The classic video game of Tetris can easily come to mind whenever you're confronting the mind-boggling task of creating a furniture layout in a narrow room. A couch may look ideal on a certain wall, but once a coffee table is placed in front of it, it can suddenly appear cramped—and a side chair is necessary for guests, but its small size feels larger between a plant and ottoman. So what can you do to win this real-life version of Tetris and create an airy space without much room?
"In narrow spaces, you'll often find yourself having to edit your ideal floor plan," says Alessandra Wood, Ph.D., the Vice President of Style at Modsy. "You may not be able to put that side table next to your sofa, or you might only be able to fit one accent chair rather than two."
Meet the Expert
Alessandra Wood, Ph.D., is a design historian and the Vice President of Style at Modsy.
Planning is key to furniture layouts in narrow living rooms, bedrooms, and more. If you're working with a smaller area, it's important to be even more meticulous with which pieces stay or go. Wood knows how difficult it can be to style an unusual space, and that's why she's offering her advice on how to deal with narrow room layouts. "Don't overload your layout," she says, which should be your mantra as you get to work. To dive deeper, Wood provides a few ideas for strategizing style in a narrow layout.
Read on for her how-to when designing furniture in a narrow room, and consider these tips your cheat sheet for winning the game against tricky square footage.
Go With Wall Sconces
"If you're looking for narrow space design ideas involving lighting, wall sconces are the way to go," Wood says. "These babies light up your home without wasting valuable floor space or table surface area. What's even better? Many options can be plugged into the wall so you don't have to worry about the whole wiring issue. Some even swivel, giving you extra flexibility with your lighting, too."
Keep Furniture off the Floor
"Kind of like how your mom used to say 'keep your feet off the sofa,' one of the best narrow design ideas involves keeping your furniture off the floor," Wood continues. "Why? Because nothing makes a small space look even smaller like a bulky sofa plopped right on the floor. Instead, try using furniture that sits high up off the floor to make your small space look roomier. Pieces with long, tapered legs are a perfect choice. This is also a reason why the midcentury modern trend is so popular in urban cities where homes are a lot smaller."
Try an Irregular Rug
"Sometimes, it's best to skip a rectangular rug and embrace an irregular option instead," Wood notes. "After all, a rug that is clearly too big or too small will just draw attention to the size and shape of your room. Instead, try an irregularly shaped rug, such as cowhide, or even a round rug. This will create a sense of flow, and fill most of the floor space without drawing attention to the narrow shape of the room."
Opt for Clear Furniture
"When you can't make more space, you can always employ some apartment design ideas that make it look like you have more space," Wood adds. "The oldest trick in the interior designer's handbook? See-through furniture! Opting for pieces made of glass or acrylic is a great way to trick the eye into thinking your space is larger than it is. So skip the bulky wooden coffee table in favor of a glass or acrylic option. It'll make your space look more open and airy—which, in turn, will help it feel larger!"
Don't Forget the Walkways
"Carving out a path to navigate through the space is an important part of making your room comfortable and livable," Woods says. "Ensure that you have enough space between your coffee table and sofa to walk through easily. This might mean using smaller-scale furniture pieces."
Style Furniture Away From the Wall
"Just because your space is narrow doesn't mean that you need to line your furniture up against the wall," Wood notes. "Play with pulling pieces outward—perhaps bookshelves behind the sofa, or a console table with lighting and accessories." Opt for smaller furniture that won't take up too much space when pulled away from the wall, and use decorative accents behind the sofa (like tall plants or floor lamps) to draw attention to the extra room.
Keeping furniture from touching the walls is an important staple of feng shui—and even when you're working with limited space, the extra room around each piece will make your design feel more airy and open.
Create Defined Zones
Create specific areas in a long and narrow room rather than trying to design one conversational space: "If you have a room that is narrow but long, creating 'defined zones,' such as the main seating area and reading nook, will help break up space," Woods says. "Use a chaise or small sectional to segment the room and break up the narrow feel."
Try Unconventional Furniture
Instead of using a traditional coffee table, play with small nesting tables or an ottoman. "This allows for a place to kick up your feet or set down a drink without taking up valuable space," Woods continues. Bonus: Nesting tables can be tucked away when you aren't entertaining guests, so you'll gain extra floor space when they're not needed.
Add Extra Storage
"In a narrow bedroom, get a storage bed. If the room is too small for one with drawers, you can get one that lifts up," she adds. "In your living room, opt for a media cabinet that can conceal your devices and provide extra storage. In narrow spaces, you need to have places to store excess goods so they don't feel overly exposed and cramped." Unlike traditional coffee tables, many ottomans can also double as a place to stow away necessities without keeping them on display (just don't forget the tray on top for drinks and décor).