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Decorating & Furniture/Furniture Arrangement in multi-use family room


Hi Alicia,
My husband and I recently purchased our first home for our newly-added-to family (our daughter is 9 months old), and are running into really big space issues in the living room (our only living space, outside of the bedrooms).  

If you're able to go to the web, my house plans are located at  The area I'm speaking of is labeled as "Great Room" and "Dining", in the upper right hand corner of the layout.  

I’ll try my best to describe each wall in detail, so you can have as good a lay of the land as possible, without a picture.  If you have email, I can always email you a picture or the drawing from the builder (who we purchased it from).

The dimensions of the room-- it is a rectangle, and is 19.5 feet x 16.5 feet, with very few continuous walls.  Here is an overview of the individual walls (clockwise as you walk into the room from the front door):

Wall # 1 – 16.5 feet long.  There is a large cutout (meant for media/tv storage) AND a fireplace.  The space between the media cutout and fireplace/mantle is 4”.  The space from the side of the fireplace mantle and the wall is 8”.  

Wall # 2 – 19.5 feet long.  From wall #1, the window is 30” from the edge of the wall.   The window is 74” wide and 60” tall (the bottom of the window moulding sets just above the height of the couch).  Along the same wall is a large sliding glass door (6’ wide).

Wall #3 - solid, with two 16” square windows along the top

Wall # 4 - practically non-existent/unusable for placing anything next to it
 Section ‘A’  is a 5’ long half wall that fronts my kitchen sink and countertop.  There is a 12" ledge-- possibly meant to be a breakfast bar?    
 Section “B” is a 4’ walkway from the kitchen to the living area
 Section “C” is a 5’ piece of wall that has the last 52” recessed 4” (the first 6” of that section of wall is part of an architectural column.
 Section “D” is the walkway/entrance from the foyer (I use the word ‘foyer’ loosely… its **small**

Our uses for the room:
-   Entertaining guests
-   Watching television (we have a 60" placed in the area marked "media storage"-- its a floor to ceiling cutout in the wall.
-   We use it for a play area for our 9 month old daughter—its sectioned off in a way by using the kids puzzle floor mats (totals approx 6’x6’) to keep her toys, etc, in one part of the room.
-   I house my files and computer in an enclosed computer armoire.

Furniture we are using in the room:
-   Sofa (7’)
-   Chair and a Half (60” long x 40” deep)
-   Ottoman that matches chair and a half (60” x 36”) (has been in the garage, I don't know where to put it)
-   Coffee Table (42” square)—I moved it to the garage till I figure out what to do with all of this!
-   Computer Armoire and desk chair: two doors on the front of the cabinet open and can swing 180 degrees back.  Armoire measures 4' wide.
-   6’ x 6’ play mat (child’s padded play mat, looks like a big alphabet puzzle) to keep Hannah’s toys together, and her knees a little more protected from our wood floors.

Biggest Problem w/ the space:
-   Furniture arrangement— with the fireplace 18 inches to the right of the cutout in the wall where we put our tv, it makes for a VERY large focal point.  I’ve been really stumped as to how to arrange seating.  There isn’t any particular flow to the room— it isn’t welcoming when you walk in (the way its arranged right now).  

I have moved furniture around and around in this room, and have really been trying to make a nice living arrangement for my home and for my husband and I to enjoy—if you have a suggestion, I would really appreciate the guidance!  Please email me if you need any further information.  I really appreciate your help!

Thank You, Kim

Hello Kim,
I think you have the opportunity to perhaps attempt TWO activity areas in the room.

Tip 1:  Enlarge your floorplan to 1/4" scale.  Check the doors on a scale for 36" wide to doublecheck for size.  This will allow you to sketch your furniture dimensions and cut them out. Draw furniture blocks using the 1/4" scale.

Tip 2:  Place your furniture templates on the floorplan and arrange according to FUNCTION.  

Tip 3:  Make sure you have plenty of walking space between the main areas of activitiy.  A minimum of 42" is comfortable.  36" is standard.

By doing prevent further frustration!  Its what designers actually do first.  We hardly ever make decisions unless its drawn on paper and evaluated.  By moving around the furniture physically, you think you've exhausted all possibilities.  That is probably not the case.  

Take a deep breath and take the logical approach.  Interior design is all about logic.  This may be shocking to some, but there actually is a process we follow.  First and foremost, using floorplans to solve space issues really will assist you in getting past this obstacle.

Good Luck to you!
Alicia Valair, CID, CKD, Allied Member ASID

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Alicia Valair, CID, CKD, Allied Member ASID


Whole house interior space planning and decorating; kitchen layout, and design trends; residential themed environments; selecting furnishings and accessories for your lifestyle.


12 years experience as an interior designer, FIDER graduate and business owner for 5 years. Speciality area: residential interior designer, NKBA certified kitchen designer, and home office designer


Homes of Color magazine, Las Vegas Life magazine, Tucson Home and Garden magazine.

B.A. Interior Design, Marymount University, Arlington, VA

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