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Trying Out Reader Suggestions For What to Do With My Living Room (No Shelves? New Layout?)



We had an open, serious conversation about “the day” for weeks before it actually arrived. My love of rearranging furniture is only matched by his hatred of the same hobby/task. But from the last post on my living room, so many of you had GREAT suggestions and we wanted to try them, both physically as well as with Photoshop. I needed Brian’s brute strength as well as his opinion as it is his house, too. So with a smile on our face and a proper meal in his belly (no hangry Hendo) we, with the help of Julie, Mallory and Sara, rearranged the living room (and Photoshopped) and “played” around to find out how it could be better. Brian doesn’t like to “play” this game, but I used my rarely played manipulation card and told him how important it was to you, and to the business. And guess what? WE LIKE IT MORE. And we are still married, so that’s pretty cool. He was actually a great sport.

Today, you get to see the options, read my opinions with the always interesting “WHY”?

Here’s where we were the morning of “the day” (catch up on how we got here, HERE and HERE):

Emily Henderson Living Room Options 01

We’ve struggled with this room for the following reasons:

  1. It has no place for a TV (and we don’t have a TV room) so orienting the room to be functional with a TV is impossible, thus the projector screen, which is totally fine but that’s why we face the windows (which is lovely and you can see kitchen from here so it is the best view).
  2. It is our family and living room so all that furniture has to be COMFY and kid-friendly. Once you’ve owned a comfortable sofa (which news flash, are rarely cool/edgy/stunning), you can’t go back. Especially if you are one Brian Henderson (and I get it, no argument there). So making this room stylish and unique (things that, yes, are unabashedly part of my artistic value system) while being comfortable is HARD.
  3. It’s a long room and while YAY for us for having a big room, it’s not so long that you can create zones (plus you don’t want to break it up in the middle of the windows) and so I’ve cluttered up the back trying to “engage the space.” Those bookshelves only provide about 8 inches of depth, aka a novel but I shove my coffee table books in there and they hang off precariously.

The first and most common suggestion/change came from reader Jessa who said this:

I think you need to remove the credenza and the dresser. It’s just way too busy back there with the bookshelves – too many surfaces and too much stuff! The bookshelves are a great architectural feature – let them shine!”

So remove the credenza in the back we did.

No Credenza

While I love that Serena & Lily piece, it is nice to have less there and because of its height and depth, it felt too big. I also removed the tall standing lamp that was by the sofa which I miss light-wise but boy was it too tall to go there (at least from this angle).

Many of you commented to Photoshop out the shelves, and I was deeply curious myself if they were the culprit for the busyness.

No Shelves

I know this isn’t a fully done room. The art doesn’t look good and we need something to anchor the far corner, but we missed the shelves! Plastering over something original, despite them being shallow and not very tall, did seem crazy. I know that I could make this version work (maybe a tree and a chair/ottoman in the corner) but it’s not worth the risk (and expense) to do it.

No Shelves No Furniture

I also tried just taking out basically all the furniture by the shelves, because some of you mentioned it was all too “junky” back there, so we took out the bench and the hand, too. And obviously, this is also too empty. Maybe with another anchor piece on the left and more art, but I think it falls flat.

Another way I was super excited to try was to face the sofa towards the fireplace:

Sofa Facing Fireplace

For this, we borrowed the Lawson-Fenning sofa that we have been thinking about buying. It’s shorter than our sectional so we used it in this configuration. Now, we didn’t move the camera, but obviously this isn’t the angle that we would typically shoot it. Here is why it didn’t work:

  1. The area behind the sofa (by the piano, which you’re not seeing in this shot) is so dark and becomes very unwelcoming.
  2. There is nowhere for side tables on either side or you can’t get around into the room.
  3. That sofa is REALLY low and it still really blocks the room and just makes it generally uninviting (you’d see this angle from the front entrance of the house and the kitchen).

Sofa Facing Fireplace + Nook

A reader (Lydia) suggested the following: 

“Have you ever tried a sofa running parallel with the piano and fireplace with a sofa table behind it? That would open the bay window up for chairs across from the others.”

Hmm…maybe? We staged these there by grabbing some chairs from the dining room and pretending there was a table between Julie and me (the photo above). It wasn’t compelling enough to make it work. The space (with this sofa size) is just too tight.

So we went back to the first configuration. But I was unsatisfied with the bench in the corner.

Blue Sofa Facing Window

The corner (with the bench) felt like wasted space…like nobody was really going to sit on that bench in that corner…it was just for looks.

Emily Henderson Mountain House Living Room Lores11

So I brought in the chaise lounge that I’m still hoarding (waiting for the perfect fabric) and I like it, but it’s a lot of upholstered pieces in a row. One of those chairs has to have some sort of wood arm, IMHO.

Blue Sofa + Leather Chairs

So we tried these chairs that I’m hoarding (and likely selling). I got them at the flea market for $300 a piece (I believe from vendor Makers & Smiths) and while I love them, they aren’t comfortable enough. But it helped show us that yes, a more streamlined, less upholstered chair would help.

The sofa that we borrowed was a lighter khaki so we Photoshopped it dark blue and, of course, I like it way more than the beige on our rug.  

Brian also told me that he LOVES having the chaise lounge on the sofa, which means we can’t have the chaise on the sectional AND the chaise in the corner.

Gray Sofa + Gray Chairs

And then I remembered that I have these two super comfy chairs in storage, that do have wood arms. It almost looks like a matching set, like we put all three pieces (sectional, two chairs) into our cart. But it also kinda works, it’s just not interesting. My favorite go-to combination is upholstered sofa + wood arm/upholstered chairs so I think that this could work, but I just wish that one of these pieces was more stylish or said something more interesting.

So then I thought that maybe I just need to put a pattern on the sofa…give it some weight through a throw or even reupholster it:

Striped Fabric On Sofa

I have this Zak and Fox fabric that we are going to use in the kids’ room (if I ever get to it, I swear they are going to be 6 and 8 by the time I finish it and they won’t want to share a room anymore). It was too strong, for sure, but I’m still thinking that we need more quirk in here, so maybe it is a pattern—big or small.

For now, I added a darker throw and some stronger pillows that helped it work with the gray chairs. OH and I found this bentwood rocker that I got at a thrift store and wanted to try in here for some more “English quirk.”

Rocking Chair

I do like the quirk but it’s pretty busy against those shelves. it would work if the shelves were gone but I think we have officially settled on keeping the shelves.

BUT DON’T WORRY GUYS. I found ANOTHER chair and ottoman in storage that I love and have been hoarding for its perfect spot—the vintage number by Børge Mogensen.


It needs to be recovered and I could do it in some sort of pattern….

Then lastly, we Photoshopped the beams white and took down the art just to cut down the visual noise SOMEWHERE without having to nix the shelves.

White Beams No Art

There is a better balance to it, but I think that once we get another color on the sofa, it will need to be balanced with the beams being wood-toned (i.e. how they are right now).

And because Photoshopping options is so dang fun (thanks Sara!), I tried something else…

Should the sofa be pink? Let’s see:

Pink Sofa

Or floral? I’m desperate to bring in more pattern, color and quirk and nobody has loved floral fabric their entire lives more than me (post coming soon).

Meanwhile, this (below) is where we are at right now and I like it more, I do.

Emily Henderson Living Room Options 17

It’s super warm and inviting, with enough vintage to make it interesting. I’m still exploring a different sofa or maybe just a darker sectional (since Brian is now all of a sudden running for office on the “I need a chaise sectional” platform). I might be able to do a sofa with ottoman situation, but it’s going to take some shopping. Plsu, the chair in the corner still needs recovering.

Here is a little GIF with all the options:

Emily Henderson Living Room Options Gif

Brian was such a good sport and didn’t complain even once which was impressive. He and his friend Derik started an Instagram account called @mywifemakesmemovefurniture and they are going to post this kind of stuff there. Derik’s wife, my good friend Annie, also has the disorder/desire to rearrange furniture obsessively and we know we aren’t alone.

So which is your favorite version? In the photos, I kinda prefer the Thonet rocker, just because it’s more interesting than the squared-off armchair, and I’m committed to using that pretty antique chaise somewhere in my life…

***photos (and Photoshop!) by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Fin Mark


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White beam last choice is most inviting. Beautiful ????


Agreed on the white beams. That would tone down the busy far better than removing amazing Built in bookshelves.


Please don’t paint them white. You’ll never be able to really get back a wood tone.

Why would you want to “tone down” the achitecturally interesting aspects of the house?

Please leave the beams! Consider painting the windows dark too, I love the dark windows on old Tudors. It would add visual interest to the whole room.


@Kadence I agree 100%. Love the natural wood tone. More warm & cozy IMHO.


Seriously. Buy the style of house you want. Don’t try to artificially “convert” one style to another. Always looks wrong.


Noooooo to painting the beams white. I think the beams and the built-ins (and the windows) give the room so much character and I would cry if you painted them. I am intrigued by the blank walls back there though. And I love the photo-shopped pink sofa, what about a pink sectional and that awesome Thonet rocker? That would add the right amount of quirk with less noise, for me at least.

Lori E.

Yes to the dark beams, Thonet rocker, and whatever couch Brian likes. But that rose color, with the grays, is really appealing!


all i am seeing is a line of furniture on each side. i need to see the options on a floor plan.


Yesss! There needs to be a way better furniture placement than this! 2 chairs rather than a sofa facing the fireplace uses up less physical & visual space. Although I like it, I suggest veering away from the low, mid-century style. Also the art is a big fail imo. It’s way too small, & sorry, ehd, but it’s also really (like really!) boring in this space. This room is crying out for some colour (rugs?) needs some TEXTURE & definitely (always) more plants.


I agree. It looks a bit like a hallway. Flow is off.


Definitely keep the shelves and the wood-colour beams! I love the pink sofa (I have a black dog so no light colours for me, I’d live vicariously through you.). I also think the chaise is the best option for the corner, especially if you reupholster, but that last chair/ottoman combo could also work.

I’m not sure any of those paired chairs are quite right, but the light grey ones work the best.


I agree that the pink Sofa is GREAT!!!


I agree with Sam on all of those points. And I like the general direction of keeping the shelves and beans as they are and playing with the furnishings to create the look you want. I also really like the vintage green chaise, even with a sectional. But I would like the sectional more in pink or another color, over the pale grey. The light grey and wooden chairs really balance the weight of the heavier upholstered pieces. The rocking chair is a nice sculptural piece but I doubt it would get used as often as the chaise. Last thought,… Read more »


I also love the pink sofa! (Tbh, I wasn’t sure I would until I saw the photos.) I think pattern would only add to the “busy” issues, but having the significant pop of color gives a great focal point without feeling overwhelming. It has fantastic visual impact, but in a really clean, elevated way that’s easy on the eyes. While blue and gray are usually my favorites, they’re both very neutral and actually make things a little more visually muddled — like everything is fighting to fade into the background. Please please please whatever you do don’t paint the beams.… Read more »


Gray sofa, gray chairs! There is still plenty of quirk in the styling of the room and in the coffee table. The last couple of options look too cluttered to me. Who would ever sit in the chair in the far corner?


Agree! This is the best option.


I can’t help but wonder what would happen if the sofa and chairs switched sides. Feel like that would open up the bay window more. Is there a reason why the sofa ‘needs’ to be on the left hand side of the room, rather than the right?


Yeah I was thinking this too, but the projector screen is on the opposite side of where the sofa is rn so it would make sense for the sofa to be there.


Their projector screen drops down from above the window across from current location of their sofa.


I think in earlier posts, Emily said they like to open the doors on the chair side, and having the sofa over there would block the flow to the back yard. But I agree it makes more sense visually.


I liked best the options where the sofa is facing the fireplace and the black leather chairs option as well.

Cici Haus

Me too! I know we’re not there in real life so I’m sure she’s right in it not working but it feels so much more balanced with all the visual “clutter” being where you’re supposed to look – ahead. Also a big fan of removing the art from the fireplace – it gives that space so much more breathing room. Maybe restyle the shelves to have more negative space?


Samesies! ^^^ I also like the darker sofa facing the fireplace (without the nook and without the art above fireplace). Not sure how you enter the room, but if you want to see something other than the back of the sofa, maybe try adding a simple console table behind it with a couple big baskets tucked under (stuffed cozy blankets). It would give it a little extra depth and to make it feel more welcoming? Thanks for sharing, this was fun to take part in! 🙂


I don’t think one necessarily wants to directly aim furniture at a spot being described as “visual clutter.”


I too love the art not being on the fireplace!


Me three!


This is my favorite too. It doesn’t seem closed off in the pics. It looks cozy, inviting, and makes my brain finally relax when looking at all those room layouts. The scale is better, they way your eye moves about the room is better–definitely a fan of this layout. Not everything needs to be open open open. It’s not that kind of house, lean into it 🙂


I agree. ????


Me too.


Agreed. A lighter colored sofa would make the area seem less dark and heavy. Also if you have a coffee table you wouldn’t need side tables as well. Plus you could add a narrow table behind it, facing the entry.
The bookshelves seem overloaded.


I like the sofa facing the fireplace idea, but was also thinking of the sofa not this far back to the piano, but rather, move it up closer to the fireplace, and maybe with a small credenza facing the back of the sofa (so you don’t see its back). This way you are creating two areas, and breaking the lengthiness of the room.




Me too! The area around the fireplace looked so much better in the sofa-facing-the-fireplace configuration. What if you also moved the piano – could you bring it closer to the fireplace?


Agree! It actually looks like a cozy living room rather than a furniture depot. You don’t need side tables if there is a good coffee table. If it looks dark, why not try with a lighter, brighter sofa. I think that you had decided long ago that it wouldn’t work and so it just automatically looks wrong to you


I struggle with my living/family room too. It’s long one way and has multiple entrances, windows, and huge radiators, which I’m thankful for but it makes it hard to figure out the best layout. I wonder what it would look like if you had less “littles” in the bookshelves. It seems like less is needed. Or bigger things. Or what about hanging art on the bookshelves? Like so And I’m wondering about the “rules” of spacing. The furniture pieces to the right appear to be in a loosely spaced row, which for some reason seems off (not intimate? Not… Read more »


I had the same thought about the bookcase…if the items on there were pared down, that might solve the problem of visual clutter on that side of the room. One shelf with just a beautiful vase, another with just books of the same color palette, etc.


I think the art of the shelves would look amazing. If she’s worried about it being too busy, she could recover the books in white. Then hang an interesting art piece on each side.


This is the first time I’ve been here so you all have probably thought of every option, but I was wondering if the chairs could be in the foreground with a table in between, a sideboard with plants to the right. A patterned rug under the coffee table….the chaise moved a little closer into the room with it’s own table like a reading nook and maybe a faux fur rug or zebra pattern slightly overlapping from the area rug to the front of the fireplace. And possibly paint the fireplace wall a warm color to complement the beams. Just a… Read more »


I was thinking the same thing – there seems to be too much space between the sofa and chairs. Pull it in tighter and see what happens.

Cris S.

Yes – this. I don’t know if the chairs are marooned so far away from the sofa and coffee table just for photo shoots, but they have no relation to the other side of the room when ostensibly they are there so that people not on the sofa can converse with the people on the sofa. It really contributes to the general sense of unease in the room.


My thoughts exactly. Make a conversation area by pulling the sofa and the chairs forward and create a walkway behind instead of through. I think two chairs on either side of the fireplace cocked inward with a tree behind them (and NOTHING else) would finish the room.


Agreed. Two swivel chairs that can face the shelves or toward the other direction with a very small drink table between in a light color. And then another two. Maybe same facing the room in front of the shelves. Angled so they allow circulation and view to the shelves and fireplace? Or try to pull chairs and sofas more together to avoid the look of the rows with a chasm between.


Agreed. Two swivel chairs that can face the shelves or toward the other direction with a very small drink table between in a light color. And then another two. Maybe same facing the room in front of the shelves. Angled so they allow circulation and view to the shelves and fireplace? Or try to pull chairs and sofas more together to avoid the look of the rows with a chasm between.

Or, the two layouts you show in your ceiling stain article for the mountain cabin seem optimal as well for this space.


My problem with the layout where the sofa and chairs face each other underneath the windows is that it makes the room feel like one long hallway to get to the fireplace/shelves – even more so when the coffee table is cheated toward the sofa. The option with the sofa facing the fireplace solved this and made it feel like a more cohesive room but I agree about being greeted by the dark back of the sofa. I wonder if you just need to pull all the furniture closer to the middle of the room so the coffee table is… Read more »


I like it without the art over the fireplace. Much less busy.

What about building out the original shelves so they are big enough to hold normal stuff? Another option would be filling them with old hardcover books so they read more “solid” rather than clutter. Think of a real library. The shelves aren’t busy, they’re just the walls.


I had the same idea about deepening the shelves themselves (not the nooks). I wonder how replacing the actual shelves with deeper wooden one in the same tone as the beams with the corners knocked back to the depth of the recesses would look. It would add to the Tudor charm and allow the negative space between things on the shelf to have weight.


I adamantly dislike the white beams. And removing the shelves turns the room into the same bland generic space we see all over Instagram. Your home has these amazing features that make it unique — why on earth would anyone recommend you cover them up or paint over them?? It’s quite handy, I must say, to use photoshop to see your options. And the lesson for me is clearly: KEEP THE SHELVES! 🙂 I do think your best move here was replacing that credenza with a bench. I actually think this room looks gorgeous with the removal of just a… Read more »

Loveley of

Yes to everything you said.


I second this emotion. The first pic strikes that balance of enduring yet stylish, interesting yet calm. Maybe clean up the shelves a bit, but the original details of this room are my favorite part. I think an angel would lose its wings if you painted those beams white.


Also chiming in to say yes to shelves and wood beams.


YES. Keep the amazing, unique features of your house. I think the artwork over the fireplace is too eye-catching, and something calmer (or nothing?) would work better. If I put my thumb over the artwork, then the whole room reads as much calmer. Maybe more monotone styling of the bookshelves, or just way less on them, as someone else suggested (a vase on one, a few monotone books on another). I like the gray chairs, gray couch for calming. I like the chaise in that corner (I didn’t like it at all in the other corner — why??), but the… Read more »


I think having the chaise on the same side as the couch was too much heaviness for one side. It looks FANTASTIC paired across from the sofa. I really wish you could convince Brian. DO NOT PAINT BEAMS PLEASEEEEEEEEEEEEE I highly agree with what everyone else has said. Also, I think switching the sofa to the other side could be a cool option, I remember you had something like that one year for Christmas? I miss the Target lounge chairs. Those are awesome, if impractical. I loved the daring contrast between the traditional sofa and the midcentury chairs. The current… Read more »




I want to second this comment from “rusty” (lower in this thread) who offered this idea about the shelves:

“I’d totally love to see those shelves in reclaimed wood and extended out a bit to hold your larger books, with a little curved edge each side – to ‘speak’ to your beautiful wooden beams (white = ick! Boring!) AND connect to the brick tones. It will ground and connect the elements.”

That would be brilliant!

Lynn W

Emphasizing the shelves would be pretty and please keep the wood beams looking like wood beams 🙂


Yes! Great idea


Okay, so I’ve always been on team “plaster over shelves”, but yeah, after seeing them gone, it just didn’t look right. Definitely keep the beams stained – it adds so much to the room and screams, “we live in a historic Tudor!!” without having to thatch your roof or pen a Shakespeare play, you know? I like the fireplace without the modern art. I know you love adding a touch of modern, but it’s just so stark and harsh to me. Cool art, wrong room maybe? How about restyling shelves much more minimally? I know, I know, ALL THE THINGS,… Read more »


I’m adding this to Heather’s comments b/c I had similar thoughts. And I must say, this is so fun, and you are so brave to take all these opinions!! I vote for grey chairs + grey sofa! Keep the shelves and wood beams, but I would try to simplify the shelves a bit with more subtle art above the fireplace, maybe try a taller upholstered chair in the back right corner in place of the bench to make a little reading nook, and would love to see the sectional couch in mauve. So many options I can only imagine how… Read more »


I think removing the credenza on the right was a step in the right direction, but I’d love to see you try a few other moves: 1. The small credenza in the left with the antique painting might work as a styling “moment”, but it adds to the busyness back there. And the lady in the portrait just looks so sad and severe. Can we remove those elements from the room and see if that helps? 2. Can we photoshop out the curvy sconces? (Same reason as above— adds to the busyness, and clashes with the modern art and furniture).… Read more »


I agree with the number 3 remark.
Also, maybe the piano could be moved to where the credenza was and the sofa will face the fireplace?


And maybe add some plants on the shelves?


Oooh yes!! Lots of pothos on the shelves!!


Heavily with you on number 3. The trunk is so heavy! It throws everything off. I think the whole thing would feel better with a less chunky table.




PLEASE remove that heavy trunk… out of place! Also agree with those who find the art too harsh on the fireplace. Looking much better all in all


Great post and so interesting to read all the comments. Here is my reaction so far Much better without the credenza; do you need to put anything else there at all? Would love to see all the seating nudged closer as people have proposed. It may not work but would be so worth trying out. Keep the beams natural wood. Keep the shelves but with far fewer items or just solidly filled with books as in a library. Am intrigued by the reclaimed wood idea but I also wonder if you could try removing a couple in photoshop? It seems… Read more »


I didn’t like the sofa facing the fireplace, but I loved the symmetry of the two matching chairs on either side of the fireplace ???? it made the fireplace & selves feel more apart of the same room as the rest of the space. Like where things are headed moving some of the bulky furniture out of those corners though.


Yes! I loved the two chairs in front of the fireplace for a look, but definitely doesn’t make sense to live with. Would be great for styling content though. Christmas shoots, Target product shoots, etc.


There is nothing like that green chaise to bring the room together. Please stay, friend!


I like it. Personally, I’d do the light sectional with the gray chairs, and that A+ pillow styling of yours. I know you’re afraid of it being too matchy, but wouldn’t that make it all the more original? I can’t think of the last time I’ve seen a designed space with matching furniture in like 5 years. But here it looks so calming, in a good way. I think the light sectional is perfect (#teambrianssectional). I still want some abstract art above the fireplace, but I want it to have organic, curvy shapes, and a very subtle/minimal/thin frame. Other than… Read more »


I too have a husband who hates the re-arrange furniture game, ha! I will have to direct him to that Insta for some solidarity.
You have some amazing pieces! That Thonet rocker is so gorge. I wonder if that would work if you didn’t have the bottom three shelves…. Would it be weird to plaster over just the bottom few? I’m sure someone already suggested that. Whatever you do, I know it’ll all come together in the end. The kids’ play room totally did!


With all the talk of busyness, you should lose the gallery wall! Maybe choose two light-colored art pieces that relate to each other and put one where the gallery wall is, and one where the antique lady is. The lamps in each corner are also adding to the clutter and seem like overkill with sconces and shelf lights right there.


I agree with removing the gallery wall. Overall it is just too busy in the back with all the stuff on the bookcases. How about removing both credenzas, the art, and moving the hand chair to the right corner to balance the coffee table?Then maybe a darker color sofa would bring in some more personality with all the grey upholstery. Here is a rough photoshop.

Laura Turner

Yep, I’m totally on this train! Calms that part of the room down so much. I think the thonet rocker would work in place of the hand, too.


Wow that’s sooooo good!

Shannon Kiswani

I like a mash up of the options…… I say nix the shelves, nix the cabinets on the adjacent walls BUT put matching cabinets (or custom built perhaps?) in place of the nixed shelves with art above. Also, I love the pink sofa…..def do that!!! What ever you do, PLEASE don’t paint the beams!!


I really think you should try putting books on the bookshelves! Just books – no decorative things. If the books were all similar colors it would read as a single “object” in the back of the room which would keep the shelves from looking like so many tiny, distant things in the back of the room.

I agree that you should keep the shelves, and keep the beams wood colored. It’s so fun to see the options with photoshop, etc. !


I agree! There are so many little styling vignettes in this room that the styled out shelves feel excessive. And I think a little library in the back would feel more intentional and also pull on the Tudor vibe.


I was going to say the same. Just books! It would read (haha) like a solid flat object that adds color and not a bunch of little things. If the shelves aren’t the right depth for that, maybe there’s a solution there.


Oooo, get a bajillion of those old Penguin paperbacks (they’re pretty small) in ALL the colors, and fill the shelves by color. Then, it will look intentional AND almost like a patterned fabric. I think part of the busy-ness is due to most of the fabrics being so basically patternless that the objects pull it out of balance. A patterned fabric on the sofa would really work.


I agree, looks to busy now. Fill it with beautiful books! And without art over the fireplace, to let it’s beauty shine.


Yes! Filling the shelves with books will make them read as two objects, and the random colors of books shelves alphabetically will add visual interest. As someone mentioned above, you could hang art over the shelves, though maybe keep the art quieter.


My favorite is the one with the sofa facing the fireplace. I know that doesn’t work IRL, but the upholstered chairs in front of the shelves helps calm the space. Having the full shelves visible (i.e. not visually blocked by furniture) plus having furniture next to the shelves (dresser on one side, bench/chaise/rocker on other) makes it more busy.

Second favorite is definitely the pink and blue photoshopped sofas.

Suggestion – widen the spacing of the shelves so there are fewer shelves in total and more space between them?


really don’t like any of these lol. I know it’s not really your style but I’d love some chunky, funky 70s-80s kinda European modern furniture in here. and just less stuff!!


I love the book shelves. I wonder tho: Is there any way to make them deeper? It would bother me, too, if my larger books hung over the edge. If you can’t push them deeper into the wall, is there a way to push them out into the room more? Perhaps the wonderful folks who did your mountain house wood cabinets could come up with a design for these book shelves? I say, don’t cover them up. Go all in and make them a bigger statement! Really, tho, you’ve got an incredible room here. Not one of these images looks… Read more »


I agree…I feel like you should try starting fresh- like from scratch? Could you also consider extending the shelves up? And maybe one of those frameless TVs over the fireplace? I think a sofa on either side ( facing one another. A soft inviting but statement rug and white beams.


Totally agree with your take on this busy, busy looking room. Everything needs to be pulled out, then sort of neutralize the room with edgier yet comfortable furniture and tighter color palette. The bones of the space is just so beautiful and classical in feeling and with all that detail going on currently there’s just nowhere for the eye to land. The focus is just all over the place.


I think the balance of two chairs on either side of the fireplace looked WONDERFUL. If you don’t like the couch opposite of the fireplace then how about moving the couch (one without the chaise) back in front of the bay window and keeping the two chairs flanking the fireplace, so the conversation area is in an ‘L’ shape. I think whatever you do on either side of the fireplace should be symmetrical and for me that’s what’s throwing the room off when there are multiple random pieces. Excited to see what you end up choosing! And love the wood… Read more »


This! And maybe add a long backless chaise across from the sofa for balance?


Yes, I second this suggestion for an “L” shaped arrangement! I agree, the symmetry of the two chairs and two shelves calms everything down and focuses the room on the coziness of the fireplace and the art above it. If you still want a sofa/chaise combination, leave a sofa in front of the bay window but with chaise on the ” left side” (nearest the piano side). Then center the coffee table on the fireplace. Leave the space in front of the french doors open for “family room” romping and playing. Or put the bench there to close the conversation… Read more »


Chiming in to say YES please to the ‘L’ shape + long backless chaise! Those chairs frame the fireplace area so beautifully and it would allow the sofa to still be in the optimal location for flow and projector/TV watching. And as an academic with a serious book and pottery hoarding problem, I want to second the suggestions to try styling the shelves with JUST books or JUST objects. A packed (but neat) book case can be so visually calm because all the objects (books) are similar in form, size, and tone (if you go the color conformity route). Likewise,… Read more »


I’m still team remove shelves, it calms the entire space and allows you to focus on the beams, furniture and art. With the shelves my eyes don’t know where to go.


100% agree


Me three! I’d remove those shelves in a heartbeat a place a big, tall plant in front of one of them.

Leigh H

white beams, first wood side chairs (or more comfy version), chaise or rocker in corner. Can you pull everything a bit closer together? I feel like it needs a bigger coffee table or the room needs to be pulled in 1/2 a foot or so? I love the wood beams but really feel like painted white it opens up the space and makes the room flow a lot better.


I vote for the one with the Thonet rocker! I don’t think it looks to busy. It’s much more scaled back in that part I’d the room and adds different and interesting lines. Yay, for keeping the bookshelves!


I would put the tv over the now removed credenza on a mount that allows the tv to come out. Do a sectional along the bay windows and parallel to the fireplace but have the corner seat be an ottoman instead of enclosed to make the piano part of the room not feel dark.

Leigh H

oh and no art above fire place or something different, perhaps something round or oval, too many competing angles with rectangle or square art I think. what about some baskets on the lower shelves or something similar to create less visual clutter on those shelves?


Agree — I’d love to see something round or oval over the fireplace. I like the current piece but it feels wrong to me in that spot.


I like it best with the chair in the corner, with a lamp, so it’s a real reading corner. Keep the shelves, but I would put all books on the bottom 2/3rds, and style less stuff on the top. Def corner keep the beams as they are–they’re one of the best features. I like the wood and leather chairs the best, but I’m a world-class introvert who doesn’t want her guests to stay too long. Or maybe a more comfortable version? They LOOK right. I love that live-edge table, but maybe an ottoman could double as a coffee table and… Read more »


What if you filled the bookshelves completely with books? Solid books creates very little visual clutter.


I like the chaise in the corner and do think it adds a more traditional element that ties in the traditional architecture of the house.

To me, the reason why that much upholstery looks off is because all the upholstery is solid colored, similar tones, and the sofa and chairs look like similar textures. If you missed it up by having striped or otherwise patterned chairs and/or sofa, I think that many upholstery pieces would look great.


I know I’m in the minority but I liked the credenza before. Maybe instead of another seating option you need a bar cabinet or something grounding and a bit tall.
I love the wooden beams so much and the white version hurt my heart.
I’m rewatching Downton Abbey and just loving the putty colored walls and delicious warmth of their decor. I think painting the walls a richer color would give you that something extra you’re yearning for which is why you’re still not satisfied. Imagine a patterned sofa and some warmer walls! Let’s get weird.

Loveley of

1. Please never paint your beams white. These beams were made to be wood toned. Some homes look good with beams painted white, but those are beams you want to make disappear. Your beams are so beautiful and want to shine. It looked weird in white. 2. Please don’t plaster over those shelves. I think they’re one of the real features of the room. When they were gone, it made my eyeballs sad. 3. Love that you removed the Serena & Lily credenza. Because, 1, i didn’t like the style of it with the rest of the room. and 2,… Read more »


definitely keep the book shelves and chaise and get rid of the hand chair. I think the art is basic enough to keep over the fireplace.

Julie Lay

What about a sofa where the chase is on the left-hand side so it pulls the room more together from that end, a busier rug and pushing things closer together so they don’t seem so disconnected? Right now everything looks very far apart and disconnected with the light rug and the coffee table seems like it is floating in the middle of nowhere. And maybe moving the chair and ottoman to the left so it doesn’t seem like three chairs stacked in a row on that side. So many great pieces there that just need a bit of it working.… Read more »


Don’t know if this would work space wise but… Sofa with chaise on the side away from the fireplace. Put the bench across from the couch to the side opposite the chaise so they balance out a square (since that side is not used for TV viewing but can still serve a a seat for conversation). Put the chairs on either side of the fireplace. If you want to tone down the shelves but still want storage, perhaps put on doors? You could cover half of each bookcase with a sliding barn door and put the busy stuff behind the… Read more »


Glad you are keeping the shelves, they add character and charm. I like the way you have the room now but can’t help but feel that you need a more interesting rug.


Lamps or sconces in the back, but not both. That is what has always looked to busy to me. Do you need the light from both?


Could you remove the top two shelves of each? Art up top and books down low? The lighting above each nook looks like it’s begging for art below it.

Cici Haus

I would love to see this photoshopped!! This is so fun 😀


Go with the white beams and add an interesting, oversized light fixture (like Emily Bowser’s) centered above the seating area.


Floral sofa!!!!!


And maybe add some plants on the shelves?


I like the character of the wood color beams. Could you add some sort of doors to lower half of bookcases to eliminate some of the business? I like the bookcases overall better than plastering over.


Have you considered a larger sectional? I feel like with the shape/size of the room, you could really have a stunning piece in there (positioned with one side facing the back windows and the other facing the fireplace). Then maybe fewer chairs which might make it feel a bit more cohesive. Keep the beams and the shelves! They are unique and make the room special1


So happy you are keeping the shelves! Also love no art on the fireplace and the credenza removed. I also love the rocker idea but wonder if it could be placed differently.

Love the pink couch. I think overall too much grey. I’d rather a better mix of neutrals than all grey.


I too have a long skinny room with a fireplace and shelves anchoring one end-so tricky! Since you are talking about a new potential sofa anyways, I’m curious if you would consider the chaise part on the front of the room? Then I think you could flank the fireplace with great (large-ish) chairs in front of the fireplace and “block” some of the busyness of the shelves while still keeping them. I’d also love to see the firebox painted tone on tone or black. I think it’s an equal culprit in the back wall scenario. So many great pieces you… Read more »


I love this idea. Moving the chaise to the other end of the sofa could be just right. If you did this could you keep the antique chase in the corner? It looks so good there and makes sense too. What a great reading corner! I have also noticed the firebox before and agree that painting it black would be SO helpful. I did mine with some high heat black paint, and it took about 30 min. Made a huge difference. I also liked someone else’s idea of putting a sofa directly across from the fireplace and moving the piano… Read more »


So fun! I love the wood beams and keep picturing the shelves covered by Spanish style doors in a similar raw wood tone….possibly arched to mimic the arch of the fireplace?


Lol! Thanks for the great post. But now I definitely want a bunch of stuff in storage that I can haul in when my rooms feel stale! How about this though- place your chairs facing the fireplace rather than the sofa. Keep the window wall open, as the secondary focal point with a long, low/narrow rustic wooden bench in front (for extra seating & a home for plants, magazines & larger books). Maybe define ‘zones’ with patterned area rugs as well as more plants & textures..?


Have you ever thought about going a bit less mid century on the chairs? I wonder if two smallish scale simple wing back chairs would look good where the chairs are now, this room looks like it needs that slight traditional touch in the furnishings. I think the architecture of the room is calling for a few traditional things to b folded in to the mix. If you do the wing backs maybe a new bigger slightly more traditional floor lamp for the sofa to tie the two sides of the room together. I also like the examples with less… Read more »


I agree with Ariel. The house is a traditional Tudor and it’s lovely and should be embraced for what it is! So please try a more classic (and dare I say, more comfortable!) chair pairing, maybe skirted swivel club chairs in an interesting fabric. Additionally, I have always wanted to see that modern art piece above the fireplace disappear. Having nothing at all there is better, but I could also see a loosely representational landscape oil painting with some pretty colors there too. The whole room vibe needs to be classy and traditional, tone down the mid-century on this house… Read more »


I agree. I feel like low-slung mc styles may be the opposite of what this room needs


Agree. I miss the original staging of this room, which I felt spoke to the character of the house so much better. I’d start with a foundation of a few cozy Tudor pieces and add in midcentury or more modern pieces for edge, and scrap the gallery walls and seemingly superfluous lamps near the fireplace to allow the eye somewhere to rest. I think that change addresses the bookshelf issue. The art above the fireplace is lovely, but this room — especially in its current iteration — needs something softer and more colorful. Finally, why is the coffee table so… Read more »


I like the final one best, the one with the Børge Mogensen chair and the brown wood beams. I just think that the room just needs some color, maybe with both the sofa and the chair? I also think the gallery wall needs to be toned down. There’s still a lot going on in that corner. Loved seeing all of the possibilities though! Thanks so much for doing this design exercise–very interesting!!

Cf Betcher

I really liked the grey sofa, grey/wood arm look! That coffee table adds enough quirk with patterns on the sofa in throws/pillows.

What I would really love to see, to further “de-clutter” the fireplace area is the armchair/ottoman on one aide and the Serbs and Lily console on the other. It could replace the smaller dresser and hand chair. One big thing for two smalls = less visual business.
Plus, I think the hand chair would be cute in the kids playroom!


What about less stuff on the shelves? Your stuff is so cool, but perhaps more negative space on the back wall will give the eye time to rest without being boring


I liked the look of plastering over the shelves, but agree that it’s likely a bad, expensive idea. Have you tried making the stuff on back shelves more monochromatic white? Maybe that would help? Tbh, I’ve only been to LA once so not sure if the fireplace has the same meaning there … I live in chicago and the times I’ve had a fireplace, I’ve def used it. My point: the layout is currently missing a cozy up by the fire moment. The chaise def helped! I would want to see it, but logically am not bothered by a chaise… Read more »


The absolute winner is the dark Lawson couch with the dark upholstered chairs!

Darker sofa with less visual clutter on it calms my eye and lets the rest of the place with its varied interests shine.


I would love for you to keep the room as it is, but invite guest designers to style the shelves in your actual living room to see what they come up with!


Pink sofa + Leather chairs!
Keeps beams wood tone and fill shelves to read more solid, just books or just similar colored pottery or some kind of uniform collection.


Okay, so I would normally probably not comment on this because it’s not my house so my perspective is so much different and ultimately you have to love it….but…. I think there’s just too much art (and while I love art because after all I am an artist, it’s overwhelming in this case.) I like the large piece over the fireplace. The pieces that are over where the credenza used to be look out of place now. Maybe a textile of some sort there that’s larger in scale and modern-ish? Also too many lamps on that end of the room.… Read more »

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