Our Unique Home, Stunning View, But Difficult To Furnish!

Dear Laurel,

Hi Laurel!

I couldn’t help but laugh to myself this morning when I was reading your blog post. Why? Because my house ALSO makes me pull my hair out; or, at least, twirl it a lot while in deep tail-chasing thought.


How did you know?


Our house is a custom-built mid-century colonial whatever that means.


But, it’s certainly different. I’ve never met anyone else with a house anything like this. And, everyone who visits says, “wow, this is certainly a unique home.” I can’t always tell if they are just trying to be tactful, but really feel that it’s horrendous.


Below is my drawing of the living/dining areas that is causing sleepless nights.


unique home floor plan - bizarre layout


From the outside, the house looks like a ranch with colonial-styling in the middle.


Entry into living new dining area


And then, once you walk in, you see through to the backyard with gorgeous woods and hills—24 feet of window!


living room needs work - stunning view unique home

Yes, it’s gorgeous! It’s impossible to not fall in love with the view; hence, why we bought the house. Now, thinking back, just like you mentioned, with your home, it was empty.

But, we were smitten and so, we bought the house, moved in and it is only now that we realize that this unique home with the gorgeous view is impossible to furnish!

Let’s begin with the mind-boggling living room.


unique home long-narrow living room


  • The living room has, not one but three focal points with very little usable wall space.
  • The aforementioned 24 foot wall of window is actually a 10 foot center slider door to the deck, flanked by windows 18 inches off the floor.

fireplace view - unique home

  • On the opposite side of the room is a massive wall of fireplace with a hearth that sticks up and out 18 inches.

Plus, the room is only 12 feet deep and if I remember correctly we need to keep 36 inches for a path in front of the hearth.
  • That leaves only nine feet for seating.
  • But wait! We have to be able to get out the doors to the deck.(unless we crawl over the back of something. haha.)
  • Is that another three feet? Well, now we have only six feet for furniture.


I’ll stop you right there for a sec. Since egress to the deck is the only necessity and not even all year round, two feet is satisfactory. I’m presuming that no one needs wheel chair access. Therefore, you have seven feet for seating depth-wise.


There are only two walls available for a TV and I am steadfastly refusing to put it over the fireplace. But one wall, where the large piece of artwork extends beyond into the entryway, so that location is not an option. I don’t want people to see the side/back of the TV when they walk in.


I agree.


living room before unique home

Therefore, the only other possibility is to put it on the eight foot long wall on the left, as you walk in from the dining room.

But, where to put the furniture? Which way does it go? The room is soooooooo long and narrow, and then trying to leave a 36″ for a walkway, plus two entrances, a sliding door out to the patio, and windows that leave no good space under them. 

Are you seeing my problem yet?

Yes, I see the issues clearly. They have not made it easy for you.


I know, I know… poor me with the beautiful view, but this room drives me crazy!

And, we haven’t even started with the dining room issues. So, let’s go over there now.

While we are blessed to have a home with three fireplaces, the one in our dining room is in fact a nightmare.


unique home ugly brick fireplace

Even our mason had never seen a fireplace like it. It’s on the angled wall (Who does that?) Then, as you can see, the opening is off-center and to round-out the bizarre, there is this most peculiar, half-circular, tiered brick hearth cantilevered out from the wall.


Oh dear. That’s pretty bad.


While I love many things about our unique home, that is one issue I would be very happy to solve.


Next up in our den of the unusual is a five foot (of course, load-bearing) wall that breaks into the dining room like a cheese wedge.


Are you still with me, Laurel?


Yes, I’m here, but the cheese wedge is making me hungry. :]


Oh, and then the ceiling changes height from 10′ to 8′ where you see that faint pen line.

How on earth do you make this look close to normal? I’ve tried to put a seating area near the fireplace, but then a dining table doesn’t really fit. And, it cuts off the walkway to the bathroom/laundry. Arrrggghhh!

Of course, we need a dining room table. But, even with a normal-sized table, there’s an awkward amount of space at the other end of the room.

As for the cheese wedge alcove, well, right now, it’s the bar :o)


I think that actually looks rather nice.


I can’t even imagine how many emails you get, [you got that one right] :] and I am in NO WAY asking for free help. But, you asked for difficult, and THIS, Laurel is difficult. Happy viewing!



P.S. A few side notes:
  • I hate all my living room furniture :o)  It was purchased years ago for our previous condo, and since we can’t figure out how to lay out these rooms, it seems silly to buy anything else without a plan.


I’m proud of you!


I would love to chuck it all in a dumpster and start again.  New furniture will happen in a year or two, once my youngest is potty trained (among other things) :o)

  • The sofa is actually apartment sized.
  • And the toys and play table – they are hopefully being banished to the playroom soon!



Hi Everyone. Welcome to another installment of “difficult house layout.” I chose Kristen’s home this week because it is definitely one of the worst layouts I’ve ever seen. It is apparent that little if any thought was given to furniture placement and a lot of other things when this home was designed.


But thank you Kristen, for the floor plan and photos. I have a lot of ideas that I think will help make this unique home work better for your young family.


Before I get started. I did not interview Kristen and therefore, may not be addressing everything correctly. And, not to sound like some lame disclaimer, but this is not a substitute for professional advice. I am going off of Kristen’s measurements. Something I would never do for a real job. There are lots of things I can’t see.


Mostly, this is an exercise to show what’s possible, get us thinking in new and different directions, minimize mistakes and correct some other things to make this place a show-stopper.


The potential is definitely there!


One, thing that struck me that I didn’t comment on earlier is the term Mid-century colonial. If there IS such a thing, it’s not a  term I would apply to Kristen’s home.


Think, Leave it to Beaver. THAT home is what I would call mid-century colonial.


leave it to beaver mid-century colonial decor - Barbara Billingsley

Awwww… brings such a smile to my face!


Kristen’s home may have a few Colonial or Federal features, however, from what I can see MCC is not the correct designation. This unique home is 90% mid-century modern in styling; with some rusticity which is appropriate for the beautiful wooded setting. The other 10% might be more trad, but over-all, this is a modern home.

Okay, we need to move on because there’s a lot to cover. Let’s bring that floor plan back down.


unique home floor plan - bizarre layout


One thing, I believe that we talked about is what to do when NOTHING is working.


  • Try stepping away and pretend that you are seeing these spaces for the first time and there is no furniture in any of the rooms.
  • Reassess.
  • We have a kitchen surrounded by two living areas.
  • There is a too-long skinny living room.
  • And, we have a too big, awkward dining area.

Now go and pour yourself a stiff piece of chocolate cake.;]


Here are my ideas and floor plan for this unique home. Please bear in mind, that there are other options, but this is good for starters.

unique home - with furniture - living- family-dining room
What if we moved your dining area to the entry hallway side of the living room?

I’ll let you chew on that one for a sec because I know that’s a big one to digest.

How lovely to be able to dine and take in the view. I would get a round table that extends to be able to accommodate 4-8.


But Laurel, I need to interrupt you. Two or three times a year, we need to be able to host holidays and might need to seat up to 14 at one table, if possible.


Yes, of course. I’ve got you covered.

I’m hearing that you would really love to get the TV out of the living room. Or at least not make it the main TV viewing area.

unique home - with furniture - living- family-dining room
So, here’s what I think might work, but it would require some carpentry. I would extend the wall between the kitchen and the living room as you are looking into the kitchen from the dining room. It’s the wall in the middle of the image above. I would extend it about a foot to the left. (or however much is needed)


And that is because the “dining room” is going to be your brand new family room!


It is???


In fact, when I first saw these images, I thought, why is this big room the dining room?

But, here’s what we can do. When you have a crowd for a holiday meal.

Get some folding card tables– three of them and put them together to make one long table. Add the demi-lunes to the ends. You will have a huge table. Please check this out for what I’m talking about and please excuse the plastic table-cloth. haha

Use the sofa for the middle of the table area. I would get some sort of cover for it. Pile the kids on it. They will love it. If my kids were sitting there, they would be leaping over the table to get out.

No problem!

Stick the coffee table in a corner. Use the small club chairs as host chairs. And the end tables wherever they will fit but out-of-the-way.

Now, you can host loads of people in this multi-purpose room.

For the living room, I put in a small sectional. It does not have to be a sectional, but I think that it will make a nice room divider.

The main focal point IS the fireplace. At night, you can’t see outside, anyway. But you will still see the view, in any case. If you like, you can still have a TV over a cabinet.


I’m not finished. :]

The rest of the issues I’ve noticed are elements that I think are not helping. And, I realize that these rooms are not finished in any way and that Kristen is using what she has. Also, I’m presuming that some things were there before she got there.

One of the most offensive things is the fireplace in the current dining room. Can we get rid of it? Please talk to your mason. You don’t have to bomb the entire thing and I’m fine with a brick wall.

It’s weird and using up valuable space.

I’m not going to address the specific furniture, but please do not overlap windows and furniture. (or doorways and furniture) I’m sure that you know that but didn’t have anywhere else to put the cabinet. I’m just mentioning it as a reminder for all of us.


I actually like the little bar area and think that’s a very clever use of the space.

It’s reminding me of Tara Sharma’s pretty bar area from this post from a while back.


unique home - with furniture - living- family-dining room
I would really love to see the white not be here, above the beams. The best solution, I think, is to paint that area the same as the walls.

Kitchen cabinets. I don’t know what your plans are, but I see a rich khaki color, not white for this kitchen. That’s with the current color-scheme. If that changes, then yes, please do what works best for the new colors.

unique home needs fixing before dining room
Houston, we have a problem! :]

And it’s not overlapping furniture walls and cabinets, this time.

We need to take care of that AC.

Here’s an idea I discovered and I LOVE it!

via the sister sophisticate blog air conditioner hidden in cabinetvia The Sister Sophisticate blog Orginally form Better Homes and Gardens


The style of this piece while very pretty is not right for Kristen’s home, but the idea is wonderful, I think.

via the sister sophisticate blog air conditioner hidden in cabinet full size

Kristen would need a full-size piece to go over the air conditioner.

If the outlet could be moved so that it is all contained inside the unit, even better!


Let’s look at the living room again


fireplace view - unique home

I feel that the fireplace area isn’t quite working.


First, I would paint everything one color.  Yes, paint the brick too. The niches are challenging. I’ve always thought so. But I would go with less is more here. I think that there are too many disparate elements. I do love the large lanterns or whatever they are. I’m not sure what’s inside them. I think it would be cool if they lit up, somehow.

Ideally, I think that there should be one piece of art over the mantel. Or one mirror. A non-fussy mirror would be great to reflect the view.

And, I would probably not do the pillows, or maybe just two on each side. Right now, they’re a little too lined up and perhaps a little close to the firebox.

I do love the art wall on this wall.

living room needs work - stunning view unique homeAlthough there’s no crown moulding, the drapes are still hung too low. They should go up at least six inches, ideally. However, then they will be too short. This isn’t the worst thing, to keep them where they are, but raising them will elevate the room.

For more about professional looking draperies, please check out this post.

If these are new, then forget I said that. :] If Kristen wants to use these drapes and raise the bar– haha. Fine rod; then, a contrast hem could be added. Or rather, a plain linen in the background color.  Since the sill is at 18 inches, then the hem should be about that height. It will look smashing.

One thing that’s bringing down this room, is the wall-to-wall carpet. It’s lacking in the sophisticated style, that I know Kristen wants.

I would put in a hardwood floor in to coordinate with the family room, if there isn’t one already.

Then I would do one area rug for the seating area and if desired, another one for the dining area.

Sea grass might be a great choice.

On the one long wall where there’s a piece of art, I think that an art wall with multiple pieces would be better. Right now, this piece is calling too much attention to itself and it’s fighting with the show-stopper behind the glass. That’s only my opinion. Art is subjective and it’s one thing I’ve always let my clients take care of, unless they want my help.

Well, those are my main suggestions.

Like I said, I think that there’s a tremendous amount of potential. And, I still think that it is best to work with a professional designer, but for now, we can see that it’s not at all hopeless!

There are a lot of design lessons in these posts; not just the difficult floor plans!




PS: If you’re interested, please check out the hot sales pages. Some sales are ending tonight.

82 Responses

  1. Laurel – you make the difficult look simple …
    your ideas are superb – everyone can take away something for now or in the future.

  2. Loved the way you have illustrated the sketch with approx measures. Appreciate your work and thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    1. The measurements are not approximate, Ahaan. Plus, business links are not allowed unless they are meaningful contributors. If you would like to advertise your business on Laurel Home, please contact our ad network.

  3. Hi Laurel,

    Great post on your fabulous blog, I look forward to them all week long!!! I missed this one last week, I think you sent out a couple of them so I got confused, but I was so HAPPY to see this. Great idea, and I this house is going to be a stunner when she makes her changes, I bet that long room will be so cozy in the winter and a place you could snuggle in all weekend just reading a book (while chasing down toddlers). Good Luck Kristen! Your a lucky gal to have been given all this wisdom. 🙂

    1. Hi Genie,

      Thanks so much!

      Normal blog days/times are Tuesday evening (eastern time) and Sunday morning, just after midnight. Occasionally, The Tuesday post gets moved to Wednesday, but I found that with the Friday Hot Sales day, that the spacing of Tuesday is better for me.

  4. Not that my two cents really matter but I do feel like in her case she should hire someone to help her. It doesn’t look like she knows where she wants to go style or color wise. The dining room is dark warm colors and the living room is light with gray walls. I don’t feel like they belong together. I think she needs to find a color palette she likes that works with the wood floors and stick with it. I love blues and grays but for her house I love the dark warm colors. I really like the rug she has in the dining room. When you look through to the living and Kitchen the white just looks so off. I think the colors Frank Lloyed Wright used in the Meyer may house would look nice in her home.


    or something more Bohemian using warm colors, if she likes that look.

    1. Hi Amy,

      Oh, Kristen definitely knows what SHE wants. I don’t expect everyone to read every word of the post or the comments, but uhh… there’s a husband that she’s trying to please and also furniture that’s from another home. Plus, what was already there. And right now, that’s what you’re seeing.

      However, this is an excellent point. People want to compromise and meld styles, but sometimes that doesn’t work so well and then you get things like driftwood and fishing ropes next to blue and white Chinoiserie porcelain and the styles are too disparate.

      So, if he wants a hunting lodge and she wants Windsor Castle, how do you meet in the middle? That’s another challenge, for sure! But, this exercise was largely about the layout.

      I still think that everyone should use a designer at least as a consultant. And especially if the house is at all problematic as this one is.

  5. Gosh you make it look so easy! We know it’s not remotely easy.
    Amazing ideas and I love how this community is so supportive and chimes in expanding on the ideas. I’m going to make this chocolate cake for sure.

    1. Thanks so much Jennifer. And yes, we’re like a happy family here. That’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted; a big happy family! I thought it had eluded me all of these years and I just realized that I have it; just not as I had imagined it would be. xo

  6. You are clearly a pro, Laurel – remarkable work. This is a doozy of a floor plan! Your ideas really seem workable, as do some of the modifications suggestsed in the comments. I happen to have a long narrow living room/open floor plan with little wall space (exactly 1 spot to put the TV) but this plan really takes the cake. My only concern on Kristen’s home was how hard is it to move the thermostat, as that seemed to be smack in the middle of the wall you were having her put the TV?

    1. Hi Julie,

      That’s a good question. In my experience, most thermostats are easy to move. We moved ours when we did our little reno 22 years ago. It was not at all a big deal.

  7. Laurel,
    These difficult room posts are awesome. I have a particularly challenging living room with a corner fireplace and a built-in for the tv in the adjacent corner. And french doors on two of the walls. Oh, and the fireplace rivals the fireplaces in your “ugliest stone fireplace” post (which is how I found your blog in the first place!). How do you feel about faux river rock? Haha. Sadly, I am not kidding. Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for linking to the post about the desk/demi-lune tables. That is genius and a perfect solution for our small dining table (and small dining room/library — also an idea I saw on your blog!) that needs to fit 10+ people once in a while. So, thank you!

    1. Hi Katrina,

      Due to my family situation, we’ve only done it a couple of times. But, it’s amazing. We could easily get 10 people around it. But it takes up the whole living room. haha. Very cozy!

  8. Laurel what I love about your posts is how your real love for design comes thru. It’s infectious. This one was an educational tour-de-force.
    Totally off topic. I want to share that I made your chocolate cake for my birthday. (I know-who makes their own cake?) It is the best chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten. Everyone agreed. Thank you!

    1. Hi Melody,

      Happy Birthday and for the record, you are not alone; I made many a birthday cake for myself! My son Aaron’s birthday is 19 days before mine, and I often made a double recipe and put mine in the freezer.

  9. Maybe in the future if there are funds, I would take out the long hearth completely allowing for more walking room, shorten the fireplace on both sides so that you can walk through to the kitchen on both sides giving an open feel connecting the kitchen conversationally to the other room. You would lose the kitchen desk.

    1. Hi Ginger,

      I love the way you are thinking, but I’m wondering if four entrances into the kitchen will possibly create other undesirable issues. Still, I always say, one doesn’t know until they go exploring.

  10. Laurel, love your web site! You have so many interesting posts!

    Did anyone mention painting all of that wood WHITE? I, too, live in the woods and have walls of green (windows) in the summer and brown in the winter. My DH & I built our home to reflect the woodsy view w/ lots of natural wood paneling, but now that I’ve had almost all of it painted white, I love it! It’s clean and fresh and seems to enhance the views through the windows. So, in addition to all of your fab ideas, I would add “paint the dining-room-turned-family-room white”.

    1. Hi Merrilyn,

      No, nobody mentioned it ;] However, that one will be a tough sell now that we know the husband’s preferences. Although, this would apply to 75% of all husbands, in my estimation. If it were up to me, I’d white-wash everything, but that’s just me.

      1. I wanted to paint it white before we even moved in! That’s why you see some white door trim in the room… For now, it stays wood, but I might convince him one day :o)

  11. Dear Laurel!
    Very ingenious and charming layout!
    I have two questions, is there a way of having a more direct view to the woods from the living room? Maybe opening the sectional?
    And if the TV goes on an arm bracket on the brick wall (after the bombing) there would be no need of extending the walls but would have to turn the sofa with its back to the kitchen, do you think this could work? Maybe it wouldn’t look nice from the kitchen and living room, I don’t know if there is enough room for a small console behind the sofa…
    What do you think?

    Thank you Kristen too! Great design lessons!

    1. Hi Carolina,

      I’m in a bit of a time crunch at the moment, but I hope that I said that there’s more than one option. If I were working with a client directly, there would be much discussion about all of these things and the possibilities and choices that would work best for their needs. But great that this is making you think of those variations!

  12. I love the floor plans you came up with. It is a very challenging layout but has loads of charm and quirk. We actually used to turn our family room into dining for 20 at holidays just like you described. It worked wonderfully. We kept a small dining table with leaves at one end of the room for games and crafts so my husband made a huge plywood table top (that hinged in the middle for storage)to go on top and placed it right in front of the sofa as you suggest The end where the wall AC is seems to have enough room for a small table in front of the windows. As for the wonky round fireplace, if it can’t be removed I’d try leaning a painting over the hole and setting up the bar there. And I LOVED Leave it to Beaver too

  13. The niches on either side of the current living room fireplace would also be great for shelves….pardon me if that suggestion has been given already!

    Also, the wall with the “unique” fireplace–if the homeowner does consider removing it, maybe go all the way and see if there is a way to straighten the wall altogether. It might mean blocking off the fireplace. In fact, I wonder if you could just build a new wall–drywall not brick– in front that will be straight for the room. Might be cheaper than redoing the brick fireplace. Also it could potentially be another option for a tv wall, and you could see it from the kitchen too. Just an idea….a friend had a similar issue and just blocked off the whole fireplace.

    Thanks to Kristen for offering her home for us all to enjoy!

  14. Laurel, I love this series you are doing with difficult rooms. This was my favorite so far and I agree with the other commenters that it will be awesome to see after photos. I found your blog about 3 years ago when I was googling “best white trim colors” after failing on my own/trying about a dozen whites (and sure enough Cotton Balls was what I needed). I have been following your blog ever since. What I really love is that you have instilled a love and understanding of classic design that I was missing from other design/diy blogs that I followed. I still like seeing what they do in rooms, but if I have to make a decision in my own home, it is your advice I follow 100% of the time. Thank you for blogging and for sharing your opinion on real-life homes!

    My one idea on your suggestions to Kristen’s house would be to add either floating shelves or builtins in the alcoves on either side of the fireplace that would relate to the new builtin Laurel suggested in the drawing. Thanks again for a great post and to Kristen for sharing photos of her awesome home!

    1. That’s a great idea about shelves or a shelf in the alcoves.

      And yeah, a bit of dumb luck, but I kind of rock those keywords best white trim colors. Oh, wow, at the moment, I’m in the number one position for that search term! That always amazes me, but I write about the strategies I use to make that happen in my blogging guide, (for any bloggers out there.)

  15. Laurel,
    Thank you for this lesson on thinking outside of the box. I was so glad when you said “brick” that dining room fireplace! Good luck,Kirsten, with your new layout. I’m sure it will be both comfortable and gorgeous.

  16. Am I the only one reminded of the wagon-wheel coffee table in the movie “When Harry Met Sally” when I see the ceiling light fixture?

      1. the wagon wheel was the gigantic beast of ugly bachelor funiture that Bruno Kirby’s character LOVED and Carrie Fischer’s character hated and that’s how you knew they were truly in love and they were a real couple is when it went out the door! ( can’t believe that movie is so long ago and both Carrie and Bruno have passed away (:-(RIP)
        this post and your solutions were terrific….lots to unpick there!!

        1. Thanks so much Meredith. Every time I see your name, I think of the great designer, Laura Bohn. Are you related per chance? (if you see this response)

  17. Laurel, I always read every word of your blog and enjoy it (and learn from it) so much!
    Kristen, thank you for sharing your photos to give us an opportunity to learn. I think the suggestions from a Laurel are right on point for your home.
    If you have a long term remodeling goal, I would suggest that you flip the kitchen and dining room. That was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw the layout. [That being said, I am an idealist, and that is always my problem when I try to do something in my home-i get blocked by my own idealism and then paralyzed. That’s why I MUST keep reading Laurel’s blog to let some practical sink into my brain!]

    1. Hi Lisa,

      I think that all of us have trouble with our own homes. It is much easier to see things in someone else’s home. At least that’s my experience. Thanks so much for your lovely comment!

  18. Thank you, everyone – all of your comments are so lovely… and I totally agree, Laurel is awesome! She nailed my floor plan and I’m already seeing my house differently. I’ve been moving some things around this morning and loving it. My husband and I loved all of the suggestions. We finally feel like there is hope for our house!
    For most of the year, we usually keep that awkward, overlapping bookcase in front of the air conditioner unit to hide it. We squeeze it into to that little space in the summer. It’s thankfully moving back next week.
    The kitchen cabinets were knotty pine when we moved in and we painted them BM Revere Pewter. Large renovations with two little ones under 5 was not an option!
    It is a bit unnerving to have your home broadcast to the world. We clearly needed help, and I’m really glad that it helped some of you, too.

  19. Laurel! I am so excited. I actually thought some of the same things you did. You are finally getting me to see the way of things oh great mentor.
    Maybe there is hope for me ( and the rest of us who are design clueless) yet.
    Thanks for everything. Although my family may not thank you as I have become a bit…shall we say obsessed about all things interior design.

    1. Hi Carolyn,

      One thing interior design school taught me was to think quickly. I had no choice because in addition to dreaming up the ideas, I had to execute them in elaborate presentation boards and models. And all of that took dozens of hours!

  20. Laurel, I really like your suggestions and especially swapping the living and dining areas. I love stalking Zillow and redesigning houses in my head. It’s my kind of fun. Ha! Anyhow, I’m always struck by how people will cram their dining table and thus, family, into these tiny “dining rooms” because that’s what the builder said the room was supposed to be, meanwhile they have a much larger formal living room (you know no one is using) off the other side of the kitchen complete with a fireplace, etc. Why not put the dining table in the fireplace room and give people room to pull their chair out all the way?!
    I actually really love Kristin’s house, especially the windows and the elevated ceiling with the beams in the dining room. I do think that if she took out quite a bit of stuff those type features could probably be better appreciated as they would be able to command more attention.

    1. Hi Brittany,

      Here in southern Westchester County, in older homes, some people cram themselves into what used to be a porch and is now, the designated 7′ x 15′ “family room.” Oh, sometimes, it’s eight feet. But some use it as a separate TV room and also use their “living” room for actual living – ie: the “family room.”

  21. Really great advice for this house Laurel. I agree with all your solutions. Great idea to move the dining area and I especially agree with removing the carpeting, and simplifying the fireplace and getting the mason to get rid of/alter the weird fireplace, and creating an art wall instead of the large artwork which does really draw a little too much attention. Good luck Kristen. Beautiful views

  22. Great post! Thanks for the “reveal” Kristen. If you try Laurel’s sage advice I bet you’ll love it.
    When I read potty trained … my design priority shifted to where’s the baby mode. If your family area is relocated to the open kitchen side – where’s the baby? — right there:) in the cozy keeping room.
    Anchoring the front entrance sight line with a sane space dining table that can almost always look nice is a bonus that can’t be over estimated. Plus, it lets you pretend elves are cleaning the kitchen chaos while you’re dining with a view and a fireplace.
    Bravo to you for buying a challenge and to Laurel for dropping the mic with the plan for it!

    1. Thank you so much Carrie for your kind words. To be clear, nobody is actually remunerating me for any of this. It’s all based on what I’m sent and what I think will resonate positively, with other readers. Of course, I might be wrong about that and one can’t please everyone, all of the time.

  23. I enjoy your blog posts immensely. This one, especially, will be added to several I occasionally will refer to again for its wealth of design lessons. What a beautiful transformation you did, I hope someday we can see after photos.

  24. Dear Kristen and Laurel,
    Your home has a such a gorgeous setting which must bring you great joy.
    Laurel has made terrific and user-friendly suggestions for helping you transform the layout to satisfy the needs and enjoyment of your home for your young family. She has such amazing ideas!
    I would like to suggest a few things! I think the idea of putting the eating area in the long living room is splendid, freeing up that good space for the family room. I noticed the two, tall cabinets in the current dining room. Would one of them work on the wall to the right of the fireplace in the living room? (Laurel suggested a built-in bookcase)
    I would switch the dining room table to the the opposite side of the living room, to be closer to the kitchen area and also, the new family room.
    The view from the front doorway would then be fully focused on the living room where several sofas and/or chairs, placed perpendicular to the windows, could take better advantage of the VIEW as well as the cosiness of the fireplace.
    Best wishes as you pursue your dream.

  25. It’s been a bit since I chimed in. Thanks for sharing your house Kristen. Laurel, I’m loving these difficult layouts. I’m learning so much (as always). My living room is tricky, so I almost wrote in, but it’s nothing compared to this! Besides, I don’t have drywall yet, let alone furniture. My unkitchen gets installed in 2 weeks and I’m going to have heat this winter – yeah!!! 3 years of renos and counting. Thank God for you, I’d be lost without your blog.

    1. Oh Gail, that is so sweet. And honestly, I lose track of who said what and when. I’m always so happy when I hear that something I said has been helpful. Please send photos if you like. I would love to see what you’ve done. xoxo

  26. Suddenly my dining room and living room are much easier to figure out. Holy moly that is a tricky house! Forget the piece of cake, eat the whole thing. 😉 Hopefully it will have some cream cheese frosting?….

  27. We have a similarly configured house up here in the Hudson Valley, very chi-chi MCM, but with living room and main entrance flipped from this layout. Awkward fireplace wall, lots of wrought iron, and when we looked at the house, wall-to wall pink carpet. Original kitchen built-in appliances, very cool if you like them, and an intercom. I thought the huge, narrow living room was more of a challenge than the 1950s-60s kitchen!

  28. Kristen, your home is lovely. The architecture reminds me of homes in my town built by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. All have the dramatic angles and natural light and all are perched in the trees. I love Laurel’s suggestion for the placement of the dining room table, maybe even with a tablecloth that reaches the floor. To me the placement near the entry is very chic. I also see you have contemporary lamps and other accessories. I think your inclination to mix those items in with the more traditional elements like your china cabinets is exactly what this house needs since full blown modern doesn’t seem to be your thing. If you do paint your kitchen cabinets, I could definitely see hardware more in keeping with your lighting taste. Overall I am imagining your home to be some sort of vibe along the lines of “Laurel-curated Ralph Lauren-esque bohemian layered Persian carpets, kilims, plaids and chinoiserie porcelains with a twist of California abstract casual meets real life with kids plus organic warm wood tones and fresh, sunlit foliage”. Because all of that is very clearly an actual style hahaha. Anyway, I think with the changes in your floorplan, things will really start to click for you and you’ll have a lot of fun decorating. Laurel to the rescue!

    1. I try to think of my style as modern woodland… I like more modern styling while my husband prefers a rustic, log cabin feel. We meet in the middle with traditional pieces. This new floorplan already has my mind going! Laurel is a genius!

      1. Hello Kristen, wanted to throw in my two cents…I love, love Laurel’s suggestion to swap the LR and DR areas. Genius. Makes perfect sense to have your family room right off the kitchen.
        My comment is about the cantilever fireplace…is this a wood burning oven, like a pizza oven? Perhaps that is why there is a brick “shelf” thingy.
        Your home is lovely! Good luck:)

  29. I sure wish I could find a designer like you on the left coast. Your suggestions are spot on. This is an over the top design challenge, and in my opinion, you nailed it. I love your traditional style. So much inspiration in your blog. Thank you for the inspiration.

    1. Thanks so much Mary! Like I always say. I love designing and solving problems. But, pretty much hate the business. This way, I can create whatever I like without having to deal with the parts I don’t have the stomach for. It’s a blessing for sure!

  30. Such an interesting read. I love these ‘difficult room’ features, feels like a peek into a designer’s mind to see how you think out of the box. Also, those dining room chairs are flipping amazing and I want them 🙂 🙂 🙂

    1. Hi Kimi,
      I love that Laurel thinks out of the box! If you are referring to my dining room chairs, they are actually from… IKEA! They are ‘Tobias’ and surprisingly really comfortable.

  31. Laurel and Kristen,

    Long-time reader, first time commenting. Love Laurel’s guidance. You are headed in the right direction. Great instincts!

    Kristen, I have this house but in New England, Maine style, so I’ll be following comments.

    We had pine railroad panelling, light pine stain, on all the walls of a 1930s cottage. Pulled out upper half, added a chair rail, put wall board in above rail, painted the walls white. No wall-to-wall carpeting (I have ripped that stuff up before, wear a dust mask), just dark-stained yet beautiful wide-plank floors. We sanded the floors a bit to remove stain and sealed. Brought up an old Oriental to cover the floors. I know not everyone has an old rug lying around, but this was threadbare. Relatively easy to find at low cost these days on FB and CL (even the dump!) when everyone has seagrass. Not that I don’t love seagrass. I grew up with it.

    Our fireplace is smack in the middle of everything, so we made it a focal point.

    Then we got slipcovers in a Waverly yellow/blue, painted the tables blue (my father in law almost had a stroke), painted kitchen cabinets blue – all
    a mid Swedish blue. Suddenly there was light in the house.

    Room layouts were difficult because of the fireplace placement. It’s a cottage on the coast, built for water views. Everything in the cottage is oriented around the view to the sea. We banished the TV but eventually were forced to put one in – a small one on an inner wall.

    That was 15 years ago. Now it’s time to take another look, so I wish you well, and hope to hear more of your work in progress.

    All the best in your adventure.


    1. Hi Ann,

      Thank you so much for such a lovely comment. Hope that you’ll be back soon! I didn’t say this, but this house is in Connecticut. So, it’s also New England even though the house is not indicative of that. It sounds like it wanted to be, but forces beyond its control intervened. haha.

      Your home sounds quite charming.

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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