Dear PoP – Reader Suggestions for Decorating a “Skinny Row House”


“Dear PoP,

I will be moving into one of those narrow 2 bedroom rowhouses in Columbia Heights next month. It’s a typical 1-door-and-1-window-wide rowhouse with the staircase leading up from the front door and a long narrow room that is to be the dining room and living room. The house is about 14 feet wide.

I’m having a hard time trying to figure out how to make a living space with about 11-12 ft width and what seems over 22 ft length. Of course I’d like to have a space to relax with friends, a nice-sized flatscreen and sofa(s) and coffee table. I will be buying new furniture but need some inspiration… could you ask your readers to submit pictures/descriptions/suggestions of what they did with their skinny living rooms? I know there are a lot of narrow rowhouse residents out there!”

If any readers have photos or how to decorate a narrow row house please email them to princeofpetworth (at) gmail (dot) com.

Speaking of design I received an email today from a local Silver Spring resident that got her apartment featured on Apartment Therapy. It’s pretty sweet!

14 Comment

  • Ditch the coffee table idea. Nesting tables that you can move around probably makes more sense.

  • They just featured this same decorating issue on the show “Bang for your Buck” on HGTV. It featured makeovers of the living/dining/kitchen areas of very skinny row homes in Baltimore. You may want to go online to see if you can find the episode.

  • Adapt your back deck to include a staircase/ladder for roof access. Build a green roof or sitting area up there w/ planters, etc.

  • The furniture in this house

    utilizes the space well (it was sold a few months back). It might be a bit deeper than the reader’s new home is.

    I think the biggest thing that makes the space work is that the sofa and entertainment center are small in scale. We’ve all cringed seeing GDoNs with overstuffed recliner sofas and wall-to-wall entertainment centers stuffed into these small houses. The effect is horrible–they overtake the entire space.

    Upholstered storage cubes might be a good choice for the living room–they can work as coffee tables, end tables, or guest seating.

    Definitely search apartment therapy for ‘row house’ for pictures.

  • Baltimore is definitely a good source because they have many more skinny homes than DC.

  • Didn’t you think about this before you bought/rented it out? For me, I could not decide to move somewhere if I didn’t feel comfortable with how I’d live in it.

    But enough snarkieness on my part. Our narrow little place is arranged so there are two rooms with the counch acting as a divider creating a living room and dining room (about 11 feet into the 24 foot long room). That makes for a cozier, and gives us a dinning room with a big table for eating and putting our junk on.

  • Also, if you look at the same site that PoP posted – They have lots of postings about small spaces. You should easily be able to find some ideas on there.

    I second that idea that whatever furniture you choose it should serve a dual purpose in a small space….. cabinets with storage or an ottoman with storage.

    We have a nifty table that both sides drop down to make a table about the size of a sofa table. I think something like this would allow you a little more space. You can either have one side up for 2-3 people to eat at or both sides up for several people to eat at. And if you don’t need to have a table then both sides fold down for a small side table.

    My last recommendation is to search out vintage stores for some of your furniture. Furniture these days seems to be bigger and bulkier (unless maybe you go all IKEA, which i wouldn’t recommend) and that certainly won’t help your cause to have giant furniture in the room.

  • i second or third the recommendation for apartmenttherapy. lots of great small space ideas there. not sure if it’s still on, but hgtv also used to have a show called “small space, big style” that showed some tiny, tiny spaces (some from AT, actually).

    in general, i’d say try to stick w/ smaller scale furniture and furniture that does double-duty like others have mentioned above (either by having storage space or being expandable, like a drop leaf table). agree that vintage furniture is good for small scale stuff. so are some of the fancier stores (dwr and the like). i don’t think ikea should be written off entirely, though – you can get some good stuff there that will last quite awhile.

    finally – prob a good idea to mount the flat screen tv if you can (and i know this is a personal preference, but not over the fireplace!). and to try to keep some visual space by having furniture that sits up on legs and isn’t all blocky and down on the ground.

  • definitely do a couple of skinny couches. plus a narrow vestibule table.

  • Living in one of these 14′ wide x 30′ deep houses, I’d recommend taking a wait and see approach. Move in with the minimum you’ll need for basic comfort and see how the place works for you. You’ll be amazed by how little you actually need.

    I did that and came to the same realization of several of the commenters here: Coffee table was a huge pain. I end up with a “keep the main area wide open” compromise.

    I ditched the coffee table and moved to nestled stool-like contraptions that double as little end tables and extra seating. I put a low media cabinet on one wall for DSL, stereo, DVR and a bit of extra storage. Get the flat screen up on the wall and you can use the top of the media cabinet to display your trophy books, tchotzkes, etc. There’s a relatively narrow couch along the other wall.

    We also have a rolling bar cart for liquor and party items and a dining nook that can feed three at a bar table. And that’s it!

  • Rolling bar car of liquor? Now that’s a design innovation can dig – when’s the next party so we can see this up close? I’m still smarting that the wife nixed the beer fridge and college couch on my porch

  • Small Spaces are not just about how you arrange the furniture, but also the scale of the furniture. I would stick to a clean simple line approach to your furnishings. Use case goods which can easily be moved around & used for multiple purposes. If you feel like you need some help with this project I have an interior design business called Strange Interiors with 10+ years of experience & love working on small spaces. I would be happy to come up with several floor plan options for you, so you could see what things would look like before you go about purchasing furniture. If you would like to take me up on the offer you can email me at [email protected] & we could set up a time for me to take a look at the space. Good Luck!!

  • I think you should go see other people’s homes in person… perhaps neighbors on your block or on the Hill. (Hopefully they won’t feel self-conscious if you ask to see their homes). I find it more useful to experience something in 3-D.

    I think you should consider (for a 12 foot wide house) 2 loveseats and 2 overstuffed chairs instead of one couch. One loveseat and 2 big chairs go in the living room/front room, facing the fireplace (do you have one?). The other loveseat can go in the dining room along with your table and chairs and bar/buffet/sideboard. It’s nice to have drop-leaf tables so you have the option of having lots of people eat together, otherwise you can push the tables aside. I agree that furniture seems to be getting bigger… I think American antiques fit these houses very well.

    It’s great to have a small, cozy space to heat and cool.

    Regarding storage, I think every one of us has had to be creative. Do you have a crawl space? Attic? Can you put one of those small sheds in the back yard for things?

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