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How to Work a Long Skinny Room

The goal is to still have room to walk throughout the space.
The goal is to still have room to walk throughout the space.
©iStockphoto.com/bbossam

You're all set to close on that new house, but there's one thing still nagging at you. The outdoor space is great, you love the sunroom and the kitchen, and the bedrooms are all spacious and accommodating. There's only one room on the whole property that is giving you fits. The living room is long and skinny. There's no two ways around it, it's a shotgun style area and you're used to square and roomy. And since you know you're not planning to install a bowling alley anytime soon, you're going to have to find a way to work with what you have.

If you're lucky and you have the space on your property and the money to make it happen, you can opt for expanding the room. But that's expensive and you don't always have the required clearance to do so. Is it worth losing your driveway over? What you're going to have to do in most cases is use your creative juices to make that skinny room work within the confines of the current floor plan. Fortunately, there are some creative design tricks that you can use to make the room appear a little less like a railroad apartment and more like a livable room you won't mind spending time in. Before you get started, try to get in the mindset of acceptance, because while you can change certain interior elements to make the room feel better to you, the size and shape of the room will stay the same.

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A narrow bedroom may be the perfect spot for a home office.
A narrow bedroom may be the perfect spot for a home office.
©iStockphoto.com/Tammy616

The key to successfully staging a long room is to not try to make it look like one continuous space. Instead, consider what uses the room may have and then break it up into a couple of different zones. For example, one side may be for entertaining guests, so it could contain a small couch and a couple of chairs facing each other with the fireplace as the focal point. The other side may be used for TV watching and lounging, so it would have a sectional sofa and a television cabinet. You can physically divide the two spaces by using a console table or a room screen, or you could just use area rugs with different patterns in coordinating colors to clearly define each space.

It's important when considering furniture placement to identify traffic patterns within the room. For example, you wouldn't want the main traffic route to the television area to cut through the entertaining area, so you would need to keep this in mind when arranging the entertaining area. You also wouldn't want to put the TV on a main traffic path, unless you want some agitated viewers. And here's an important design tip: In order to minimize the awkwardness of the room, don't face any furniture toward the short walls.

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Artwork can draw the eye in if there's no architectural feature to do it.
Artwork can draw the eye in if there's no architectural feature to do it.
©iStockphoto.com/archideaphoto

The best place to start decorating your long, narrow room is at the focal point. Do you have a fireplace, or a window with a great view? Built-in cabinetry or a stunning piece of furniture or art? If the room doesn't have a natural focal point, you can create your own. You want to ensure the eye will be drawn to a great feature of the room, which will help distract from the fact that its silhouette closely resembles a hallway. A word of caution: You definitely don't want the focal point to be on the end wall -- this will just accentuate the shape of the room.

Paint is a great way to help shape up an awkward room, too. Cool, light colors make the walls seem like they're receding, so they're best used on the long walls. Warm, dark colors will work best on the shorter walls to make them seem like they're advancing toward you, and this combo will help to visually balance out the room. Also, a linear arrangement of bookshelves on the short wall is a great way to make it look a little wider.

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Lighting is another way to trick the eye into thinking the space is less awkwardly shaped. Recessed lighting creates pools of brighter light that help your eye focus on smaller areas of the room, rather than viewing the room as a whole. It can also be directed toward items in the room that you want to draw attention to, such as a collection or a piece of art.

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Sources

  • "Home Interior Design Tips for Long Narrow Rooms." Interior-design-it-yourself.com, 2010. http://www.interior-design-it-yourself.com/principles-of-interior-design.html
  • "How to Decorate a Long Narrow Living Room." Atlantahomestagerinfo.com, 2010. http://atlantahomestagerinfo.com/how-to-decorate-a-long-narrow-living-room/

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