The Challenge: The furniture layout was a major concern for the clients, who needed ample seating for entertaining — but didn't want to overcrowd the decor. Complicating matters, the room's proportions are long and somewhat narrow, with underutilized alcoves flanking the fireplace.
Tip 1: Put Dead Space to Work
"There were awkward nooks with high windows on either side of the fireplace, and I wanted them to feel intentional. A pair of wing chairs softened the angularity and extended the seating area. Conventional wisdom would suggest placing bookcases there, but shelves filled with knickknacks would have made the room look overpopulated and would distract from the gorgeous fireplace surround."
Tip 2: Unmoor Your Furniture
"Everyone's instinct is to push furniture up against the walls. And then they wonder why they don't use the room! It's because the furniture is too far apart for conversation, what I call the 'wallflower effect.' Pull furniture away from the walls, leaving at least 30 inches behind it to pass through. Give it a shot: If it works, it's an easy transformation, and if you hate it — just push it back!"
Tip 3: Supersize Your Cocktail Table
"If your guests have to stand up to grab an appetizer or set down a drink, the layout of your room needs to be more user friendly. Here, I used what I call a 'connector' cocktail table because its generous size unites the seating areas, and guests can easily reach it from several parts of the room. Keeping about a foot between it and the furniture creates cohesion yet leaves enough visual breathing room."
Tip 4: Set up Furniture to Encourage Conversation
"Always let the activity of a room dictate the furniture arrangement. In a space where you entertain, create conversation areas where guests can chat. People think, Plunk a big sofa in there! But I find it unusual for three people to sit side by side on a sofa together and turn their heads to talk. Chairs are better if you love to entertain."
Andrews sofa and Dresden chairs by ; sofa covered in a fabric in Grey, and chairs covered in Madison Linen in Nectar by . wing chairs in Ruffin Ivory. Ottomans by Lee Industries in Petite Zig Zag in French Blue by . Duralee linen/silk curtains in Silver. Stainless steel Lotus cocktail table by . Charleston Regency Carolina end table by . Carousel table lamps in Soft Silver by . Damask marble tile by on fireplace. North Shore carpet in Oceanfront by .
The Challenge: Langdon wanted to make a big first impression in this space, but she didn't have a large canvas to work with. Every wall is punctuated with either a doorway or a window, limiting her options for furnishings and surface treatments.
Tip 1: You Don't Need Big Expanses of Wall to Use Wallcoverings
"This dynamic grass cloth sparked the entire color scheme. The texture and the subtle imperfections in the hand printing create dimension. Although the pattern is pretty large, it's great for this foyer: Since you never see it on a full wall, it doesn't look too busy. People are often afraid of bold wallcoverings, but if you're just seeing slits and slivers of it, it packs a punch without overwhelming a space."
Tip 2: Don't Be Afraid to Block Windows
"Lacking a solid wall to push furniture against, we had to use a window wall — something people tend to avoid for fear of blocking light or views. Don't be a slave to your architecture: Make it work. Low pieces like these ottomans won't block views, even if your windows extend almost to the floor. And lean profiles — such as the Parsons-style console — let light and air pass through."
Tip 3: Your Secret Weapon: Ottomans!
"Throughout these rooms, ottomans bring in another scale. They keep layouts mobile, working as spare perches or side tables. I love ottomans in front of a hearth, where they draw attention to decorative surrounds. And in warmer months when your fireplace is dormant, you have something pretty to look at — they're like jewelry."
Tip 4: Go for a Large Rug in a Small Space
"A large faux-sisal rug makes this area feel welcoming. I worried that if we chose one that was sized to leave a wide wood border, it would make the foyer seem smaller and the rug look like a postage stamp! The indoor/outdoor material is great for the wear-and-tear of a foyer, and the subtle pattern doesn't compete with the wallcovering."
Walls covered in Imperial Gates in Periwinkle/Navy by . Curtains of a fabric in Winter White, trimmed with Orsay Silk Ribbed Border in Blue Melange by . Ruhlmann Three Light chandelier by . Parsons console table covered in lacquered grass cloth by . Burke ottomans by . Tunisia carpet in Silver by .
The Challenge: To devise a compact seating plan conducive to intimate group gatherings. The clients needed a family hangout for rela and playing games, but the room is tight. Langdon also wanted to incorporate pattern without making the space too busy.
Tip 1: Use Wallpaper as an Accent
"The clients loved this patterned wallpaper, but the room is square-foot challenged, so we had to limit ourselves. We used it to line the backs of the bookcases — a neat trick if you don't want to go for a full accent wall. Bookcases are a forgiving place for DIY wallpaper installation, because your handiwork will be somewhat hidden."
Tip 2: Maximize the Seating Area with a Slim-Armed Sofa
"The former sofa had arms almost 12 inches wide, wasting two feet of space in a room that couldn't spare it! We swapped it for one that's four inches smaller, but that has 20 more inches of sitting space because of its slim arms. They can squish a whole other kid on there! Don't fixate on overall sofa size; look at the inside seat width instead."
Jermain sofa and Osborne swivel chairs by , both covered in fabrics. Curtains of a fabric in Winter White. Odom coffee table in high-gloss Cream by . Back of bookshelf covered with Groovy Gate in Midnight Navy by . Metal Banded table lamps in Aged Iron by . Fancy Fretwork rug in Midnight Navy by . Walls painted Signature in Montpelier Ashlar Gray.
Tip 3: Swivel Chairs!
"We needed somewhere for every family member to sit, but because of the room's tight dimensions we couldn't use large chairs. These 29-inch-wide swivel chairs are super-comfortable but sleek. I like swivel chairs in large rooms — they allow you to mediate between seating areas — but they're equally effective in small spaces because they give an ease of movement. Plus, this is a family hangout, and kids love to swivel in chairs!"
Tip 4: Group Small Artwork for Big Impact
"People think you need to use small artwork in a small room, but the opposite is true: One large piece — or a grouping that reads as a single big piece — works best, opening up a room to make it feel larger. Here, framing a selection of black-and-white family photos as an ensemble gave the same impact a large piece of art would have."
benches covered in 's Whitewell in Lake Blue. Modern Day Designs picture frames in Flat Espresso Veneer from .