I Hate My House | Help For a Small Living Room

Dear Laurel,

We just visited some friends and have serious house-envy. Alas, our living room is only 14 x 18. To complicate things further, there are two very large doorways perpendicular to each other. We also have a pretty upright piano we need to incorporate.

We need seating for at least 6. We like the monochromatic, pale gray tone-on-tone look and I love French toile. I just want it to be really pretty!

I am so afraid of mucking this up! I hope you can help!


A & D


Usually these notes are completely fictitious but A is actually a delightful online client. This wasn’t her note, but the gist of it. We chatted a bit and she decided to go for a room plan and mood board package.

A sent me photos of the room and while not that large, the ceilings are nine feet and there are gorgeous mouldings and fireplace with a handsome mantel. There are four large windows. It’s a classic living room, just on the small side. The large openings also presented an extra challenge. I spent several hours on the space planning.

Here is the floor plan.

diluigi-lr copy

Those large openings presented an extra challenge, but I made it work! The plan has a gracious sense of entrance, good flow. It has movement in that it’s not static. [everything at right angles]. And there’s seating for six with the little stools tucked underneath the console table.

A & D loved it. In the meantime, A set up a secret pinterest board. It’s secret because only she and I can see it. Here are a few of the shots and one or two I added.

swedish-country-interiors-Suzanna Havden BellSuzanna Havden Bell from Swedish Country Interiors

img_glamour-sophisticationl_werner-straub-traditional-homeTraditional Home – photo by Werner Straube


peonyandsage.comPeony and Sage


A classical design with a modern bent to this coffee table adds interest and keeps the room from looking too precious and “theme-y.”

Table from Williams Sonoma Home


kevin-cross-studio-gustavian-tableKevin Cross Studio

haveninparis.comHaven in Paris

How pretty! I love A’s ideas. It was clear that she favors a monochromatic color scheme in an antique French, Swedish style. Furthermore, keeping the room more or less A-tonal is wonderful for a small living room to create a sense of space.

Here are my recommendations when decorating a small living room
  • Do Keep the feeling of the room light and airy
  • Pattern should be kept more for accents and/or should be subtle
  • Pay very careful attention to the space planning. In a small space a difference of 6 inches can be significant!
  • Don’t feel that everything has to be small in scale. Having one or two larger elements will add variety and drama
  • Create extra seating with ottomans and/or a couple of chairs against the wall
  • [again] Don’t make all of the furniture tiny in scale, but with upholstered pieces, be sure that the scale is appropriately scaled and on the sleek-side.
  • Do Create drama with art and accessories and avoid pieces that are too dinky.
  • Create more drama by hanging the  draperies up high
  • Don’t forget some dark accents
  • Even in a completely gray or neutral room there should be some small pops of color, even if it’s just flowers

Blog living4

The living room from several years ago of Gustavian Swedish antiques deal and blogger, Loi Thai

Loi is a master of “tone-on-tone” pale. However, please notice that pale and tone-on-tone does not mean devoid of contrast and even some pops of color. This photo is a perfect example of how the over-all feeling of the room is pale, but it’s the dark accents and the shot of chartreuse which makes it sing!

leerollarm1A already knew that she wanted an English Roll Arm Sofa, but instead of this 84″ size, hers cannot be any longer than 72″–tops!

She had also decided on this lovely warm gray tone on tone Oriental rug from Ethan Allen.


8c3a4ab0430ea94fbfef14cb1c43483dA and D loved this stylish cube ottoman from and plans to put two of them under this Gustavian-style console from WisteriaW7278_2

And here… voila, is the “mood board.”

And-Dave-wm   The fabrics are accents for pillows. I can’t tell you where everything came from. After-all, a girl has to have some mystery. ;]



PS: If you would like interior design help, I can also work long distance for some projects. Therefore, please don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss the possibility.

PPS: While there are affiliate links in my sidebar, the product links in this post are not affiliated with any company and there is no compensation received.

15 Responses

  1. Hi Laurel,

    I’ve stumbled across your site, and LOVE the wealth of information and insight that you provide in the most delightful manner! I’m curious how you handle lamps that are in a “floating” area and not against a wall, like the two lamps on either side of the sofa above. Where do they plug in? I’ve seen floor outlets in a conference room at work; would that solution work for a home with hardwoods? Many thanks!

    1. Hi Susan,

      Yes, floor outlets. What to do about the rug? Even with a fine Oriental, a small hole (for the plug to go through) can be made by a professional company that does this and then it can be repaired later.

  2. Hi Laurel
    I added the AU to my name so you know it isn’t the other Christina who commented further up.

    This is a lovely scheme. The only changes I would make are to have a dark blue rather than black lampshade and perhaps something just a tad more vibrant in place of the yellow cushion. Always has to be something I want to change, lol.

  3. Hi Laurel,
    I am in need of a smaller scale sofa for a room about the size of this one. I find myself drawn to the English roll arm sofas as well. Do you recommend any particular vendor for this scale and type? And, of course, one that you know it comfortable.
    Thank you much.

  4. Oh, I love it – we’re closing up a wall between the old parlour room and what will be our living room so I could build a TV unit into that with some nice tables either side instead of trying to squish it into the corner. Thank you for the inspiration and yes please do a blog on media units – we’ve got the same issue with our dining/snug!

  5. Hi – I love what you do but wondered if your client wants to have a television in her living room? If so how do you work around that as trying to fit a decent sized TV into the living room of the Georgian Townhouse we’re renovating in Bath, England keeps throwing my Gustavian scheme out! I’ve found a company that sell vintage TV mirrors that look like mirrors but are actually TVs but I’m worried it will be too high to view if we put it over the fireplace? Any tips on how to incorporate a TV into your room layout would be great – is there a TV in the room layout you did?

  6. so glad I found your blog! Love the mood board, I hope your client lets you publish some “after” photos. Those ottomans are wonderful!

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
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