“Ask the Designer” – Long Bowling-Alley Like Living Room

Dear Designer:
We have a long bowling-alley like living room, and I cannot figure out how to get the furniture arranged to meet our needs.
The TV is at one short side of the space. A door to the backyard is at the other. A fireplace is along one long wall. And two thresholds are on the other.
I’d like the room to serve as a comfortable place to watch television and a be space for kids to knock around a bit. I have a very active seven-year-old boy who likes to make up games involving projectiles.
We would so appreciate the help. We just want a comfortable, functional space that can be modified as our family needs change.

An awkwardly shaped, narrow room can make furniture arranging a challenge!  The unexpected surprise is that the unique shape provides an opportunity to create a multi-functional (and great looking) room.

The best way tackle the layout of a long room is to divide the room into usage areas, each set up for a defined purpose.  Once the function of each area is established, the room needs to be tied together visually so it is unified. 

Looking at the architecture of the room gives inspiration for the best place to start.  Most rooms have an inherent focal point.  Your fireplace is this focal point; therefore, it is the best place to start building the furniture layout. 

Additionally, whether we like it or not, television also becomes a focal point.  This is why we often mount a television above a fireplace.  Due to the structure of your fireplace, your television cannot be wall mounted.  The next best thing is to place the television directly across from the fireplace.  This will allow the first seating group to feature what is known as “dual focal points”. 

Here, I placed a pair of sofas so your family can comfortably sit together.  A round coffee table and an 8’ x 10’ area rug work to ground this grouping.  To complete this seating arrangement, I incorporated a pair of ottomans near the television.  These ottomans round off the grouping and are handy for kids to perch on while watching television or playing video games.

The next area to consider is at the entrance to the room near the front door.  This area is an ideal “grown-up” space.  I placed a pair of chairs, a center table and a lamp.   This will be a great spot for a cup of coffee, reading the paper or chatting with a friend.

Your question mentioned reusing your existing chaise lounge.   The chaise could be used in this location instead of the chairs.  Ideally, I suggest not using the chaise for this room.  The shape of the chaise is long and narrow which mimics the shape of the room.  This similarity does not highlight the best qualities of the chaise or the room.

Regardless of whether you use the chaise or chairs, adults can enjoy this space while the children play across room, bringing us to the final area.

The ideal area for children to play is near the doors that lead to the backyard.  Lots of floor space allows for spreading out with toys, hopefully enough space to keep all “projectiles” under control.  Also included here is a bookcase for storage.  A desk for homework and other projects finishes this child friendly area.

The key to pulling the room together ascetically is through color and furnishings.  Repeating colors throughout the space, keeping the scale of furniture consistent and using complimentary wood tones all work to unify the look.

Once your layout works for your family, your aggravation with your room will grow into appreciation.  You might even learn to love the room; especially your “grown-up” zone.