Decorating and Design Questions Answered by Jessica Bonness

Jessica Bonness runs JGB Interiors and will answer PoP reader questions about decorating and design. If you have a question send an email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail(dot)com and write ‘design question’ in the title.

“I have a design question! We live in a Wardman style row home with a large bay window in the living room. I love the light the bay window provides but we are having trouble figuring out how to arrange the furniture. In addition to the bay window which takes up one wall, we have an oversize opening to the hallway on another wall, the same opening to the dining room on a third wall and a large fireplace on the forth wall. We must keep the 52 inch tv in the room, which is currently in a corner across from the bay window. We have the sofa in the bay window right now but it doesn’t give us enough seating to entertain. (And only allows for one person to stretch out to watch tv!) Do you have any suggestions about what furniture would be better or how to best arrange the furniture when there is no wall space? Thanks!””

Jessica responds:

You could do a couple of things to maximize your seating with this wall-less floor plan.

First, you could get a modified sectional sofa. Not necessarily a huge 7-piece monstrosity, but more like a sofa with a chaise built in. Lots of retailers have “apartment sized” furniture – Crate and Barrel has some great options, like the City 2-Piece Armless Sectional – and the sectionals in this category would be a good fit without taking up too much space in the room.

If you’re keeping your furniture, I’d probably put your existing sofa in the middle of the room and place some armchairs or a bench opposite it. If you can fit two more small chairs next to each other in that bay window, you can define the area with a small rug and create a place to read a book or sit while you’re not watching television. You might even have room for a tiny table or a cube.

Continues after the jump.

In regards to storage, you can put a console table or a small horizontal bookcase at the back of the sofa. This will get you more storage and it often looks really sharp if you have colorful books or neat things to display. It’s an unexpected placement that especially helps if you don’t love the back of your sofa. Depending on the positioning, it also provides a view from the dining room that isn’t so filled with chairs.

I’d say you could bite the bullet and mount your tv above the mantle, but it appears your wall is mirrored and your tv is gigantic, so thankfully that won’t be an option. Better for your neck to not have to crane up above the fireplace anyway.

I’m sure lots of PoP readers have this same floor plan. What did you do?

21 Comment

  • I would not sully such a nice formal room with such a huge TV. surely there is a room that can be used as a den? Or make one in the basement. If not, perhaps get rid of the brick mantel and box it out and hang the TV above the fireplace.

  • Ah, I like this new offering from PoP. I’m in the anti-TV above mantle group. What do the other walls look like? Windows?

  • Couch in front of the window (low back). Coffee table or not. Your choice. 2 smallish living room chairs opposite couch with a small table between them. Swivel chairs are good (should also be low). Keep the TV where it is.
    (Low chairs because you have to see over them to the TV)
    Get rid of those mirrors or you can make shelves in the niches and keep the mirrors. They would be so obvious and would bring in light. Remove the mirror over the fireplace or maybe it can be painted to disguise that it is a mirror.
    Hang a nice picture there if possible.
    Try to arrange chairs so that they relate favorably to the fireplace.

    • I meant to say that the shelves in front of the mirror (backless shelves) would make the mirrors less obvious.
      Sorry for the typo.

  • I vote TV above the fireplace instead of those gross mirrors any day. You could put a few bookshelves or cabinets on either side of the fireplace for storage. If you totally oppose the TV on the fireplace, maybe place it to one side? I love the sofa in the middle of the room facing the fireplace, and reading nook in the bay window idea above.

  • This is tough! I think you could put the tv angled on a small table on either side of the fireplace. Then place your couch facing the fireplace and a low chair on either side of the fireplace facing the center of the room. To increase the loungy-ness, I second the small sectional chaise idea and you can add an ottoman with the chairs. I like the console table behind the sofa.

  • I think the mirrors might look better if there were some other furniture in the room, or if there were (tall) plants that could be reflected in the mirrors. Like erin, I’m not too impressed with mirrors above the fireplace though. Could they move the TV into the dining room to free up space? Also, putting in moveable chairs (they don’t have to be plastic, but just not over 40 pounds) adds a lot of flexibility to a small space.

  • The bonus to putting the tv (which the reader said “has to stay”) in the mirrored corner is that there is no huge tv reflected back into the room. Or above the mantle.

    Also, if you opt to go no-mirror I’d just remove it. Concealing it could be really dangerous if people assume it’s a regular wall and go hammering into it one day…

  • I have an indea for those mirrors:

    You could use a frosted-grey toned spray paint (which is removeable on glass), and stencil out a beautiful design on the mirrors. Then decorate in fornt of them as need be, with plants, a chair, whatever.

    It would look awesome!

  • Is the fireplace functional? If not, may I suggest placing the TV in or in front of it? It’s already the focal point of the room, so if it can’t hold a fire it might as well hold a tv.

  • Hang the 52 inch TV across the street facing out from your neighbor’s window, you need to be about that far away to watch it anyway.

  • is a great design resource when I was decorating my place. They answer questions like this all the time.

  • The first thing any reputable interior designer will do is talk you out of a 52″ TV in a small formal living room. It’s absurd. If you reject this advice it is a lost cause. Stick that thing in the basement or put it in the master bedroom and give the hubby a big man chair in there.
    Other than that: all the seating should float, it’s the way these living rooms were designed to be used.

  • how about building (or piecemealing together) some sort of bench-chest seating into the bay window area? you would then have the storage space in the chest as well. It would be a great reading area.

    …I won’t comment on the TV.

  • Hi All,
    As the owner, this is our only living room so it is both a semi formal entertaining spot and a den. I agree the mirrors have to go! But at least we are down to just one wall of mirrors. When my boyfriend bought the house the whole thing was covered in mirrors. We have bookcases on either side of the fireplace right now so they aren’t so prominent. The Tv is a flat screen and is in a corner of the room. It has to stay! We like our big TV! Thanks for all the advice. I think we are going to look into a smallish sectional. (Also note, we do actually have furniture but since the room’s a mess of baby paraphernalia I thought the empty room pictures would be better!)

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