How to Design the “L” Shape Room?

Solving design dilemmas in Just Ask is one of my favorite parts of the blog. This week I received a record number of questions, so if you’re waiting for a response no worries its on the way. I answer every question I receive giving each question my undivided attention and I select a topic that several readers asked about. Today we are talking “L” shaped rooms and how to layout the furniture.

Q. We live in a cape cod that has an “L” shaped living room dining room combination. There is a fireplace and beautiful windows, but I have no idea how to decorate it. Joan

L shape

A. Space-planning ”L” shape rooms that combine living rooms and dining rooms can be challenging but at the same time the shape and architectural elements of the room can lead some of your decisions. Start out by following these steps:

1. Layout; decide what function will be in which area. There is no rule that says the dining area has to be on a specific side or that it can’t be a home office or game room. Typically the part of the “L” closest to the kitchen will be the dining area (explore taking the wall down or creating a half wall for an open plan concept).

2. Living room; on the side where your main living space is decide where the television will be (if there will be one, ideas here), consider factors like window placement, fireplace and door openings. Create your seating arrangement; if you have two sofas decide if they will be across from each other or in an L-shape. If you have a sectional or a sofa and love-seat combination your arrangement will be similar, try floating the sectional in the room or orient it in different ways, you will be surprised what a little out of the box thinking can do for your room. Next consider the placement of chairs (two chairs next to each other can work nicely across from a sofa, ideas here. If you have a fireplace make sure the orientation of the furniture complements it and considers the TV location as well.

Lshape1 3. Dining room; on the side where the table and chairs will be there are typically less options because it is usually the smaller side of the “L”. If the function is a table and chairs the layout is pretty straight forward. I have clients that use this space for dining and home office. If you decide to use the room for multiple functions take a look at this plan that can switch from a work-space by day to dining by night. Below, I have had several clients that consider taking down the walls between the kitchen and living spaces creating a true open plan concept.


4. Flooring/Area Rugs; I recommend a consistent flooring material between both spaces to keep the energy flowing through both spaces. Area rugs are the perfect way to ground each room layout and creates a cozy feel. In this example above I would have used an 8 x 10 to ground the seating arrangement but you can see in the first image (2013 HGTV Dream Home) how effective this concept is.

5. Lighting; the lighting plan can enhance each area, providing function while defining the seating or dining room layout. I would begin by deciding where the recessed lights will be and if there will be any hanging fixtures (pendents or chandeliers). Take a look at my article on dining room lighting and kitchen lighting for more ideas.

6.  Architectural elements; consider window, door and fireplace locations when space-planning but also consider the opportunity to add some architectural details. I love the idea of wainscoting in the dining room, over-sized crown molding and even adding columns in between the two spaces. This attention to detail can give your ordinary space character and a real wow factor.


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  • Kate

    Love the idea of multiple uses for the dining room. I’m not a professional, but I could use a place to pay bills, use the computer, etc.

    • Cathy Wolfram

      It is always a great idea to have rooms function in different ways :) Let me know if you try it.