I’m Struggling To Furnish My Large Living Room



Dear Laurel,

I’m hoping that other people have this problem so that you can write about it. But my problem is that I have a large living room. No wait. It’s HUGE as it’s also the dining room and kitchen.

There is absolutely nothing cozy or home-y about it.

I have no idea how to furnish this too large living room.




How To Deal With A Too Large Living Room


Well, first of all, it really depends on the situation. Don’t I always say that?

Is it?

  • just a large living room?
  • A great room with eating and kitchen combined?
  • A loft space that must function as different areas?
  • Is the ceiling super high?
  • Are there architectural givens that can’t be changed such as doorways, windows, fireplace?

One thing over the years that I’ve struggled with a little with clients, sometimes is for them to understand that just because something was built a certain way doesn’t mean that it’s right.

And that once it’s fixed it will look right; like it was always that way.


This includes:

  • moving doorways.
  • Adding walls
  • Adding columns and/or pilasters
  • Maybe adding a drapery or glass wall as a separator
  • Adding beams and/or coffers to the ceiling to break up a huge expanse of space.


Then, we need to ask ourselves these questions about our large living room


  • Can we have two seating areas?
  • What configurations will work?
  • Do we need to create an area for dining or a piano?
  • Do we need to create a separation for privacy?
  • Is it possible that the best solution is to create another separate room?


Common mistakes that people make when furnishing their large living room.


Just because a room is large does not mean that the furniture needs to be BIG.

Well, at least not all of it. Pieces that can be large are things like an over-scale coffee table. That looks fabulous in a large living room.

A bookcase or cabinet can be on a grand scale.

I believe with all of my heart and soul that the thing that shouldn’t change size a lot is the seating.


Because the people who sit in the chairs and sofa are the same size whether the room is large or small, that’s why. There can be more seating. Or a longer sofa, for example.

Just no Leviathans please.

The only exception to this rule is if you live in any of the three following states.

  • California
  • Florida
  • Texas

and we’ll throw Montana in too. ;]

Then, you can have your furniture as large as you like.

Yes, I’m being cheeky. No really. It’s only my crusade and recommendation. That’s all.


What else do we need to know about our large living rooms and their decor?


Well, usually, I prefer a unified monochromatic palette for large rooms

(unless the designer is Miles Redd. He can do whatever he likes because it’s always fabulous even if it’s not everyone’s taste)

This is without a doubt my favorite Windsor Smith living room. It is a very large room. And I don’t know about you, but I long for it to keep going. And since somebody had to be standing back from the foreground, it apparently does.


And do you know what I think makes the room?


Anyone who’s been reading my blog will know the answer.

Yes, Nancy, I KNOW that you know! ;]

Anyone else have the answer?

I promise that I won’t bark at you if you’re wrong. There is no wrong, because it’s all quite fabulous.

You guys are a little shy today. Okay.

It’s the charming BLACK neo-classical table in the foreground and then flanked with the Gustavian chairs. Oh my! Plus the gorgeous, layered styling.

We need those layers of decor in a large living room.

Nancy Keyes’ giga-gorgeous living room is a perfect example of layers and layers of chantilly cream. AND exquisite architecture. Her room came with the beam, pilasters and columns.

But let’s say that your large barn of a room, doesn’t. Would adding something like this make the difference?

The oft-published and probably the most beautiful large living room that God ever put on this good earth by Frank Babb Randolph. It also features a monochromatic palette. And again, the room is enhanced by a dark wood center hall-type table. In fact, it’s that table that’s grounding the room!

Alexa Hampton took a large living room and created intimate seating areas. Please notice that the scale of the furniture is not any larger than it would be if the room was half the size. There would just be less of it. :]

An Albert Hadley’s iconic, timeless living room for Mrs. Nancy (Princess) Pyne. Hmmm… There’s another wonderful dark, round table. And for more images and yet another dark round table, please check out this post.

Oh dear. If I publish this room one more time, Mark’s going to call his lawyer. lol. But here we have another wonderful example of a large living room with one of my favorite configurations, two back to back sofas with a long console table in between.

This is another back-to-back-sofa situation. A fabulous large living room by James Michael Howard.

An architecturally perfect great room and beautifully decorated by Suzanne Kasler. Please note how the columns/beams give just enough separation so that we know that’s the dining room, not more of the kitchen.

This is a hotel; my very favorite published numerous times here, the JK Place in Capri. But even so, the same principles of architectural details and even a small wall gives a great example of what can be done to create “rooms” out of one large room.

Just had to get this image in. They changed the table at some point. I’m not sure if this is earlier or later, but I love it!


I’m finishing off with the young interior design genius-amazing artist, disgustingly handsome-self-professed mama’s boy and Weimaraner lover – William Rankin Mclure IV.

If you’re not following him on instagram, then you are truly missing out on all the fun. (and his too adorbs Weim puppy) He’s a boy after my heart and INSANELY TALENTED! And also please follow the photographer who shot this space so beautifully, Hector M Sanchez.

Above is William’s Birmingham Alabama loft that well… makes me want to slit my wrists.

I’m just joking.

sorta. :/

That’s how great I think his designs are.

But see the lovely white curtain down yonder.

Behind that curtain lives his


And he hung one of his gorgeous paintings on it. How clever is that!

And yes, I adore all of the decay and stains and the painted concrete floor.


And it’s okay if you don’t.

I realize that it’s not a look for everyone, but I love it!

And OH! That incredible piece over the bed?

He found it in a dumpster!



The books make for a beautiful and functional end table.

But I wonder what happened to his Chinoiserie coffee table?

Oh, I hope that he gave it to his Mommy!

But I do love the one he has as well.


OH, that reminds me.


Serena and Lily just came out with 500 new products!

And drum roll. They read my mind.

I’ve long loved this side table.

Reese side table.

You can see it in here next to the dark blue striped settee.

Well, S&L just introduced the Reese Coffee Table!!!

It’s nice and big but not too big. And there are these cool trays that pull out of each side.

Love the Chinoiserie styling. I wish that they’d do it in both white and black.

But I suppose that one could always paint it. I would. But then, I paint everything!


Sorry, for the interruption. One more of Williams’ fabulous loft.



From the kitchen. duh. But get this. The island top is FORMICA!

OH MAN! LOVE the Regency dining table and chairs in the background.

And the light fixture over the round table is too cool for words!

I found it too!

Oh you wanna know what it is?

Ahem. I used the Laurel’s Rolodex method for finding things on the internet.

Worked like a charm.

So, here’s the deal. This one above is a knock-off of a Serge Mouille mid-century modern piece, I found on Overstock for 470 bucks. Sure, it’s made in China. So? What else is new?

I did find a licensed Serge Mouille at Design Out Of Reach. Price: $6,759.00 – ouch. but, it’s only in black. I do like the black version as well. The black one is also available on Overstock.


In honor of William’s gorgeous large living room, I made a little shopping widget –

we’ll call “in the manner of.”


oops, I almost forgot!

We’ll need a fabulous faux fur throw!



PS: One King’s Lane is having a two-day site-wide 20% off sale. Might be worth checking out.


7th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2020 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • Hollie @ Stuck on Hue - August 17, 2017 - 10:07 AM

    William McClure is one of my favorite Insta accounts to follow. Isn’t it disgusting how gorgeous and talented he is? And he seems super fun and sweet as well. I was floored when I first learned his island top was Formica, but it makes sense since he uses it for painting. Just wipe and go!ReplyCancel

  • Claire Pope - August 13, 2017 - 10:32 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    I love your blog it is very helpful as I am building a new home, I love black and white and have had it off and on for 40 years. I was planning on a black ceiling in the formal living room (double tray) and dining but after reading on of your blogs I am afraid as my ceiling is 16 feet and drops to 14 flat. Do you still think I can do black on the ceiling or do you think it will make it all too tall. How about the whole room and ceiling black with white trim and crown also was planning on black door. My furniture couch is white and chairs are zebra, I have so much to decorate and can’t get off black, my husband is going to kill me but I will also have a guest black bedroom because I want to use what I have in a current black bedroom. Get me off black and white.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 13, 2017 - 2:33 PM

      Hi Claire,

      I hear your dilemma and difficulty. Unfortunately, it is impossible to advise you without physically standing in your room. I would consider hiring someone local for a consultation.ReplyCancel

  • Diana Dahl - August 11, 2017 - 5:26 PM

    Just wondering… do you foresee a peaking of what I call “the couch in the kitchen” era? … i.e. – open floor plan. I just can’t bring myself to signing on to having a loveseat right there where my kitchen island ends. I am all for togetherness… but I can’t help but think it has tilted a wee bit far … and maybe some correction is in order. Hopefully sooner rather than later!ReplyCancel

  • Michele - August 11, 2017 - 1:08 PM

    Laurel – seriously, this is getting spooky! How come practically every time you write about the exact decorating problem that stumps me? Or are all your readers plugged into some weird common ‘zeitgeist’?!
    The last builders just walked out of the door, so now I am sitting in our very large and fairly empty living room… More than a thousand square feet ((if I do the math correctly – more than a hundred square meters), with very high ceilings and a fifteen foot high stone wall where a large wood oven will be built when we can afford it (winters in norway…!). Not easy to decorate on a budget. But then, no room is – and isn’t that half the fun of it?
    Yesterday I was thinking that a very large white coffee table plus a dose of industrial-mixed-with-traditional might do the trick. And hey presto, Laurel to the rescue :)! Will start by floating some of the sofas (yup, remembered your answer) and see where that gets us. At least I can now hit my husband over the head with your post when he starts questioning why he has to move all that furniture again…and again…and again…. 😉 Thanks for the post and have a great weekend!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 11, 2017 - 1:36 PM

      Wow! 1,000 square feet is a VERY large room! Glad that it gave you some good ideas!ReplyCancel

  • mrsben - August 11, 2017 - 9:21 AM

    Another wonderful post, Laurel. (Thank you!) Besides the details, what I love the most about these rooms is how serene they feel. To conclude; IMHO in their own right, they are all delectable!

  • Julie S - August 10, 2017 - 11:46 AM

    Adding walls, gasp!! We just bought a small (1600sq ft) 70’s ranch/contemporary home that was wrongly built with an open floor plan. Picture a 24w’x35′ rectangle serving as the main living/dining/kitchen area, with the kitchen taking up one quarter of that space. That left an L shaped, narrow width(12′) “open” space wrapped around the kitchen island. That is too small to be an open floor plan – you feel like every zone is in the kitchen! We are putting up walls around the kitchen corner (leaving 2 wide doorways for flow)to make it livable, and this also allows for built ins and transoms on the wall facing the fireplace. Adding architectural interest where there was none. I could literally only find ONE example online of someone adding walls to a modern open floor plan instead of tearing down walls.

    I l-o-v-e that loft. I read your blog for the excellent advice and explanations, though most of the interiors are too formal for me, but this one is perfectly my taste! More relaxed, less structured in feel. I also appreciate the warm neutral palette which I still prefer to the cooler tones currently trending.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 10, 2017 - 12:12 PM

      Hi Julie,

      Yes, some of the rooms are more formal than I prefer too. Although, they are there because they are very well-done and make my points. And also for the layout examples more than the style of the furniture and fabrics. I probably should have said that in the post.ReplyCancel

  • Joss - August 10, 2017 - 11:45 AM

    Excellent post filled with great beauty and useful information.
    I am curious why you prefer a large room to have a monochromatic color scheme? Color blocks or clusters of colors would seem to cozy areas up. That said, the rooms you showed were utterly delicious. But wouldn’t it be like the fashion caveats (always broken) about being tall and wearing high boots in a vibrant color whereas the shorter person might want to be monochromaticly booted so the eye doesn’t stop travelling, making them appear taller? or does it make elegance and space seem choppy to have color blocks?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 10, 2017 - 12:08 PM

      Hi Joss,

      I’m sorry but I do not know what a color block is. Of course, there can be pattern and vibrant color, especially in the accents, but it takes considerable skill to work with a lot of colors in a very large room. There are exceptions to everything. But maybe I’ll do a post that has some very colorful large rooms.

      Also, monochromatic does not mean variation. There always needs to be a range of shades from white to black. Or at least a very deep color.ReplyCancel

  • georgia routsis savas - August 10, 2017 - 11:22 AM


    i am a newby to your blog and am digging it like mad. here’s my quandary: my husband and i are about to sell our north carolina beach house and downsize to a 1400 square foot cottage that we are building in downtown wilmington. i am having a problem figuring out how to segueway from a distressed wood-look tile in the entry and kitchen to a very similar toned wood floor in the living room because the living room and kitchen open to each other. because the tile and wood are so close in color, i’m afraid that when they bump up to each other the difference will be obvious. so i’m wondering if i should do some sort of transitional border around the whole living room. i can send you a floor plan if you’d like.

    anyway, thanks again for coming into my life at the right time.

    all the best,


    • Laurel Bern - August 10, 2017 - 12:00 PM

      Hi Georgia,

      Welcome to the blog! And I hope that you’ll understand, but I prefer not to encourage people to ask for individual advice in the comments because it gets extremely out-of-hand. But if it’s something that one thinks will benefit other readers, it’s okay to email me. I do often write about the problems but can’t guarantee it.

      One reason I can’t get into individual problems is that I can’t see what people are talking about and the 100 other things I would need to know before I could say.

      But two clashing floors where one is wood and the other is supposed to look like wood is no good. And a border will not help. I would get rid of one or the other. And most likely the tile and replace it with wood. But again, it’s impossible to advise you without seeing what you are talking about. But I’m not doing any consulting at this time.ReplyCancel

  • Tracy - August 10, 2017 - 10:21 AM

    I ADORE Nancy Keyes home……Oh my word what a gorgeous transformation! I’ve recently discovered Willimas’s through Artie Vanderpool on instagram and I am smitten. Just lovely! What I love is these are not large spaces, but yet the character and detail is just beautiful! Makes me want to sell all my belongings and start all over……sighReplyCancel

  • nancy keyes - August 10, 2017 - 9:00 AM

    Oh Laurel, You put a smile on my face yet again by including our living room among a couple of my all time favorites! I have adored the Albert Hadley room for years, as well as the story behind it. Frank Babb Randolph’s another fav AND William McLure…swoon. Just out of the picture of our living room is a faux fur throw. I am wrapped in it all winter when Lily hasn’t made a nest out of it! Thanks, as always! XOReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 10, 2017 - 11:48 AM

      Hi Nancy,

      It goes both ways. I’m eternally grateful to you for all you have done for me and honored to post anything you’ve created!ReplyCancel

  • Therese - August 10, 2017 - 12:31 AM

    Simply gorgeous. I think this post demonstrates why so many of us have trouble decorating our own homes. Each of these rooms is so different yet I love them all!! How to decide???ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 10, 2017 - 12:35 AM

      Hi Therese,

      There are always a lot of factors such as the architecture of the home, lifestyle, budget, personal tastes, limitations.

      You start to narrow it down. Collect images of the rooms you like the most. And then you will begin to see a pattern.

      Then, you need a jumping off point. It could be a rug. A fabric, a piece of art or even the view out the window.

      And that is how you build a room.ReplyCancel

  • Christine Anderson - August 9, 2017 - 11:00 PM

    These rooms are breathtaking! For those of us who are starting with a blank canvas of a home…and a creamy white sofa…where do you start to choose a palette?

    I love every one of your blog posts, Laurel. Your humor delights me and makes me laugh out loud. It’s like sitting with you as we chat.

    So, let’s chat……. 😉ReplyCancel

  • Rachel Goakes - August 9, 2017 - 9:36 PM

    I love the stains and decay as well along with the elegance and masculinity of the whole apartment. It’s to die for! My husband and I’s first house we rented never had finished walls in the upstairs bedrooms. I styled it white with vintage prints and some dark wood and everyone thought the whole aesthetic was beautiful. Even with the unpainted walls. So I guess whether your 18 and everything is thrifted/estate sales or your a fabulous designer you can get a beautiful look. One of these rooms needs a dog or Persian cat or something though. That always seems to make rooms more beautiful and homey in pictures.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 9, 2017 - 9:40 PM

      Hi Rachel,

      William has a puppy, but his other dog, Baylor who passed away a few months ago was a frequent model. But his new puppy gets into some mischief. He calls it Weim-crime. hahaReplyCancel