you remind me on the pronunciation of your name? I know you went through this during your very first post here but I couldn’t find it and I really want to make sure I am saying it correctly when telling others about your amazing work!

4 months ago
Reply to  Erin Dae

Hi Erin! Thank you! Yes, I use the picture light to camouflage the tv. I like to switch out the art and this makes it feel better aesthetically. I speak a lot about how I’m not BIG in televisions, and would prefer to watch shows via my laptop, but my husband LOVES football and hosting when the game is on – so a tv it is lol.

My name is pronounced like “Asia.”
Thank you for confirming 🙂

Kj
4 months ago

I am going to try MagicPlan right now. If anyone else is curious, the cost is “Free for up to 2 projects.”

Kelly
4 months ago

The only other layout I see working, besides the one you chose, would be to have the sofa facing the window and your tv in the same place on a swinging wall mount. Not really sure if the sofa would be too long though. In any case, I think it looks great and if it works for your family – win/win!!

Lindsay
4 months ago

What if you switched the living and dining room areas? A table in front of that window seems lovely.

priscilla
4 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay

That is what I was thinking would work better for me if I lived there. I spend way more time at the table than in front of a screen (except for the laptop I use at the table, so…) and it would be nice to have the light. Where the dining table is in Ajai’s layout is where I’d put the living room, which I use mostly at night. To each their own, for sure.

Maggie S
4 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay

That was also my thought -nice to have the table in front of the window!

anon
4 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay

Yes, that’s what I was going to say. Flip the dining/living areas. It would only be a few steps more from stove to table and would give more room for the living room. Ajai’s solution is perfectly good. And flipping the functions of the space would be another option.

As a condo dweller with weird floorplan issues and not enough space or storage, I have to wonder who actually comes up with/OKs these floorplans before they’re starting construction?

4 months ago

I helped my mother set up her condo in a space like this and I opted for the same layout as you have–as you said, many of the neighbors had the TV on the hallway wall (?) which didn’t make sense to me. I love your pretty neutrals, the light coming through your drapery is so beautiful. I’m glad to see you had good luck order a rug from Etsy, I’ve been so tempted, but it seems kind of risky since you spend so much $, but can’t see it in person.

Vicki Williams
4 months ago

I just received from Etsy a $900 rug for $300 ( I have a friend who has ordered from this same vendor and sells Persians and she verified i was getting a good deal. When i touched it it felt kind of rough but walking on it it feels great! It is so beautiful. I couldn’t be happier. Also no smells, totally clean and it is vintage. couldn’t recommend more. Well Rats, i was going to send a link but realized my friend ended up ordering so i can’t find it. Absolutely beautiful! Found it! Good company!
good luck! comment image

https://www.etsy.com/shop/TurkishRugNRoll?ref=nla_listing_details

Erin
4 months ago

I really love how you have approached this, and made your condo seem homey, comfortable, and welcoming. The style is quiet and timeless and inviting – a perfect little nest and refuge for a young family. Adore!

Ani
4 months ago

I love this space and how soothing it is. So beautiful!

Roberta Davis
4 months ago

I would have laid it out the same way, Ajai! You always make your spaces feel so calm. I like your minimalist approach.

Jamie
4 months ago

This space is so inviting and cozy. I think the layout is perfect. I love the neutral pallet. I look forward to your home updates. Also I think the placement of the sofa helps to define the hallway/entry. Beautiful room!

Cris S.
4 months ago

I don’t know what the rest of the condo layout is, but did you consider flipping the dining ‘room’ and the ‘living’ room? The space is small enough that you really aren’t walking much further with the food to the front of the house and you could have your sofa up against the longer wall and the TV up against the short wall just outside the kitchen. That way when you walk in the house you have more space for an entryway area and it feels more open with a table and chairs, and then you have the living room in a cozier, less pass through, set up. And, at least with how my family is, you have more communication between the kitchen and where people are hanging out (unless your family is more hang out at the table and you use the table area for a lot of your food prep, which I understand). Anyway, just an idea. I love that rug!!!!

Thanks for sharing this informative post.

Aru
4 months ago

Your space looks fantastic, despite all the challenges. I love how calm it looks.

I would love to know where you sourced your coffee table. We have a long and narrow living room, and having a coffee table makes it look too ‘full”. I have been thinking of getting a smaller table that can be used as a coffee table and love the look of yours.

Yanina Markova
4 months ago

It looks beautiful but I think the tv is just too big for that distance. For me I’d have done a “no tv” living room and put the “art” on the hallway wall. Not being able to watch loud tv when the baby is sleeping is just the reality of living in a small space.

Di
4 months ago

This was super helpful as someone living in a narrow brick row home in Baltimore! Most row homes here are set up very similarly…narrow with a door and a window on the from wall. It really limits the layout options and very few designers seem to address spaces like this. Thank you!

Di
4 months ago
Reply to  Di

I meant on the front* wall!

Abbi
4 months ago

I have a “den” in my small house ! Probably most people would have used it as a dining room but since it’s so small and all you need to watch tv is a comfy space to sit it really works for us and leaves more floor space for play and entertaining elsewhere in the house . We have three walls with the window on the short wall like yours and the couch and tv on the long walls opposite ea bother. It’s so cozy and functional and keeps the tv further from sleeping kids. Is it comfy to watch tv there? The tv doesn’t look too big to me, maybe just a touch high? If it’s comfy tho I don’t think it looks awkward at all, very cozy. Plus you can see the tv from your kitchen. Also I have a small chair in the corner to the left of the tv and sometimes I center it on the window for extra seating when needed.

emily jane
4 months ago

Absolutely lovely Ajai! And from what I can see tucked away in the background, I can hardly wait to properly meet your dining ‘room’ : )

Meg
4 months ago

When mounting the TV I would take into account the number of inches from the floor to your eyes when you are seated. And that measurement would be the center of the TV screen. In other words if you hang the TV too high over the media Console and or if you have a low couch you will end up with your head tipped up. And with the reversed circumstances with your chin tucked. Really best to have your neck in a neutral position. So that being said I would be thinking about the height of the media console. For some people maybe it should be very low to the ground….

Meg
4 months ago

Oh and PS you may have just helped me with a design problem in my own home. We have an open floor plan and all the logical wall for the TV we have a freestanding wood-burning stove. Even though we live in Oregon we only use the stove in the winter. The furniture really needs to be set up differently depending on the season. We will be buying a new couch and/or couches soon. I have been playing with getting two chaises 1 left facing and 1 right facing. In the summer they would face each other and in the winter one would pivot out to be in front of the fireplace. But maybe I am overthinking it and should just go with a longer couch and two Ottomans! When I get more serious about shopping I’m gonna break out magic plan. Thank you for that!

Cris S.
4 months ago

Ajai – would you mind sharing which rug vendor you used on Etsy? The link just takes me to Etsy in general, not the vendor. Thank you! And thank you for sharing this lovely room with us.

Lindsay
4 months ago

I love that you are addressing real person design challenges for real first time homeowners–with your awesome style sense as a guide! I’m totally hearing what you are saying about no TV on the backside of the baby’s room. A complete no go! I started thinking about alternate layouts, and wondered, did you consider doing what Ryann did in her living room? Since you are filtering the view, why not put the TV and console against the window, with a pretty linen roller shade behind? Then you could do a sectional if you wanted to, with one side against the wall where the TV is now, and the other extending to separate the dining area. Walkway is free and clear. OR, I agree with the comments about considering switching out the lounge/TV area and the dining area. Since the dining area is more “nookish” and darker, it is a natural place for a cozy sofa and TV. But not being there, can’t tell if that would work or not. I would say that the back wall opposite the window could probably use a lovely big mirror. We’ve used oversized IKEA mirrors in dark corners opposite windows in our last 3… Read more »

Ashley
4 months ago

Chiming in a day later because this really resonated with me! First of all, your dice gave me a chuckle – what a classy and playful nod to #vegas!

Second, condos sure can hand out some fun(key) layout options, and it was great to see not only your final layout, but the reasoning behind it. I think layering in some artwork on the wall behind the couch would even extend that space as a “living area” instead of “hallway” . . . just a thought.

Oh, and given your minimal aesthetic + toddler, I would suggest Montessori-style toy storage, even in your common areas. A lot of times we look for closed storage, but having a few simple, accessible items out actually promotes independent play. Think a few shelves with a stack of board books, open basket of animal toys/sensory objects, etc. Easy on the eyes, and keeps remote control-stealing to a minimum (hopefully.)

Again, wonderful work here! Can’t wait to see more from you. 🙂

CHRISTA
4 months ago

I think you got it just right.

Michelle
4 months ago

Ok how come no one is talking. It the sectional in your dining room. I love this approach! I wonder what it’s like to live with tho? How did you get the custom seat height? Why not do a build in? I am politely requesting the dining room get its due explanation please… the living room color palette is truly lovely. Also appreciate that we design for people, not just rooms. Babies, gamers, couch ploppers are worthy of any design accommodations required imho.

Amy
4 months ago

Could you flip the living room and dining-room areas? Looks like you would have more room if you had a long narrow rectangular table in front of the window and put the living room space at the back of the room (just from the little floor plan- not sure in real life). Looks very cramped in the photo.

4 months ago

Wow!! Thanks for sharing this amazing post.

This is a really helpful post. It will definitely come in handy.

Anne M.
4 months ago

I think it’s gorgeous!

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