Over the years that we’ve been publishing, we’ve heard many times that readers want decorating ideas for their normal sized tract home. They love to see the grand rooms in magazines where the living room is 24 x 18 and has room for two sitting areas and a piano. However, they don’t live like that and they find themselves frustrated by the suggestions and ideas that they’ll never be able to use.
Today I’m going to focus on offering you ideas that are doable in your average sized (or maybe even small) home/condo/apartment. You too can live large – or at least larger – with a little careful planning!
This cozy room has ideas galore for an average sized room. Instead of using a sectional that overwhelms a small room, try this arrangement with a sofa, two side chairs and an ottoman for even more seating. The trick to making this room arrangement suit any size of room is the scale of the armchairs. If your room is narrow (this one might only be 12′ or so from sofa back to wall), don’t choose big wide overstuffed chairs, but instead look for seating that is comfortable, but narrower. In this room a large mirror is used almost as another window to reflect light into the room, but it’s also where the TV could be placed. The width of the table behind the sofa indicates to me that it’s to serve as a dining table (see the bench tucked under) so this would be a perfect arrangement for a small living/dining area.
Look at all the style in this small room. A standard sofa is about 8′ long so this room is probably only 10′ wide by maybe 12′ or 14′ long. Built-ins help control the clutter and create display space, the coffee table is on wheels so it can be pushed out of the way as needed and the sofa is joined by two extra chairs creating a nice conversation area. Those could be your extra dining chairs but with a slipcover to fit the spare room decor or you could choose narrow armless chairs of any kind.
Two views of this 300 square foot NYC apartment show how it manages to live large and fit seating, extra seating, a bed and console/dresser in its tiny main space. The use of ottomans for mobile seating, clear cubes for a coffee table so they just disappear, and a narrow armless chair for extra seating are all ideas we can incorporate into our spaces.
Sometimes it helps to think outside the box when considering furniture arrangements. Placing four chairs around a table or large ottoman instead of using a sofa is a pleasing arrangement. It makes for great conversations and comfy reading or relaxing. In the photo above notice the small wood armchair against the wall? It’s small and tucked away, but ready to pull up for extra seating in a moment.
A small room can use a sectional successfully if the scale and shape of it don’t overwhelm the room. Extra seating to create a conversation area is provided by the window seat box.
The pictures above show a small apartment but one that’s infused with charming character. Two facing love seats provide adequate seating and the couple of poufs add a little extra (for kids only I think – I wouldn’t want to sit down there!). Choose dining seating that can be pulled into the conversation area when needed. Lots of white keeps it bright and open as possible but those splashes of pink give the room personality with a capital P.
Grand Rooms, Grand Ideas
Sometimes we can’t help ourselves. We buy the magazine that’s filled with celebrity homes or giant McMansions, just to drool over them, never realizing there are ideas in those rooms for everyone, even you in your average sized home.
The above room looks bigger than “average” to me. It’s likely 15-18′ wide and 20′ or more long – not a space most of us have. However, we can still pick up some tips from the room. Imagine there’s a wall at the right side of the chairs/sofa and you lose all the 6-7′ further to the right. A 12-13′ wide room would still have room to place two accent chairs across from the sofa, taking up about the same length as the sofa, with a small table between them if possible. It’s better to choose a little narrower chair and leave room for a table than to go with big chairs and no table. Anchor one wall with a large piece of art or the TV and entertainment center. Add a plant in the corner where possible to bring life and airiness into the room.
These two rooms are the same. The room in the top photo is big with plenty of room for a 40″ square ottoman, side chairs, sofa and even a window seat flanked by bookshelves. But look at the second photo…… a sofa with coffee table and two side chairs, a cozy fireplace flanked by bookcases. The room is smaller but has the same elements, just adapted for it’s size. You too can look at those grand rooms and find ideas that will work for you!
How Can You Live Large?
Look at your problem room with new eyes – or at least new ideas. Instead of dreaming for a bigger house, figure out how to live larger in the space you have. Average size doesn’t have to mean average design. Use your creativity or your magazine photos to come up with a plan that will add more livability and style to your rooms. Then, tell us how you did it.
We Can Help
Or, if you still can’t figure out how to make the best use of your space, Cindy and I can help. Even though we aren’t able to offer free email help any longer (just too many inquiries), we did restructure our fees to make affordable consultation options available. See all the details here.