Do you have a long narrow room in your home that you sometimes refer to as “the bowling alley”? If so, have you simply lined the furniture up against the two long walls thinking that was the only way to arrange it? That’s what most people do. Today I’m here to tell you that’s not the solution – there’s a better way to place the furniture in an oblong room.
This is the fourth article in a series on furniture placement. The first series post , Furniture Placement Tips, provided an overview of furniture placement tips you could apply to any room shape. The second post focused on placing furniture in a rectangular room and the third covered placing furniture in a square room. Today’s article focuses on furniture placement tips for an oblong room. For the purpose of simplified illustration and universal application, the room layout provided today does not include any doors, windows or architectural features.
Placing Furniture in an Oblong Room
Oblong rooms are often found in apartments, condominiums, additions, and as porches, lanais or verandas. More often than not they cause grief for the homeowner trying to combine form, function and visual delight. You don’t want to line the furniture up along the two long walls in an oblong room. You also don’t want to make the mistake of trying to treat an oblong room like a rectangle – it’s not! It’s longer, it’s narrower, it’s a shape unique to itself.
The most important key to successfully arranging furniture in an oblong room is to get it off the walls and place it at an angle. Take a look at the two floor plans below and you can instantly visualize how the first looks like a bowling alley and the second provides visual interest while allowing you to easily access and use the furniture.
Too often people think pushing the furniture up against the wall will make a narrow oblong room look bigger. It doesn’t – it only creates a bowling alley effect. To make a narrow oblong room look larger you need to pull the furniture away from the walls and use all of the space in the room. That’s what will make it look larger. The furniture actually zig-zags across the room, drawing you in and through the space. If you were to draw a line going through the middle of the left hand sofa then hitting the wall and bouncing off at an angle through the middle of the right hand sofa, the line would continue to the the opposite wall and bounce at an angle through the dining room set and off the edge of the room, zig-zagging through the entire space in a series of short lines.
Although you will obviously have different furniture than the illustration above (maybe a piano instead of a desk or perhaps a pool table instead of a dining table or two loveseats instead of a sofa or a loveseat?) you can make this floor plan work for you. Just follow the process below.
Here’s how to place your furniture in an oblong room:
1. Place the largest seating piece (usually the sofa or loveseat) across from the room’s focal point (the fireplace, the window, the TV, the art wall, etc.). Next place the next largest seating pieces at a 90 degree angle from the large piece (usually a love seat or two chairs in a living/family room) so it forms an “L”.
2. Now place secondary seating directly across from your first “L” grouping. Notice this secondary seating isn’t quite diagonal from the seating area like it is in the rectangular room – because of the room’s narrowness the furniture has to be off-set a bit. Depending on the size of your room and furniture you may only have room for one chair instead of two but follow the same layout.
4. As in the previous shaped room arrangements, after placing your seating, fill in open spaces around the room starting with your largest pieces of furniture. Be sure to consider the size and shape of the open space and the furniture pieces you still need to place. This is the time to consider television placement if there will be one in the room (unless you’re doing a family room and it is your focal point so furniture is already placed around it.)
5. Next place smaller pieces of furniture such as end tables, sofa tables, ottomans and such so they relate to the seating areas. You may find you need to move your furniture closer together to cozy up the conversation area or you may need to move the seating pieces out in order to enlarge the seating area enough to accommodate the tables.
6. Use area rugs to anchor furniture groupings or extend furniture pieces.
7. Place any large trees or potted plants so they tie into the furniture arrangement – don’t isolate them by relegating them to empty corners of the room.
8. Now add table lamps and floor lamps to your room – aim for a 3-point or triangular light placement so you have an even spread of light to anchor each furniture grouping.
9. Notice how the dining table in this room is at an angle and not placed across the end of the oblong room (even though it could fit)? This is so your eye and physical movement through the furniture is uninterrupted – flowing through the room in a zig-zag shape. This placement fills the spaces in the room so it looks larger rather than emphasizing the walls and making the room look narrow.
10. Double check your furniture placement – make sure you are not blocking any doorways or passageways. Can people walk through the room without cutting through the middle of your conversation area? If not, reassess your placement decisions and alter them as needed. Make sure your lighting creates a triangular or diamond pattern and that good lighting is available in areas that you expect to read or do things like needlework, knitting or computer work.
If you noticed the step-by-step instructions for the oblong room are similar to the instructions for the rectangular and square shaped rooms, you’re right! The process, or order of the steps, will be the same in all rooms because it works – it enables your success. The process or steps don’t vary – what varies is the placement of the furniture in each different room. In all three rooms you place the largest seating piece first. BUT, in the oblong room you ALWAYS place the furniture on an angle – not required in a rectangular or square room.
What’s Your Angle?
The illustrations provide a starting point or template for you to springboard from when arranging an oblong room. Your furniture will obviously be a different mix, your activity needs may vary and the focal point and traffic patterns of your room will impact your final furniture placement. The main things to consider, however, are pull the furniture away from the walls on an angle, place your largest seating piece first and build from there, keep lighting in a triangular pattern and use all the space in the room in order to make it look bigger.
Once your furniture is in place, move on to the art and accessories – remembering to visually connect them and layer them so they relate to the furniture you have just placed!
As always, I’d love to hear about your trials and successes with furniture placement in your oblong room. Leave a message by clicking on the Comment link at the end of today’s article or send an email (and photos!) to firstname.lastname@example.org.