Sometimes, interesting architecture makes for awkward living spaces, whether it’s a historic home full of quirky angles or a new build with unconventional proportions. Figuring out how to space, plan, and decorate an awkward living room can be a challenge for even the most seasoned interior designers.
But because not everyone lives in a blank box, experienced interior design pros have developed an arsenal of tips and tricks to cheat the eye and smooth out the rough edges of even the oddest of spaces. Here they share some expert advice on how to arrange furniture and decorate your very own awkward living space, helping you to take the focus off its flaws and turn it into the comfortable, functional, and beautiful room it was meant to be.
Meet the Expert
- John McClain is an interior designer and founder of John McClain Design.
- Jessica Risko Smith an interior designer and founder of JRS ID. She is a LEED Accredited Professional and a longtime ASID Professional Member.
When designing an awkward living room, it’s important to build your foundation before focusing on decorative elements and finishes.
“When planning out your living space, identifying the largest wall and placing your biggest piece of furniture in that area will free up other spots to help determine where your remaining components can go,” interior designer John McClain of John McClain Design says. “It is easier to arrange your furniture around statement elements rather than accent pieces.”
Zone It Out
“Think about the different functions that take place in the room,” says interior designer Jessica Risko Smith of JRS ID. “Creating two to three zones in a room can make an odd-shaped space more usable. Creating a cozy reading zone separate from a larger conversation area or TV viewing space can make use of odd corners or minimize disruption caused by circulation through a space. Swivel chairs work magic in situations like these!”
Float the Furniture
“Don't be afraid to pull things away from the walls,” says Risko Smith. “Sometimes odd-shaped rooms (especially large ones) benefit most from having furniture pulled in toward the center, creating a new shape within.”
McClain suggests using an open shelving unit as a room divider “while incorporating curated pieces of décor, books and even storage boxes,” he suggests. “Place a console table and chair behind your sofa for a convenient workstation.”
Define Space With Area Rugs
"A great way to delineate zones within your living space is to utilize area rugs,” McClain says. “Selecting different colors, shapes and textures is a great way to separate your TV/hang out and dining spaces without physically putting something in between them.”
Play Around With Shapes
“Furniture and décor with round edges or curved silhouettes can soften the rigidness of a space,” McClain says. “It will also create movement that is more pleasing to the eye. Incorporating organic shapes like plants (live or faux), branches, crystals and woven baskets are great ways to incorporate different shapes as well!"
Utilize Vertical Space
“Don’t be afraid of maximizing your wall space at various heights,” McClain says. "Keeping the same sight line can increase the awkwardness of a space by calling out the areas not utilized. Hang wall décor in collages by mixing in photographs, art, and mirrors. Use taller casement pieces or install wall-mounted shelving in areas in need of functional storage options while maintaining your design aesthetic. It’s okay to hang something higher than you may think as long as it is large enough (like an oversized art piece) and makes sense within the space.”
Use Clever Lighting
“Lighting can be used to enhance the feel of a space by highlighting vignettes or defining seating areas,” McClain says. “Hue lighting can be used to set the mood while entertaining or watching TV. Wall sconces (whether hard wired or plug in) can be used to add light without taking up real estate on a table or floor.”
Exploit Every Nook and Cranny
“Use nooks and niches to your advantage,” McClain says. “Have an open area underneath your stairs or a weird closet that you don’t know what to do with? Create an intimate reading corner with a cozy chair, side table and lamp for when you want to get away from the TV. Remove closet doors and swap out shelving for a practical office set up. Add a small sideboard and install open shelves into a recess in the wall for a dry bar set up or coffee station.”