Help Me Layout Our Living Room

So… we’ve been in this house nearly 6 years and we have barely scratched the surface of what needs to be done. That happens when you live in a 90 year old house, both work and daycare costs are bleeding your wallet dry. BUT! My family will be coming here this year to do our family Christmas celebration and I decided we needed to get our butts in gear about the living room.

See, when we moved in the entire first floor was covered in wallpaper, most of it a yellow grass-type paper. I tore it all out of the living room, dining room, stairway, entry and hall before we even moved it. Thinking we might do some electrical work we didn’t do much else and left the plaster bare (which honestly was a step up from the 30+ year old paper).  The plaster itself was in good shape but the old paste was still on the walls, giving them a sandpaper-like texture. About 2 years after we moved in the walls were still like that and we hired a neighborhood teenager to scrub the paste off the walls. I think he may still curse us because that was a crazy-hard job. He got about 85-90% of it off and we were able to tackle the dining room shortly after. It took Mark and I at least 3 weekends of work to get the dining room prepped and painted. I’ll talk more about those joys in a later post. What you need to know is that last weekend I took on the living room and we are (slowly, oh so slowly) getting it ready to paint. I just couldn’t think of having the marked-up plaster walls in the background of family Christmas photos.

This has my wheels turning about how to layout the furniture when we eventually get done with the prep and paint. We know we’re getting rid of our couch (it’s a hand me down from my parents and it’s at least 35 years old and it needs to go) but then we have some options. We don’t want to spend a ton given the age of the kids (we figure we have another 5 or so years of prime fabric staining and couch jumping days) so we’re scoping cheap couches like the Ikea Ektorp, as well as things on and other sites. However, we also have a loveseat in good shape. It’s beige so workable nearly anywhere, and solid. We could put that in the living room and get some new chairs. We really should replace the recliner as well (it’s given all it can give).

Add to all of that the fact that our old house has the worst imaginable layout for furniture placement and I’m stumped at to what do. The all 4 walls are littered with interruptions like windows, doors and archways. The longest stretch of wall is only 4.5 feet. I found a great site to do room layouts and I’ve been playing around all day. This is where you come in! Tell me what to do and suggest what I should buy! I’m so bad at this and I need your help! I need it to all be in place by December 20 when every arrives.

Other than the interrupted walls and long, narrow room other issues are:
1) We use the room mainly for TV watching so the (very big) TV is the focal point.
2) The TV can’t go above the fireplace because of how narrow the room is and how high the mantle is (the angle would be too severe and we’d all have sore necks).
3) With old plaster walls, I worry about hanging something as big and heavy as the TV. So while hanging the TV isn’t totally out, I’d need to hear from people who have done it in old houses.
4) We don’t use the fireplace now but it’s the biggest feature in the room so it’s hard to ignore.
5) We need to keep about 3 feet of space off the wall with the arches for traffic flow

This is how the 13’2″ x 22′ 6″ room is built:

 basic room layout

Top wall: left archway goes to stair landing/kitchen pass-through. It’s hard to show on the renderings but about 3 feet of railing is exposed on the left side of the archway. The right archway goes to our entry which is also a pass-through to the dining room. There is a built-in bookshelf between the archways. To the right of the second archway is a radiator. Here’s a photo (we’re mid-prep so the room has a everything pushed around):

photo 2

The right (front) wall has a giant window in the center. With the trim it’s 4.5 feet wide and 6 feet high. The bottom is only 11 inches off the floor. Crappy iPhoto here (watching the Browns suck, as usual):

photo 3

The bottom wall has 2 windows flanking the fireplace/mantle. The windows are about 3.5 feet wide and the mantle is 5′ 6″ wide with the hearth jutting out 26 inches into the room. The window on the right has a radiator in front of it.

photo 1

photo 4

The back wall has an off-center set of French doors that lead to the patio. The doors swing into the room and we do use them, so the area in front needs to stay clear. Although in the winter we can block them…we usually put the Christmas tree in front of them.

photo 1 copy

Ok, whew! Now that you’ve seen all that I can’t believe you’re still here. Below is how we’ve had the room set up:


Desk is in the top left. We really do use it and have no where else to put it. The outgoing couch faces the fireplace with a storage ottoman in front of it. A (old, crappy) Mission-style recliner and table with a lamp are by the front window. The TV and stand are angled in the front corner (that sucker is 53″ and we can’t go any smaller with the 52″ TV).now2


Still here? Here are some ideas I’ve worked up.

1) Swap out the couch for the love seat, and put chairs on either side of the fireplace. Thinking of chairs something like this in grey. Maybe put a bookshelf in the corner to hide some toys and stash kid books.

two new accent chairs

2) get a couch like this one and position it to the right of the fireplace. Put a slim sofa table behind it and keep the bookshelf from above. Get a chair for across from the fireplace (maybe recover the mod swivel chair I have from my grandma’s house?). Connect the two with a round table. All else says the same.

couch, table, swivel

3) This one flips the whole room so the TV is back between the stairs and the patio doors.  Get the new (cheap) couch and add a chair to the side of the fireplace and put the desk in the front corner.

new couch, recover swivel chair

flip room, recover swivel

4) This one was suggested by my mom who stalks my twitter then texts me her replies. Split the room into a TV area and sitting area. Angle the rug and furniture towards the TV. This requires us to ditch the desk which will be hard and Mark doesn’t really want to get rid of it. (I don’t know what happened to my archways in this one, you can barely see them). We’d need to get 2 chairs and 2 side tables in this work-up.

Angle, no desk

Angle, no desk2

Angle, no desk3

Now – go go gadget pocket friends! Tell me what to do and what to by!

3 thoughts on “Help Me Layout Our Living Room

  1. CK says:

    TV stand flat along the same wall as the French doors, put the TV on a slight angle (if possible). This will ultimately take up less floor space.

    Couch several feet off front window, facing the back wall/French doors. Perhaps place the desk behind the couch (like a couch table, but that depends on the size and style).

    One chair on the other side of the fireplace (but not tight to the fireplace) with a small, tallish side table (between the fireplace and chair). Angled towards the entrance archway.

    Another chair on the other side the of couch (as the wall/fireplace is on the other side), angled to the corner the French doors / fireplace ( ie angled towards the other chair) – can be turned towards TV when required. Perhaps a small, round side table separating the couch and chair.

    Your mom’s suggestion makes the room too small and choppy (sorry Mom). Angling major anchor points (ie carpet, large furniture) often looks awkward.

  2. Celeste says:

    I realize that the fireplace is big and takes up a wall, but if you never use it…get a piece of wood to fit the opening and paint it the same color as the fireplace. Then you can put furniture in front of it, and maybe put some kidstuff storage on either side of it. Right now it looks like you have a child barrier in front of it that makes it not even be possible to use that space even without a fire. Then don’t think about the fireplace until such time as you want to use it for fires, or you need to stage it to sell. Once that space is neutralized, it might look like a better spot for your furniture. Although you might have to wait until after Christmas Eve to close it off if you have Santa believers. ;o)

    I think that what they originally had in there were seats or little couches flanking the fireplace. A tv would not have been an issue, and the room would have had two entrances to keep good flow for people moving through. I’m not sure it works to break the room into two purposes, but I like the idea of having a quiet corner for the desk so that somebody can be with the group and still working on bills, laptop, homework or whatever else goes on at the desk.

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