Don’t buy bowling balls for oblong room

DEAR GAIL: We have a very long and narrow living room and not sure how to arrange the furniture. In the model, it was shown as a dining and living room combination, but we don’t need an extra eating area. We also have some mismatched upholstery pieces in the room. We have a matching sofa and chair, which we placed facing each other. Then a loveseat in a very light fabric against a dark blue wall, which just makes it stand out more. Any suggestions? — Kim B.

DEAR KIM: Well, it sounds like what you have is an oblong room, aka, a bowling-alley-shaped room. What you’ve done as far as using it for what meets your needs is great. Just because it’s shown as a dining/living combination doesn’t means that’s what you need to do, although many people do because that’s how it’s shown. Since the room layout was originally a two function room and you’re using it as a one function room, we need to make it functional for you.

If you were using the room as planned, you would be working with two smaller square rooms. But since you’re using it as one room, it must be viewed as an oblong room, which is very long and narrow, which is why we also call it a bowling alley room.

With any oblong room, the goal is to visually break that bowling alley feel, so you have to get the furniture off the walls. You need to angle the furniture in the room, which will direct your eyes to move around the room versus just down the walls like an alley.

Start by removing all the furniture in the room. You need to have a blank canvas to start with. Since the room is also very narrow, you may need to try a couple different furniture layouts.

The way to start is by thinking of an octagon and move the sofa in every possible position, even those that you know don’t work. The obvious ones that won’t work are those that block the room so you can’t get in or out of it, where the back of the sofa is toward the focal point and then the ones where the sofa is flat against a wall. Remember, you’re looking for the angle to break the oblong feeling, so you might need to step out of your comfort zone of placing your furniture against the walls.

Once you find the best position, you’ll now place your matching chair. Since you have mismatched pieces, you want to bring your matching pieces together. Place your chair on a perfect right angle to the sofa. It can be on either side of the sofa, left or right, whichever works better with your traffic flow. The chair does not need to be facing the focal point.

Next, move your loveseat off of the painted wall since you’re just bringing more attention to it. With your sofa and chair placed, look to move your loveseat across from this grouping. Try and place it across from the corner of the right angle formed by your sofa and chair. What you’re looking for here is to balance your seating arrangement so that all of the furniture is not on one side of the room.

Remember you have a long room, so don’t be afraid to use the space and float some of the furniture in the room. If you find that including the loveseat into the seating arrangement is not working, consider creating two separate areas. But again, you need to make sure to not have all of the furniture lined up against the wall. There needs to be angles to create movement in the room.

To help bring the room together, use coordinating pillows on all the pieces. You don’t want them all the same but mix and match the patterns. Pull the colors and patterns through the room so that your eye moves through the room. You want the eye to visualize a winding river, versus that bowling alley. Place some of the accent pillows from your matching pair onto the loveseat; this will help bring it all together within the room.

Continue placing your tables, lighting and accessories to finish your room. You’ll be amazed how inviting and pulled together your room will now feel, but just adding some angles.

— Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by email to: Or, mail to: 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her Web address is:

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