Decorating Dilemma: Allison’s Awkward Living Room

Creating a room layout for Allison's awkward living room

Decorating Dilemmas is a weekly column in which our stylists answer your design questions, so you can tackle your home decorating project with complete confidence.

Dear How to Decorate,

Please help! We love the character of our 1920s colonial. But since we have lived here (about two years now) I can’t seem figure out how to arrange furniture in our beautiful yet super awkward living room. There are multiple challenges. There are no really no walls for furniture, the fireplace competes with the piano as the focal point, and the front door (which we really only use for guests) opens right into the room.

I’ve played with the furniture we have, but have been hesitant to invest in anything else until I figure out the best set up. I’ve also tried the chair in front of the windows with the couch where the chair is now, creating an entry way. I’m also challenged with finding the right rugs – I think the one we have now is too small, and I’d like a runner or something for the entry, in front of the fireplace, to set it apart. Also, I feel like there should be something to bring attention back to the fireplace. Should there be a small sitting area to the right of the fireplace?

I would appreciate any help you can provide, as I’m totally stuck here. The piano stays (and I’d love to repurpose the couch if possible) but I’m open to totally rehauling this room.

Thanks so much, Ballard team!!








You are absolutely correct — creating multiple seating arrangements and multiple focal points will transform this space from awkward to beautiful and inviting.

Our first suggestion is to rotate your piano 180ยบ so that the bench is in the corner and you’d be facing into the room while playing.

We have two room plan options for you. First, working with your existing sofa, chair, and rug, we suggest adding a second smaller Lewis Rug in front of the fireplace and moving your red chair to the corner with a floor lamp for a reading spot. Where the red chair was, add a Reynolds Bench in our Austell Space fabric.

We want to give you another color palette and layout option just in case. To play off your gorgeous wood floors and moulding, we think navy accents would be really beautiful. Start with our Twilight on the Seine Abstract Art over the fireplace, then add a pair of chairs and a matching ottoman on either side of your fireplace with navy throw pillows and a floor lamp.


If you don’t mind swapping out your rug, we suggest buying two identical rugs and placing them next to each other to create a long enough room to bridge both seating areas. Seagrass rugs with a khaki border would work nicely. Finally, finish off the space with navy throw pillows on your sofa, a Suzanne Kasler Gourd Lamp in Navy on your round side table, and our Felicity Acrylic Coffee Table.

Add some navy pillows to your existing sofa and you’re all done!

We hope these suggestions will overcome your two year struggle.

Happy Decorating!

The Design Team

Creating a room layout for Allison's awkward living room

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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

    Elaine Garrett

    August 3, 2020

    Is Piano in the recommended position?

  2. Reply

    Joanne B.

    August 24, 2016

    Another great plan to work on a little at a time. I like that you offer suggestions for the homeowner to use what she has and add some Ballard pieces to pull things together! I especially love that you offered 2 different options! I love Ballard!

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      August 25, 2016

      Thank you so much. We love to hear that!