Awkward Living Room

I recently purchased some black key west wicker chairs for my kit table and had fantastic service(to which my hubs said, “let’s buy more!”. I was super excited to find the design service on the website. I really need your help in determining the layout and fabric/furniture choices for my awkward living room. There are barely any walls b/c it is so open and I am at a loss. I have attached pics for you to view. My style is modern traditional and I tend to lean towards smoky/slate blues, taupe, ivory, brown, neutrals basically. I do love graphic patterns and buffalo checks (but not if it looks country) though. The walls are a taupey gray(toasty gray, actually from glidden) Our adjacent kit/table area is a very pale robin’s egg blue.

We currently have 2 brown leather sofas, which I am not attached to. I am not sure what furniture to put in here or how to arrange it. we have tried facing the couches together but it so hard for TV watching and it makes the space b/t the couch and bay window very awkward and seems like so much wasted space there. we need a coffee table or ottoman ( i like the tufted storage ottoman). the train table is being relocated! There needs to be enough room in front of the stair wall for us to walk through. I thought about a narrow console here but not sure. The round table in front of the windows has since been finished in a darker stain.(I like dark over light, but do like to mix painted wood with this). I would like to either replace the chairs flanking the table or reupholster/slipcover. My favorite chairs are the Gramercy, stratford, colefax, louis oval side chair, louis XV salon chair.

I have bought curtains for the window, they are a big wide buffalo check type plaid of light blue, taupe, beige. I could return if you can suggest something better. I want it to be upscale casual, not too formal. I am having such a hard time picking fabrics. we have a toddler, which is an issue with stains. My fav fabrics are nomad, callisto choc stripe, document brown, spa, clermont spa, como ikat, como stripe, ikat medallion, cantana choc floral, hudson moss, and neutral solids/patterns. I know these don’t all coordinate. this is why I need your help.( I like the green fabrics b/c I like the pattern. If they were smoky blue, I would def pick those above the others)I don’t know how to put it together. Please feel free to comment/make suggestions on the shelf arrangement and accessories for the room. I am so excited to hear your input. This is an invaluable service you provide to your customers. To help them truly achieve the professional styling that you show in your catalogs. Thanks in advance!!!
Robin C.

Dear Robin:
The Open Concept Living Space has created a lot of difficulty for people trying to decorate.  You are not alone in your dilemma.  We receive many e-mails asking for help arranging furniture in rooms without wall space.  Actually, you have done a great job with furniture placement!  You just need a few ideas to really make your room the “upscale casual” space you are looking for.
Let’s start with your built-in cabinets.  They are beautiful, but you are talking about a spa blue and brown color scheme.  If you wish to go with that, you will need to change from the robin’s egg blue to a spa blue tone.  We have selected Sherwin Williams Watery.  We think it will set the tone for the room.

As far as the drapes, they sound wonderful.  Just make sure that the blue in the buffalo check is in the same “spa blue” family.  We love the table centered on your bay window, but think you should change the chairs to 2 Colefax Chairs covered in our Easy Care Arden Blue fabric.  This will add a some color and texture to the room.  We would love to see the Martin Console in Old World Brown featured under the painting against the foyer wall.  The existing small table is out of scale there.  The Martin Console is only 10 ≤” deep, so it should be a great fit.

The next thing is to push your sofa facing the fireplace inward placing the front legs of the sofa on the inside border of the rug.  This will now give you space to place a console behind the sofa.  It will create a focal point entering your living room from the foyer.  Our recommendation is the Benedetta 58” Console in Tuscan Brown.  You can place a set of Fusee Tall Table Lamps in antique white on either end and stack some art books and a plant to finish the tabletop.  A grouping of three Burlap Covered Demijohns placed on the bottom shelf will add some needed texture.

The round table at the end of the sofa should have a round tablecloth made of the Arden Blue fabric to pull the color through the room and add some softness to the leather.  A mixture of Arden Blue, Etiene and Zebra Natural fabric pillows in assorted sizes placed on the sofas will add texture and color.  We chose the Nailhead Storage Ottoman upholstered in Zebra Natural Woven.  It will keep your style fresh and current.  You did mention a console on the stairway wall, but we feel that it is better to designate the area as a walk way, but we would love to see something on the wall – perhaps a Set of 3 Medallion Plaques.  It will help to keep the area from looking bare without obstructing the traffic flow.

We are now back to the bookcases.  We do think you have done a great job of editing your choices of accessories.  The shelves are not cluttered and have an interesting array of accessories.  We are giving some other choices of accessories if you wish to change things up a bit.  Any of these accessories will work with what you have:  Horse Statue, Deauville Crown and Giverney Crown and of course our Burlap Demijohns which will repeat the textures again from the bottom of the Benedetta Console.

We do hope that we have given you some useful suggestions on how to “pull” this room together.  All you really need is a bit more color, texture and fabric to finish the room.  We would love to have some feedback on our suggestions.  We make every efforts to be in sync with our customers. Of course, we would love pictures of the completed room to post on Style Studio, and please let us know if you need any additional help.
The Style Studio Team

1. Colefax Chairs 2. Martin Console 3. Benedetta Console 4. Fusee Tall Table Lamps 5. Etiene Fabric 6. Nailhead Storage Cabinet 7. 3 Medallion Plaques 8. Horse Statue 9. Deauville Crown 10. Burlap Demijohns 11. Giverney Crown

How to Decorate Team

We enjoy spending days interacting with How to Decorate readers. From answering Design Dilemmas to writing How To articles and working with guest designers, our passion is to provide informative and accurate resources to help people solve their design problems.


  1. Reply


    March 15, 2011

    This looks exactly like my living room layout(with the exception of the two zebra print accent chairs on each side of the shelving and windows shown and a large console behind the sofa).We have three sets of double doors w/built-in windows above them). My question is..What rug style do you suggest? Also,EVERY Wall in my livingroom is white. Could you suggest a bright wall color and color to paint the shelves(as she has) and also any suggestions about items to display on my shelves?) They are bare:) We just bought our home.Thank you so much! What a great service you offer!!!

  2. Reply


    July 15, 2010

    Thanks so much for all the ideas and suggestions! Do you think the colefax chairs are tall enough to not look dwarfed by the tall windows? or does this matter? I only ask b/c the chairs I have there now are around 42″ tall.
    I have already ordered the ottoman in the nomad fabric (very sim. to the zebra). I have just received all the fabric samples for the other fabrics suggested. Thanks again!