If you possibly are the inhabitant of a row house or town house that was built somewhere around 1890, you could now have a living room that measures about 12 feet wide by 24 feet long. Your living room, back in the day, most likely started out as two 12 foot by 12 foot rooms. One of the rooms was a formal parlor and the other one was a living room. Those two spaces were probably once divided by a non-load bearing wall with pocket doors, or there was an archway. In one or both of the rooms could have been, or still is a wooden or marble mantelpiece, which is a decorative non-working fireplace. I have found that many of my readers have rooms like that which also have many doors and windows cutting up the wall spaces, which makes it a challenge arranging furniture. For this post I’ve come up with 12 possible ways of arranging furniture in the space, and I hope one or more of them you can apply to your home.
Before I go over the 12 illustrations with you, I want to go over somethings that I feel will help you decorate your room…
(1-A).. When picking out sofas for your room, look for ones that have small arms, and are not (on steroids) over stuffed. Overly large pieces in your narrow room will take up precious space that is needed to keep the room from looking cramped.
(1-B)..When shopping for upholstered living room furniture, look into buying modular or sectional pieces.
Three armless modular pieces put together make up a full-sized sofa, but take up a lot less space. Also each individual unit that makes up a modular sofa, by itself, designates seating for one individual person. Skip any thoughts of a loveseat. A loveseat is really a big chair for one person. Armless modular pieces, along with modular corner pieces can easily be fit into corners of rooms if needed.
Sectional sofas are also great because you can get them with just the seat and back. Depending on its length, the armless middle section of a sectional sofa is called an “armless loveseat”. If you could work with it, a sectional sofa that has just one arm gives you the seating of a three cushion sofa, but is also a chaise lounge. A piece like that would look dramatic, but take up less space than a two armed sofa.
(2)..When buying chairs for your living room, look for chairs with exposed arms, no arms and exposed feet. By being able to look through arm spaces, or under chairs, your furniture will seem visually lighter, and that will suggest more depth in your space.
(3).. When it comes to coffee tables and end tables look for tables with full or partial glass tops (a wood or metal frame with a glass center) so you can look down through the table. Select coffee tables and end tables with thin legs or pedestal styled bases so they don’t look too massive. Stay away from chest styled end tables. Clear Lucite coffee or end tables are another option.
When pairing end tables and lamps in your narrow room, pick lamps with bases that are either pillar or torch styled; those styles have less visual weight.
(4).. Limit your end tables with lamps on them. Instead go for floor lamps that are 58 to 64 inches tall, and use them around your room for illumination. The thin bases of the floor lamps will not visually or literally take up too much air or floor space in your room.
(5).. Mount Swing Arm Lamps on your walls if needed. You can have them hard-wired with electrical boxes an electrician installs on your walls, or you can mount swing arm lamps that come with extension cords and plug them into outlets around the bottom of your walls. The plug-in styled swing arm styled lamps will also come with a decorative cord cover for a crisp designer look.
(6).. Mirrors are an important alternative to paintings, prints and photos in a narrow room. Buy mirrors with large decorative frames and hang them around your room. Stack many small mirrors, one above the other in the corners of rooms, and put a big mirror over a fireplace place, or behind a sofa. The mirrors will bounce light around your room, and suggest depth that your room really doesn’t have.
(7-A).. If you can work with it, get a wide striped area rug, and place it so the stripes go horizontally from one of your 24 foot long walls to the other. The stripes will lead the eye across the 12 foot wide room suggesting more width than it really has.
(7-B).. Put an 8 foot by 10 foot area rug under, or a 6 foot by 9 foot area rug in front of a sofa and chair grouping on one side of your room, it will designate a sitting area. Area rugs can be placed on top of rug pads, directly on top of hard wood floors, or an area rug can be placed directly on top of wall-to-wall carpeting if you have it.
Now, before I go over the 12 illustrations, I want to tell you one more thing I did to figure out the exact placement of the pieces of furniture that I used in the rooms…
In my November 29, 2013 post titled It’s EASY to Arrange Furniture in a Square Living Room, some Ideas that will Inspire You (click here to read), I talked about making a grid on paper of one inch squares that represent one square foot of floor space in any room you are thinking about arranging furniture in. I also made templates (puzzle pieces) that represented a 3 foot by 7 foot sofa (that template is 3 inches by 7 inches), a number of chair templates that represent chairs that average 3 foot by 3 foot square, an upholstered bench that is 2 foot by 2 foot, and other furniture pieces as needed.
With my grid made to represent the exact size of the room in inches, I also marked off, along the edges of the grid, the exact width of doors, archways, fireplaces/mantelpiece fronts, windows, etc that were in the room. I started arranging my furniture pieces in the space until I came up with what I felt were working combinations. After coming up with my first possible choice, so I would remember it, I did a quick sketch of the room on a piece of paper, showing the furniture arrangement. Because my room is twice as long as it is wide, I measures out a 2 inch by 4 inch space, made a red dotted line down the middle to show the exact center of the space and drew in the furniture.
Now let’s look at the illustrations. Illustrations 1-8 show the layout of my family’s row house living room which we lived in from 1950 to 1972. At the front of the room was a small bay window that you could step into. In illustrations 1-4, on the left side walls of the rooms I put in fireplaces/mantelpieces. In all of the illustrations the red dotted line represents the middle of the space, dividing the one large room into two 12’x12′ areas. The arrows going into the rooms show ways of entry and traffic patterns.
Illustration 1 shows a room with two conversation groupings that are built around the mantelpieces. In the front of the room is a three cushion sofa that is counterbalanced by two upholstered chairs. In the back of the room by the second mantelpiece, a pair of chairs backs up against the two front chairs to form part of a conversation area, and they are counterbalanced by a chair with end table next to it. Notice how floor lamps are spread around the room for illumination. Row houses from the 1890’s most likely will have ceiling mounted light fixtures for primary illumination.
Illustration 2 shows two three cushion sofas facing each other in the front of the room with a coffee table between them. In the back of the room two chairs are placed next to each other, or better yet two modular pieces or an armless sectional sofa is placed there facing the mantelpiece. Two upholstered chairs flank the mantel forming a conversation area with the other seating in the space. Again, notice how floor lamps are placed around the room for illumination. For extra illumination, up on the wall, above and to the left and right of the two chairs, or modular or sectional piece that I suggest for the right side of this room, a pair of swing arm lights would work perfectly in that small space.
Illustration 3 shows the door to the front part of the room being closed and a three cushion sofa placed in front of it. To the left of the sofa is an end table with lamp, and to its right is a floor lamp. An artwork or mirror could be hung on the door for extra visual interest if needed. An upholstered chair is floating out in the room in front of the bay window. Two upholstered side chairs=SC (upholstered back and seat) or dining room side chairs (wooden back and upholstered seat only) flank the fireplace. Side chairs are usually smaller sized than most upholstered or occasional chairs and take up less space in a room.
To cut the bowling alley effect of the 24 foot long room, a desk with two small side chairs (SC) positioned on either side of it cuts the room almost in half; those chairs also form part of the conversation grouping in the back of the room.
Illustration 4 shows how the front part of the room becomes kind of office like with a big desk and two chairs counterbalancing it. A second conversation group, similar to the one seen in illustration 2 is in the back of the room. Illustrations 5-8 show how the room changes if the mantelpieces are removed, which gives more options for furniture arranging. The left outside wall in both of these spaces will not be completely flat. Behind the now taken away mantelpieces is a chimney, which was used back in the day when stoves were needed in the rooms for heating.
Illustration 5 shows a three cushion sofa that is flanked on both sides by a pair of upholstered chairs. There is also an end table with lamp on one side of the sofa and a floor lamp on the other. A side chair (SC) with floor lamp behind it is on the right side of the room by the entry door.
At the back of the room is a grouping of chairs and an upholstered bench (UB) which form a TV viewing area.
Illustration 6 shows how two sofas are placed back to back in the center of the room (red dotted ling) and chairs of different descriptions are grouped around them to form conversation and TV viewing areas.
Illustration 7 is a modified version of illustration 5.
Illustration 8 has the front entry to the room closed up/walled over, and the new entry from the hall is on the right. Two three cushion sofas are placed opposite each other and two chairs flank one of the sofas. The conversation grouping in the back of the room is similar to others already gone over. In illustrations 9-12 the 12×24 foot room has changed a bit.
Illustration 9 shows how a corner fireplace has been added to the 12×24 foot room. To counterbalance the fireplace on one side of the room, a grouping of modular furniture is placed opposite it. A side chair (SC) is placed by the fireplace for extra seating. At the back of the room to counterbalance the grouping up front, is a three cushion sofa and small coffee table with a TV across from it.
Illustration 10 is the same room as seen in illustration 9. A three cushion sofa is floating out from the wall, and is placed opposite the fireplace at the same angle as the fireplace is extending into the room. A drop leaf round table was placed behind the sofa to fill in space and an accent lamp could be placed on it. An upholstered chair or even a side chair is to the left of the sofa, and an upholstered bench (UB) is by the fireplace. A TV grouping is at the back of the room, and again notice how floor lamps are placed around the room for illumination.
Illustrations 11 and 12 both show a room with many entrances into it. There are French doors and windows looking/going out onto a porch on the left side of the room, two doors opening into a room(s) on the right and another entry at the bottom. With rooms like that, I placed the sofas first and tried to make groupings of furniture around them for conversation. Extra chairs are placed in corners of the rooms to fill in space, but can be moved closer to other chairs or the sofas when needed to form conversation groupings.
I hope I helped you a bit with arranging furniture in your long and narrow room. I have one more important bit of advice. Before buying any new furniture for your home, first get the measurements for the furniture’s length, width, and height that interests you. Go home and tape together newspapers to form templates that are the exact size as the furniture you are thinking about buying. Lay the template(s) on the floor in the place(s) you are thinking of having it/them and instantaneously you will know if it/they work or not. Remember you have to be able to walk by or around that piece of furniture you are thinking of buying for your space.
Looking at the Different Shapes of Lamp Bases 12-20-2013,
Matching the Right shape End Table with a Table Lamp 1-12-2014,
The Right height of Table Lamp for your End Table 5-19-2011,
The answer to “Can you put a Floor Lamp next to a Sofa?” 10-4-2012
When buying Living Room Furniture, FORGET the Loveseat, buy two Wing, Club or Occasional Chairs instead 10-13-2012,
Arranging furniture around a Fireplace in the Corner of a Room 9-29-2012,
Arranging Living Room Furniture TWELVE different ways in the Same Room 9-15-2012,
Arranging Living Room Furniture so Sofas talk to Chairs, Like the Pros do 9-7-2012,
It’s Easy to Decorate a room with a Tall/High Ceiling 2-3-2013,
Interior Decorating is all about Equal Balance 2-27-2011
It’s Easy to Arrange Furniture in a Square Living Room, Some Ideas that will Inspire you 11-29-2013.
(Hanging Pictures and Mirrors, etc)
Hanging a Collection of Plate/Dishes up on the Wall 1-19-2013,
Picking and Hanging the Right size Picture or Mirror over your Fireplace 6-23-2011,
Hanging Pictures around a Room 8-3-2011,
It’s Easy to Make a Grouping of Pictures 6-29-2011,
Making an Interesting Arrangement of Pictures 7-8-2011,
It’s Easy to Hang Pictures Up on the Wall 7-17-2011,
Hanging Pictures over a Sofa 9-12-2011,
Arranging your Decorative Accessories (Knickknacks and Collectables) 6-7-2011,
A Bridge unites a Tablescape and Wall Decor 6-10-2011,
Pick (Use) four Colors when Decorating a Room 3-7-2011,
Looking at Patterns used in Interior Decorating on Fabric, Drapes Wallpaper and Carpeting 3-10-2012,
Looking at the Different Sizes of Patterns used on Wallpaper and Fabric 3-20-2012,
Mixing and Matching Fabric and Wallpaper Patterns 4-13-2012,
(Curtains and Drapes)
The Right way to Hang Curtains and Drapes 5-3-2011,
Hanging Valances, Curtains and Drapes on Different Kinds of Windows 7-15-2012.