Episode 328

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I’m still going through real estate options online, and it’s starting to remind me of online dating. As I scroll through pictures, I’m trying to imagine myself in this house. Is this my forever house? Maybe I get a big crush on the house, or I find deal breakers. I’m trying to enjoy the ride, even though it’s an emotional roller coaster. Thankfully, you have sent me some questions to distract me from my home search!

This episode, I answer questions about…

[8:59] Adding color and creating a TV wall in a living room (Heather)


Hi Betsy, I love your podcast and have read your book. I’m hoping you can help me with a couple design struggles in our living room. The house is a very old farmhouse that we’ve done a TON of time and effort into, but the living room got cut short when we did our kitchen remodel. I’m just getting back to it and feel stuck on a couple things. Overall I like the layout. It’s comfortable and functional for our family. I’ve thought a lot about the style in here and would say it leans toward cozy industrial although not everything perfectly fits in that category. There are a couple touches of mid century mod.

My first issue is, I’d love to add some color but I also like things clean, airy and uncluttered. So the best way I can think to do that would be an area rug. The problem is that our rug isn’t a really short pile so I’m not sure a rug layered on it would work well. We will eventually redo a lot of the flooring to match our kitchen but I’m afraid the floor in here is uneven enough that we may have to leave the carpet.

The second question is how to handle the TV wall. My husband got this bigger TV over Christmas, and now it’s larger than the TV stand. It’s fine because I don’t think the stand is a good fit anyway…it feels too dark and transitional. I’d love to build a shallow floor to ceiling gas fireplace here (that doesn’t cut into the room too much) but I don’t know if it would look right with the ceiling beams or if it would center well on the beams and still leave enough room for a traffic flow. Currently, it’s offset to the left. Do I just get a longer TV stand and put a plant to the right to make that wall more of a focal point? I’d appreciate any pointers. Thank you!


You do have a lovely farm house, with beautiful dark wood beams, the high ceiling, and the hitched roof. While you mentioned the style is “cozy industrial”, I beg to differ. I don’t really see much industrial – and maybe you are planning to infuse more of it into the space. Right now, I think the space has a style crisis. It has a mid-century modern console, a transitional bookcase with cabinets at the bottom and an arch at the top, transitional armchairs that are tufted with curved arms, and a contemporary set of sofas that have straight arms and are kind of chunky. There is an industrial lamp, with an industrial table between the chairs, but these two small items do not an industrial room make. If you truly want this room to feel industrial, there needs to be more rustic wood, metal, and seated glass. I need to see some burlap or open-weave linen drapes.

As far as cozy, there are a few throw blankets but they are on a ladder. They aren’t even draped over the sofa in a “curl up on the couch” kind of way. To make it feel cozy, I would want to have really decadent fabrics. I might want to have velvet curtains, and warm colors for accents. I’m seeing a lot of gray with the gray armchairs, darker gray sofas, gray wall-to-wall carpeting, and gray wall paint. I think we need to get much clearer on that two-word phrase and how we are going to implement it in this room, because right now it’s pretty wishy washy.

I am not fully understanding the part about the fireplace, because I don’t currently see one in the space. I do think that would help with the cozy feeling, and it would certainly fit with the era of the home. It would be a great addition to the room, and then you could just mount the TV above the fireplace.

Speaking of mounting a TV, a lot of people think that you shouldn’t mount it above a fireplace because it will be too hot. If you have a very deep room, and you angle the TV down, you don’t have to worry about that “front row of the movie theater” effect where you have to crane your neck to see the show. This is a big room, but the TV is mounted too high. It’s perfectly high if it’s above a fireplace, but it’s too high to be at eye level above a TV stand. If you’re going to use another TV stand, be sure to get one that is longer than the TV. Right now it looks a little top heavy.

I also completely agree that the current TV stand is transitional, but right now the whole room is reading pretty transitional to me. So, you will want to lower the TV so that it is between 3-6 inches above the TV stand. Right now it’s probably 12-14 inches, and this behemoth TV is kind of looming large high above the room.

The carpeting has a significant pile height, so I would not layer an area rug. You could, of course, but it will buckle up and bubble. It will have rolls every time you walk on it. The room is, however, perfectly set up for drapes. When you’re dealing with a modern farmhouse or going for an industrial look, it can feel a little cold and unapproachable. We have tons of woods, we have high ceilings, and we have a lot of gray. It doesn’t feel so inviting. I think flanking the windows with drapes that have a color, a pattern, or a yummy texture will really help this space to start to feel a certain way. You just want to determine the way you want it to be.

In relation to the kitchen, the spaces are open to one another. You want to make sure that you’re bringing elements and colors from the kitchen area and tying them into the living room area. If you have a blank canvas, you may want to consider starting that color in the living room and then infusing it into the kitchen area with artwork or a centerpiece on the dining table. You want to do something more dramatic with the pendants, or at least lower them. Above an island, pendants should be 30-36 inches from the top of the countertop to the bottom of the pendant.

We want to think of rooms, and especially rooms that open up into each other, as sort of a holistic experience. You can’t just look at the living room, because when I’m seated on the sofa I’m staring at the kitchen and dining area. You need to consider all the spaces that you can see from one vantage point, or else you aren’t truly designing a cohesive home.

[19:38] Making a tiny living room cozy (Veronica)


Help, Betsy! We are building our FOREVER home. After years of planning, we have our foundation and framing is well under way. But when I walk into our great room (which was my #1 request for our house!) I’m afraid we’ve made a big mistake. Our living room, which is the center of the home, feels TINY. As you can see in the blueprint, you walk into a small entryway with two closets and then straight ahead is the living room, which opens to the right to the kitchen and then to an angle to the dining room. Straight across from the front door are glass doors to the back porch, and between the living room and the door is a walkway to the kids’ rooms. I thought I wanted this but now I’m wondering, how do I make a tiny living room with WALKWAYS ON BOTH SIDES into a cozy living room? I was imagining a big cozy sectional facing the fireplace/TV, but now I don’t think we have room for that! The living room space without the walkways is about 17′ x 14′. What can I fit in here? Are there rules for how much space a couch needs without suffocating the space? Can I have a couch and a chair and a coffee table? If so, what kind of sectional? Help me, please! Thank you Betsy!


The one thing I cannot do on the podcast is create a layout, because I have a systematic process that I go through step by step whenever I create one. I never deviate from it. I’m noticing here, Veronica, that you use the term great room and living room interchangeably. They are typically different rooms. The living room might be more formal, and often may not have a TV. A great room typically has vaulted ceilings, is a large room, and often has a TV. I’m fine with you using those terms interchangeably – it’s your house for gosh sakes!

From the description, I know the room is 17’ x 14’. That is a very good size, but you also mention that there are several walkways cutting through the space. There are lots of different sectional options, so I would ask yourself if you are going to be in the home a long time. The right arm, left arm, short arm, long arm combination of the sectional may not work well when you move to the next space. Since you mentioned that this is your forever home, that answers that question. I would also consider whether or not you are a big entertainer or if you love to snuggle with your family – and if you have a family of four or more. A standard sofa could fit the bill and be more affordable (and potentially easier to get with the supply chain issues). Using it for four or more people is when a sectional comes in handy.

In addition, you have to keep in mind that the focal point (usually the TV) is on one wall. Typically, you can only see that from one arm of the sectional. Sectionals are great for people who entertain, because they can have couples over and talk without being parallel to each other. For TV viewing, you’re all still likely going to be on one arm.

Then, you want to try every possible option for the layout – starting with the highest priority pieces and moving down to the lower priority pieces. So I would start by considering a sectional, and moving it around the space. You want the primary (longer) arm to face the focal point, which you mentioned is the fireplace and TV. Then you will fill in with all those other zones. You might bring in additional seating, some storage, and whatever else you want to do in this space – maybe a gaming table, a coffee table, or something else. Try those different things throughout the space. If you’re finding that things are too constrictive, you may want to go back to a standard sofa with a coffee table. You have to put your drink and your book somewhere.

You do want to be mindful of walkways, and you can use a large area rug to define the living zone in this sort of open flex space that is open to the kitchen and the walkways. Ultimately, the room cannot expand. So, try to make all your dreams come true within the confines of this floor plan. The key is optimizing what you have.

Now, just some general rules of thumb for spacing. You want to make sure that your walkway has at least 30 inches clear without hitting a piece of furniture (and you could go up to 36 inches). Between the end of the sofa or sectional and the beginning of the coffee table, you want 14-18 inches for your knees and legs. If you do go with a sectional, I prefer a round coffee table because it doesn’t fit tightly like a puzzle piece in that 90-degree open space from the L-shaped section.

If you’re doing a standard sofa and you’re in a tight space, you’ll probably want to do a narrow oval or a rectangular coffee table. The key when making this a decadent, delicious family space, is bringing in some really yummy textiles. You can bring in imagery that you just love. There are other ways to make a space feel inviting, and like your dream space, without having very large furniture.

Additionally, you may want to consider – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – one of those sofas that has the recliners. It sounds to me like you really want to be comfy in the space, and you really want that sprawl, and you are worried you can’t achieve it with the small footprint of the room. Reclining sofas are the depth of a standard sofa when people are walking around, and then at night when you’re lounging they could expand and recline. You could have that experience without it having a major footprint in the space.

I would put this all on some graph paper, and try lots of different options. Keep your mind open – the TV and the fireplace do not have to go on the same wall. Especially with a sectional, you can have two focal points. One arm of the sectional can face the fireplace and the other arm could face a TV. There are always more options in a room than we first imagine. It’s all about exploring all the possibilities before you get despondent that there aren’t possibilities. If you haven’t tried, you’ll never know.






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