Interior Design for Living: L-shape layout is challenging

By SUSAN GILL SPELLMEYER

L-shape layout is challenging

Q: We live in a very typical, colonial-style house where the living room and dining room are an L shape. The living room (13 feet by 19 feet 6 inches) has one large picture window with an entry from the foyer and one into the dining room.

The room is too large to put all the furniture against the walls and create a comfortable conversational group­ing, but it seems too small to subdivide.

I definitely want to utilize an upright piano, a sofa, a small side chair, and a wing chair with a foot stool. I am flexible about my other choices of furnishings, but need to seat a mini­mum of six people.

I desperately need some direction for an appropriate layout. Any help you could give would be very welcome.

A: I see many homes with similar L-shaped living and dining rooms. The sizes may vary, but the basics that you mentioned are fairly standard.

Even though it is a typical floor plan, these rooms are not always the easiest to arrange. Yours, being larger than most, is a good example.

In laying it out, I began with the furniture that you want to utilize.

The piano, more functional than aesthetic, should be positioned on an inside wall, and not interfere with the seating arrangement. With that in mind, I would put it to the left of the entry into the foyer. That wall, being so far from the other end of the room, would not be utilized for seating and is the appropriate place for the piano.

I would put the sofa centered on the end wall. Your other option would have been to position it in front of the window, but that would emphasize the length of the room, which you wouldn't want to do. Placing it on the end wall makes the room appear wider.

On either end of the sofa, I would put an end table with a lamp. The side chair would then be angled to the right of the sofa, and an oval table placed in front of it.

The wing chair and foot stool work well to the right of the entry into the dining room. I would angle the chair into the room and put a small round table to its left. A standing floor lamp behind it would provide light for reading.

In front of the window, I would place two swivel chairs with a table between them. There is no need to put a lamp on this table unless you want to use the chairs for reading. There is adequate light in the room, and when possible, I always try to avoid placing a lamp in front of a picture window. I think it is far more attractive when the view is left unobstructed.

The swivel chairs provide the flexi­bility of being able to turn them in whatever direction you choose. I think with this furniture arrangement that would be an attractive feature.

To complete the room, I would put a chest or a small drop-lid desk to the left of the window. I would place a lamp on it for function, as well as serving to balance the other lighting in therein.

I think this arrangement presents well and incorporates into the scheme the furniture you wish to use. It creates a comfortable conversational grouping and you'll easily be able to seat six people.

Good luck with it. I hope these ideas have been some help to you.

L-shaped room a big challenge

Q: I think we have recently spent a lot of money and created a real problem for ourselves at the same time.

We felt our family room was much too small for our needs and we also needed a study. We knocked through the wall into what used to be the garage and created an L-shaped fami­ly room and an adjacent study.

We never even considered how we were going to arrange the space. AH we knew was that we had a lot more of it and were thrilled at the prospect.

The study is no problem in that we have the standard 5-foot desk, a filing cabinet and two free-standing book­shelves. They can easily be arranged in many different ways.

The L-shaped family room has turned out to be a decorating disaster. We eliminated the only large, usable, solid wall close to the fireplace. When you consider that the sliding door must remain accessible, there is no availa­ble space for a furniture grouping. Currently, we never even start a fire because no one can appreciate it. We definitely want the fireplace to be the focal point of the room.

Also, we don't just want chairs. That would be easy enough to do. We want a comfortable sofa and need to seat at least six people comfortably. If at all possible, additional seating would be helpful because we entertain a lot in the family room.

To complicate the issue even more, we'd like to be able to watch our television from the sitting area.

The only furniture we intend to keep is the game table with the chairs, and the bookcase.

I realize that our current arrange­ment is completely unacceptable, which is why I'm desperate enough to write for your help. Am I trying to achieve something that's absolutely impossible? I'm beginning to think so...

A: I don't need to tell you this was a tough one. For all the reasons you mentioned, this is a very difficult space in which to arrange furniture. To aesthetically provide for your needs in the room as it is now is virtually impossible. It's no wonder that you didn't know what to do.

After playing with it on paper for quite a while, my suggestion to you is to consider making an architectural change. Angling the outside corner of the study adjacent to the family room would accomplish a great deal. Be­cause the arrangement of furniture in the study is so inherently flexible, removing a few feet would not have a detrimental effect. It would, however, be a tremendous advantage to the family room.

It's important to point out that a qualified architect or contractor would have to be consulted before proceed­ing. They will be able to determine if this is a load-bearing wall and will give you an estimate of cost.

If it is feasible financially, minor structural changes can have a tremen­dous effect upon the appearance and function of the room. This is a prime example and, if the cost is within reason, it would be money well spent.

Angling the corner, the space flows far more gracefully. Before, it ap­peared to be two separate rooms and almost demanded that it be treated as such.

You are now able to fit a sofa perpendicular to the hearth. Before making the change there was no appropriate place to put it and still provide comfortable seating for six people. A sofa table and lamp behind it and a standing lamp between the sofa and the chair provide adequate light­ing. If desired, you could put an ottoman or bench on wheels under the sofa table, to be used for extra seating. I would put a small coffee table in front of the sofa.

If you angle a chair and ottoman in the corner, you can have a triangular shelf built to hold your television and mount it above the back of the chair. A wall-mounted light would provide light for reading.

Two chairs with an ottoman, an end table and lamp fit nicely into the far corner to the left of the sliding door.

I placed the game table in front of the large window. This is an ideal spot for it because of the natural daylight. A fixture hanging from the ceiling would give you light in the evening.

The bookcase that was on the outside wall of the study, close to the kitchen, will now be moved to the wall opposite the garage door.

I feel the room now works well functionally. In addition, it's much more interesting architecturally and aesthetically. I hope the structural change is feasible for you because, as you can see, it changes the whole character of the room.

Client Testimonials

Susan designed our entire home in Albany and when we moved to Florida, we interviewed a number of designers down here, but ended up flying her down to help with our new home...
— L.P. Albany, NY

Areas We Serve

SGS typically services the communities of the Capital Region, outside of Albany New York, including the following communities: Slingerlands, Delmar, Saratoga, Loudonville, Guilderland, Chatham, Kinderhook and Columbia County, as well as parts of Western, MA including Williamstown, Lenox and other communities in the Berkshires Mountains. We have also done projects in NYC, Long Island, VA, and FL.