The Room is Winning

When we first looked at our house, I can remember thinking “Interesting. Well this living room is going to be a little hard to decorate, but we’ll figure it out.”  And then I thought no more about it. Oh, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

This room is totally winning, you guys, and it’s making me insane.  All my “fixes” I’ve had in mind for so long just keep making it worse and I feel like I am losing my mind.  And since the living room is the biggest room in the house and it’s the first room you see when you walk in the door and it’s the room we spent the most time in, it’s really affects my mood when I don’t like how it looks.

I am pretty happy with all the other rooms in my house.  Not all of them are finished but I know what things I would like to add to them eventually. But this room makes me crazy pants because I can’t even figure out how to fix or what furniture it needs and I have this feeling that there must be some magic solution to how to arrange the furniture, but everyone who sees it or I ask about it gets the same “huh” look on their face that I always have when faced with this stupid room.

Ok, so the room. It’s the most long narrow room in the history of time.

Here’s a picture of it when you are standing in the entryway.
There’s a fireplace in the middle of one wall at the back. (I am not putting the tv over the fireplace.)

On the same side of the room that the tv is on, there’s an entrance to the dining room.
The door to the entryway is in the third wall and there’s a giant picture window in the fourth wall, over the couch.


So we have these long walls that need to be filled, but they also look awful if you just line furniture up marching down the walls.

At some point the windows that were in it were removed, so now we’re left with just that one big giant window that faces the street.  We recently moved our couch in front of the window, and that’s about the only thing I’m happy with in the room.

We used to have the desk facing the street, in front of the window, but we moved it so it sort of sticks out into the room at the back, in front of the bookshelves.  See it over on the side there, towards the back?

I wish I didn’t have to have a desk in this room, but there’s literally no where else to put it in this house.  It works, for the most part. It’s actually nice to look out into the room when you are working on the computer and it puts the computer farther back into the room and makes a little workspace in the corner.

I am ok with the back of the room.  The fireplace and the bookshelves look nice and even though my children never listen when I tell them to stay off my white chair, the covers are washable so it’s not the end of the world when it gets dirty.

The tv wall is the wall that is giving me fits.  We put this mirror here because we used to have it where the tv is hanging, and it looks awful there.  My kids futz with it all day long too.  But if I take it away, I have GIANT EMPTY WALL WITH NOTHING BUT A TV ON IT.  I am not a fan of “tv surrounded by art gallery”. I mean, it’s a tv. Let’s not pretend it isn’t a tv, right? It’s not art.   But the dingy cabinet filled with crap and the dirty mirror and  the GIANT WALL WITH NOTHING BUT A TV ON IT is…not good.

See? Yuck.

I have been looking for giant dressers/armoires/buffets etc that I could paint.  I thought for awhile maybe filling up with the space with a giant piece of furniture would help…fill up the space.  But I moved my buffet under the tv from the dining room just to see what it looked like and it looked terrible.  Most of the new large furniture I like, I can’t afford.  What I can afford is either too small, or else it’s on Craigslist, and I don’t have a way to get it home. I also don’t know that my house can support another “you bought this at a garage sale, didn’t you?” piece of furniture without looking like everything I own came from a garage sale.  Even something like this, which I like, I think might look sort of iffy in my living room.

However, I have formed a plan! Keep in my mind my budget for this plan is something like 14 dollars.

First look at this picture.

So. I am going to buy a cord cover thingee and secure it to the wall to hide the cords hanging down from the tv.  Then I am going to mix up some gray paint from the giant stash of paint in my garage and I am going to paint a section of the wall behind the tv (from floor to ceiling) gray. This will sort of break up the wall, a bit, at least in my mind, and make the wall into “the section with the puffy white chair by the bookshelf”, “the tv area”, and then “the section by the brown chair.”  Behindish the brown chair I will put three black and white pictures of whatever I take three black and white pictures of in the next three days and I will frame them in thrift store frames painted…a color you will now suggest to me.

And then I will paint that cabinet white and throw a couple cute knobs on it and it will look cute and white against the gray square.

I was also CONSIDERED putting these decorative doors I found on Craigslist (but haven’t bought) on the wall on one side of the tv (both doors together, not one door on either side of the tv), but Mr. E thinks I am INSANE.

Also, that is really the only place the tv can go in the room.  Believe me I tried my best to think of many different places to put it and that was it. On the plus side, you can totally see it from the street at night, so it’s really cut down on the amount of porn Mr. E can watch. (joking, joking).


17 Responses

  1. I think part of the problem is that the cabinet currently under the tv is too high/narrow. Both the images you pinned have a lower, wider thing under it. You should probably lower the TV, too. I like the doors, but I’m not so sure about them for that wall — unless you lean them where the mirror is?

    • Oh, I should add that the top part of the tv thingee comes off, so it would just be a little low cabinet sitting there. We can’t put the tv too low because the younger child is a handsy one.

  2. I have managed to retain three, maybe four decorating tips out of a whole life of hearing/reading/seeing. One of them, for example, was about how the color on the paint chip is usually more intense on the wall (which is how I ended up choosing wayyyyyyyyy too pale/pastel my first time around). I tell this story because it is so ridiculous that I’m about to share the second tip, and for context you have to REALLY UNDERSTAND how dim I am about decorating. No, REALLY understand it. Because then you will be more merciful if the next thing out of my mouth is the equivalent of someone saying as if imparting great secret knowledge, “You know, paint is often more intense on the wall than on the chip.”

    Okay, here it is: what I remember is that with a long narrow room, you want to fill up the ends; putting furniture ALONG the long parts narrows the room even more, and those walls should stay as free as possible, while the furniture is crammed at both ends, making the available floor space more square (I’m not at all sure I’m putting this understandably).

    Do I know how to APPLY this? No, that is not one of the things I’ve retained. But for example, if it were my room, and I didn’t use/like the fireplace, I would stick a couch right in front of it—filling up that long end a little, and opening up the place where the couch is currently narrowing the room. If that ended up looking ridiculous, I’d use the couch facing the fireplace, to make the long narrow room into two small areas. In fact, I’d do that second idea first. (The TV couldn’t go….IN the fireplace, could it? I mean, not all the way inside, but right in front of it, with all the wires tucked neatly into the fireplace space? No. No, probably not.)

  3. My house has no entry way, so you walk right into our long, narrow living room, which is then runs right into the kitchen that runs along the entire length of our house. The living is the bottom of the L, basically. It’s got windows at both ends — picture window next to the door and sliders at the back — and doors right in the middle of the other two walls. So, I feel your pain.

    I could commiserate further, but let me try to be useful: I would paint the frames turquoise.

  4. I think Swistle is right … in a long narrow room, you should try (try!) to put as much furniture as possible in the ends of the room, and leave the long sides clear to make it more square-ish.

    If it were my room … I would put the TV over the fireplace, and have the couch face it, and then make the area on the other side something else … a playroom, maybe? We have a long, narrow living room and have turned one end of it into a playroom space with nothing but an area rug and an armchair to define it, but it works.

    But are you anti-TV over the fireplace? Or have you tried it and it looks terrible?

    The other thing I would say … and as a fellow person of a small house with small children in it I know how impossible this may be … is there any way you can take some stuff out of the room? It looks … crowded, somehow. Which I don’t think is helping the long/narrow thing.

    The other thing … how about a 1×4 Expedit, turned on its side, under the TV? We aren’t currently using one but we did for years and it makes a great long, low TV cabinet solution.

  5. So sorry I didnt get back to you about the doors. (everything in my head is infected, I’m loopy)They are pretty rad and will help with the blankness of that wall, for sure! And the color of them is great for the space.
    The room looks so much more open already- I love the couch infront of the window! I like the desk, the two chairs on either side of the fp was super crowed and this looks better to me.
    I like the cabinet you have under the tv right now and a coat of paint and new knobs? Good idea.
    I don’t know if the wall paint will be awesome or not it could be! if not, it’s just paint so try it!
    So, the tv… E, it looks so high. I know Kate is the reason why, and I GET IT! But to me that is what’s amiss with it, not the fact it’s a tv but it’s shaking hands with the ceiling. I don’t even want to know how much damage you did to hang it, I have a feeling no command strips were involved, making rehanging it a PIA.
    If you want colored picture frames, id use one of the colors from the vase Jennie got you.

  6. I love the idea of the antique doors–I live in the Houston area and see old Mexican doors all the time…sorta like these: I say go for the doors!!

  7. Depending on your level of handiness, it’s relatively easy to conceal the TV cords inside the wall. My level of handiness is ZERO, but the person who mounted our TVs showed me how he did it, and if I had the skills to cut a hole the drywall, it would be easy enough. One hole behind the TV, one hole behind the cabinet and thread the wires through.

    Also, have you seen those TV frames? I can’t find a good picture, but they cost a fortune, but it seems like something that someone with some DIY skills (NOT ME) would be able to accomplish fairly easily. (So says the girl who can’t even paint a wall.)

  8. I love the desk area. I think the couch in front of the window is perfect. That TV cabinet will look WAY better painted white. I like the doors, but wonder if it will make the room look too busy. Plus, you have doorways/entryways all over the place, so would more (even a fake one) be too much?

  9. I was going to suggest something similar- a longer/wider dresser of some sort with a bang of color in back of the tv. Good luck.

  10. Actually, I think this room looks nice as is. I would just replace the TV cabinet (but then I am really partial to having doors that block the TV from view for parties and whatnot).

    My family room is long and narrow also. What we did was to break the room up into two squares. One area has a sectional, our TV, and two cube-things that we use as coffee tables/comfy blanket storage. The other side starts at the back of the sectional and is defined by a square rug. That’s our play area. I think your idea is nice (though beyond my decorating abilities), but the room is still going to look like the furniture is marching down the sides.

  11. I don’t comment enough & this isn’t really my area of expertise (ha! massive understatment) but long low bookcase under the TV wall ~ 4′ tall or so. Like the photos in your link, but more useful & homey. Top of it creates space for pictures etc if you like (& out of way of sticky fingers), or create a nice clean line if you don’t want the knickknacks). Ditch the bookcases next to the fireplace to open up the room but leave the armchair. Tall plant w/uplighting or the tall light from the other end of the room in the other corner next to the fireplace, behind the desk & maybe w/the mirror. Creates a little nest-y area (ugh, sorry, now I’m thinking of mice). I’d also, as someone pointed out, lower the TV, since my neck hurts looking at it, but that might depend on the size of the holes. It *IS* super easy to cut & patch a strip of drywall to hide the cords, if things like that bother you as much as they bother me. LOVE blk & white photos. Can you do black frames with dark red mattes? Not sure how that would look. Love the sage color in you carpet too. Fun! I never get to play with my own house – forgive me for wanting to move furniture around in yours.

  12. Why can’t you put the TV over the fireplace?

  13. I have ZERO decorating advice but I have to say that I love those Craigslist doors! I’m so helpful 😉

  14. Oh man, our bedroom is directly above the living room, and they both have identical plans and they are both looooong. My solution for the living room is that our love seat is perpendicular to the couch, cutting the room in half, and I’ve put a cafe table by the picture window at one end, so the room almost functions as two. No idea what to do about the bedroom, and I’ve been in this house for almost 6 years now.

    Love your ideas for your space, can’t wait to see after pictures!

  15. I love your space and you have great pieces in it! I do think you might have a couple things too many in this space. The white chair is a little hard to work in but im sure its dear to you so i tried to find a good place to put it. I have a two suggestions that might work. I’m an amateur but watch HGTV EVERYDAY so this seemed like a fun challenge, rearranging someone else’s room!
    First option:
    I think you should paint your walls the same color as your dining room. It’s a great color! Since it is such a small space youre working with, the walls, bookcases, and curtains all seem a little bland. The crisp color wouldmayans out more against a pop of color.
    Leave the couch and rug where they are. Put the small brown table that’s infront of the f.p. ontop of the rug. I personally don’t like tvs mounted on the wall, so I would find a piece, like the one in your dining room for your dishes, and stand the tv on it. One that’s long enough to put two small lamps on either side along with pics or things you might want displayed. It obviously needs to be somewhat deep so the little one can’t reach the tv! I would take the plant from the f.p. and place it (from the couch view) on the floor to the right side of the tv stand. On the other side of the tv stand, I would take, what looks like two guitars on top of your bookcases, and put them on stands and display them. If that’s not possible because of the kiddos, I would hang one on the wall on each side of the stand. I would move the lamp next to your white chair, to the other side of the room and place it against the wall where your desk is now (that’s going to move). Your f.p. is awesome with the mirror on top! That is definitely a showpiece, so keep the candle on the right side along with the small pieces that are there. The frame pic on the left side is distracting from the mirror, so i would remove it and replace it with the glass piece that’s in your current piece under the tv.

    I bet you’re thinking “who the heck is this chick?!” I’m just having fun with someone else’s space 🙂

    Now to the other side..
    I would take the huge toy shelf and put it along the window wall where the black shelf currently is. I would try to redirect the toys on top to the kids room maybe. I would leave the cool zebra style rug where it is and put your desk on it facing your f.p. Make sure the desk is centered with the wall behind it. I love your framed artwork so I would center that on the wall and maybe put a couple other black framed pics around it! I would take your black shelf and and put it on the wall opposite of where it is now. Move the floor lamp up next to the desk. Sort of creating an l shape with the black shelf, lamp, and desk. I would definitely use the wooden chair with your desk! There are a couple odds and ends that you might want to remove from the room such as the things next to where the current black shelf is. I think the other mirror is too much since you have the one over the f.p. your window is so huge so I think you need a more substantial curtain rid. I seen some on sale at Lowes in West Sac Southport very cheap!
    Last but not least is your white chair. You could put it in the opposite corner of where it is now.

    Second option still involves the same kind of tv stand i talked about but also moving your bookcases. One on each side of the stand. Keeping your white chair in the same place it is now. Displaying the guitars on the floor to the left of the f.p. along with your plant.

    I hope you aren’t offended by any of my suggestions. I love your space and furnishings and just thought it would be neat to help some style their place! Good luck and can’t wait to see pics of how you decide to do it!

  16. I arrived here via your tweet about “the barfening” (which made me laugh and also, I’m sorry about that) and have now discovered that you and I have almost the exact same living room. I’ve struggled with it as well. We have our TV in one corner next to the fireplace, tucked out of the way. It’s currently on a corner stand, and I’d love to someday mount it on the wall so that it will swivel out and tuck away as needed. For now, the corner stand works.

    We also recently swapped out our couch for a sectional that sits below the window and comes out into the room such that you see the back of it as you come in from the front door. I thought it would be awful to block off the room that way, but it actually creates a nice little entry area. (We don’t have a separate space the way you do — front door leads directly into the living room). If you did that, you could put the desk behind that part of the sofa and open up that other corner a bit. (If our living room was your living room, the white chair would be moved to where the current TV stand is, and the TV would be in that corner instead.) It has the downside of eating up precious floor space, but I’m still happy we made the switch. We have a much more functional living room this way, with plenty of comfortable seating.

    If you don’t want to do any of that, I agree with others who have made a case for a lower, wider TV stand. I do think that would help on that wall. Otherwise, it looks like a pretty room with lots of great light!

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