5 Ways to Furnish the Trickiest Room In Your House

The Brief:

The clients: A family of four including young twins
The space: A large rectangular living room with vaulted ceilings, currently unfurnished except for two console tables and a TV  

  Looking into the room from the kitchen which is connected in an open floor plan. The opening across the room leads to the master bedroom and the garage.

Looking into the room from the kitchen which is connected in an open floor plan. The opening across the room leads to the master bedroom and the garage.

  Here is the view from the room into the kitchen. The TV is mounted on the wall above a 5 foot long console table, which sits just to the left of the doorway into the foyer.

Here is the view from the room into the kitchen. The TV is mounted on the wall above a 5 foot long console table, which sits just to the left of the doorway into the foyer.

  This is the view from the foyer into the room showing the console on the wall opposite the TV. The kitchen is to the left.

This is the view from the foyer into the room showing the console on the wall opposite the TV. The kitchen is to the left.

The goal: A cozy space that’s balanced and functional for traffic, with a conversational furniture arrangement near the TV where the family can cuddle up and watch a movie, drink coffee, or play board games.


The challenge: The living room, which is also connected to the open kitchen, is large and long, with high, vaulted ceilings, so it’s currently anything but cozy.  It’s also the highest traffic area in the home, with three different pathways that need to remain navigable, so creating an intimate and conversational furniture layout near the TV without impeding flow will take some careful planning in terms of furniture configuration and dimensions.

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This image shows the three pathways that must be accommodated:

  1. Between the foyer and the kitchen

  2. Between the foyer and the back hallway (which is the entrance the family uses most day-to-day because they come in from the garage)

  3. Between the back hallway and the kitchen

Looks tricky, right? Don’t worry, we came up with not one, not two, but five different layout options for this space as well as some other great suggestions for realizing the potential of this great space!  What looks at first glance like a design headache is actually a diamond in the rough! Let’s dig in, starting with what we’re referring too as ‘architectural solutions.’

A Cure For Big-Empty-Box Syndrome

One of the reasons these homeowners may not have found the perfect furniture layout for their room (despite many attempts!), is not so much with how the furniture is positioned, but rather the lack of architectural details in the vaulted room. The vaulted ceilings create two large, blank triangular canvases on either side of the room. Without any definition on those two walls (fireplace, built-ins, windows, or wainscoting) or on the ceiling itself, the room is always going to feel “not quite right.”

Here are three different options to address this dilemma:

1) Weathered Faux Beams

Just as the kitchen benefits from the dimension, texture, and character of the shiplap, so would the living room benefit from similar architectural features. So, depending on how long they plan to live in the home, they may want to consider a long-term plan that includes adding architectural details to the vaulted ceiling. This might be in the form of weathered faux beams that run across the room, accentuating the height of the ceiling while helping to “square off” the triangular walls. Or, these type of beams could be placed directly on the ceiling and the existing center beam could be encased in the same material.

2) Built-ins or Large Book Shelves








The scale of what’s placed against the wall at the far end of the room (master bedroom end) needs to be large to fill up more of the wall space and add interest. We suggest built-ins (again, realizing this would be a long-term plan idea), or large modular bookshelves that could also house the TV. Ones with fully adjustable shelving like the ones shown in the mood board would work well for displaying not only books, but also artwork, pottery, plants and provide a good place for tucking away toys, crafts and crayons in baskets or bins.

3) Gallery Wall

Another option, if they’d like to keep both console tables and not do large bookshelves, would be to add art to the existing walls. In the above image, we’ve shown an example where they keep the TV where it is, but they add a gallery wall to the space. To have things feel to-scale on that wall, we’ve added artwork in varying sizes and orientations. This also emphasizes the height of the ceiling and adds dimension, texture, and character to the space, similar to how architectural details would. The key is to make sure the art continues up towards the ceiling. If they keep it at “regular art level” (eye level), it’s only going to emphasize all that blank space above and make the furniture that’s there appear too small.  

Now that we’ve shared some bigger design solutions for the space, let’s get into the possibilities for furniture layouts.

Layout #1: A Zone Approach  

This layout creates two separate zones and moves the TV to the opposite wall.  In the TV zone, we have used a small settee rather than a full size sofa to allow for traffic flow from the kitchen and front door back to the master.  In front of the settee are two ottomans that can serve as additional seating or be pushed together to create a coffee table. We are showing the TV mounted inside built-ins because we recommend opting for built-ins or large bookshelves to anchor the space if the TV is moved to this wall.  To create the two separate zones, we have used two rugs: 8x10 for children’s chair zone and 7x10 for the TV zone. 7x10 is not a standard size, but it should be fairly easy to find if sourcing vintage rugs. There is a bench in front of the windows, and children’s chairs grouped in front of their shorter console which they use to store bins of toys.

Layout #2: Go Shallow With a Sofa

This floor plan shows the TV on the same wall as the first (still located in a built-in or book shelf), but with only one large zone of furniture.  In this floor plan, the sofa is not nearly as deep as the one the home owners had previously tried (40” deep). We recommend selecting one that's around 32" deep which is what we have shown in this floor plan.  In the corner across from the hallway to the master, we have shown two small ottomans or poufs that can be tucked away or pulled out for additional seating as necessary. Here’s a quick mood board to give an idea of how this could look, with swatches showing fabric options for the chairs and sofa in the bottom vignette:

Layout #3: Shallow Sofa but the TV Stays Put

In this plan, the TV and their consoles remain in their current locations, with a large-scale gallery wall hung above the TV.  Like in the second floor plan, the sofa shown here is only 32" deep and we have shown two small ottomans or poufs in the corner past the bar stools.

Layout #4: Circle Up

For this layout the TV and consoles remain in their original position and we recommend a large-scale gallery wall hung above the TV.  We are showing 4 identical chairs with custom upholstery. We think they would look great in a relaxed beachy linen ticking stripe over a bold vintage rug, with a round or square coffee table and two woven rush ottomans for addition seating as needed (these are placed along the wall by the window in the floor plan image).  We also recommend a runner rug behind the grouping to delineate the space. Here’s a quick mood board to give a general idea of the design:

Layout #5: Chairs in Pairs

This layout is similar to the previous floor plan, except the chairs aren’t angled and we’ve shown a rectangular ottoman.  Again, we’re recommending a runner rug behind the grouping to delineate the space. Here’s a quick moodboard to give you a general idea of how this could look:

So we’re dying to know- which layout would you choose for this space? Comment to tell us your favorite and why!  And if you’re having your own layout dilemma, check out our space planning package!