Get designer tricks for maximizing a narrow living room space
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On a beachfront full of houses, narrow is normal. This Manhattan Beach home—whose living room measures 22 feet wide and opens onto a small deck—offers typical space-planning challenges. Interior designer Tim Clarke responded by stripping away layers of architecture. “The ceiling is pushed up against the roof—there’s barely room for can lighting,” he says. “We did everything we could to make sure every inch was maximized.” Then, Clarke worked out a floor plan that took into account the view and the bronze fireplace. “I try to make the house feel just as good on foggy days as on sunny ones.”
DESIGN: Tim Clarke, Santa Monica; timclarkedesign.com.
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Vary furniture size
Clarke mixed the scale of the furnishings relative to one another to keep the room from looking blocky. He chose one big foundation piece, the sofa, then added seating and accents that are progressively smaller.
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Let light travel
The clerestory windows are hard-working, despite their small size. That’s because balanced light sources are especially important in narrow spaces for even light distribution, Clarke says. A mirror hung opposite a window can fake the effect.
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Be subtle with pattern
Layers of textures in the pillows and antique rug keep this room interesting without relying on a bold pattern, which can knock a room out of balance. “If you’re trying to make a small room not feel small, it’s better to not have anything
be the star,” Clarke says. “Everything should be in a supporting role.”
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Look for leggy pieces
Open furniture (like the side tables, coffee table, and even the slatted vintage chairs) is another space-defying trick. “They have a sort of transparency to them,” Clarke says. “You can see beyond them so it doesn’t stop your eye.”
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Fool the eye
Avoid covering wall space with furniture, especially in a narrow room like this. “As opposed to building bookshelves, we floated the shelves so you can see the back wall,” Clarke says. “It gives the illusion the room is as wide as it can be.”
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Treat the outside like the inside
With the doors to the deck open and folded back against the exterior walls, it feels like the living room and deck are one. Clarke chose outdoor furniture that completely meshes with what’s inside.
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Clarke creates smaller spaces within a room, whatever its shape or size. Here, he turned a nook into a “reading room” with a window seat and chairs. “You don’t need a lot of square footage to do it,” Clarke says. Rather, get creative with the parts of a room’s layout that already feel a little separate.