Working With What You’ve Got: Awkward Layouts

In this series, we’ll be talking through styling spaces that have features out of your control, such as awkward layouts. Whether it’s a rental or you’re just trying to save up for the renovation, here’s some tips for making the space work as is.

THE PROBLEM

Your layout is irregular, and limiting, and maybe you have one or more awkward and seemingly unusable spaces.

Rarely does an apartment or house have a perfect layout, right? However, some layouts are definitely trickier than others. We especially see these challenges in Chicago, as many of our buildings are much older and have gone through several partial renovations over the years. Throw in the super narrow lot sizes too and you’ve perhaps got yourself a maze of a place! Thankfully, there are creative design solutions to making the most out of those odd little rooms.

awkward layout design strategy

ASSESS YOUR SPACE AND FIND A CENTER POINT

In a perfectly square room, this is pretty easy. However, in an oddly shaped room, it might take more time and planning to figure out how to anchor your furniture. Try to organize your furniture around a focal point, like a TV, fireplace, or window if you can. Build out from there with your sofa, chairs, coffee table, etc. even if it means floating the sofa setup (don’t feel like your furniture has to be up against walls!) If space allows, floating your furniture pieces in a purposeful way will help zone out your space, instead of letting the angled walls dictate layout.

One of the angled wall dilemmas we see often are fireplaces in the corners. If you have enough room, you can definitely anchor your seating to the fireplace to match the angle. (Run your sofa parallel). But often you can maximize your space better by not doing this. This is another opportunity to float the sofa and use a different wall as your visual anchor. A wall with a window, TV, or a piece of artwork works just as well for a sofa to face. If you’ve got an open concept living/dining space, the floating sofa set up also helps to delineate the living room zone from the dining, which makes use of the whole space and helps translate a traffic flow throughout the room.

Add a rug to reinforce the zones you set up. You can even lay a rug on top of carpet to help visually anchor your living room set-up (just pick a lower pile so it lays flatter). If you’ve got any isolated walls after finalizing the layout, you can address them with things like art, mirrors, or shelving.

living room with awkward layout
Image via: Home Edit

EMBRACE UNUSUAL WALLS

Working with a rounded wall? Try a curved sofa, round dining table, or a smaller round game table. You can mirror the curves throughout the rest of the space using modular pieces, round poufs or pillows, or simply a round mirror on an adjacent wall.

If you’ve got an angled wall, you can go more linear and place a bench with a runner, a desk, or just a piece of art if space is tight. In an angled bay window, we love placing two chairs with a side table for a conversational seating area.

Bottom line, don’t let these walls go to waste!

designing around awkward wall layout

FIND A PURPOSE FOR NOOKS

Nooks are great opportunities for extra furniture and functionality! These areas, whether they’re jut-outs that are hiding mechanicals of the space, under the stairs crevices, or finished off attics with sloped ceilings are still highly usable. They can create extra office spaces, bar or dining storage for entertaining, reading nooks, etc. If you’re working with a slope, just be mindful to choose lower furniture.

plant in nook of room with awkward layout
Image via: Harlowe James

HIDE AWKWARD CORNERS

On the flip side, if you have a small awkward corner that won’t fit any usual furniture pieces, you can minimize it with things like tall plants, floor lamps, or pedestals for decorative objects. You’re still giving a purpose to an unused space, which is the goal!

curtains covering awkward layout
Image via: Pinterest

FAKE THE SYMMETRY

If you’ve got awkward window placement, consider hanging large curtains along the wall as though the windows were symmetrical. It can help hide the off-center irregularity of the windows. You can also add to the visual symmetry of a space by repeating colors and design elements throughout the spaces. This helps create a sense of cohesiveness within the space and takes focus off asymmetrical architecture of the space.

designing around corner

STAY POSITIVE AND EMBRACE OBSTACLES

Though challenging, this is the fun part of design and is what helps make each space unique. Some obstacles just can’t be overcome (think support beam in the middle of your room), but you can embrace these things within your design. You can see in these examples that floating the sofa alongside one of these pesky columns actually helped to break up this lower family room into purposeful zones., and the sectional against a bump-out feels better (and makes the room seem larger!) with a console, lamp, and art behind it to use the empty space.

Even new buildings can have their quirks, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be designed intelligently and beautifully! Get creative and try things out to see what works best for yours.

Love, HAVEN

PS – Designing around awkward layouts was covered in one of our Tuesdays at Two sessions! You can watch the full video here:

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