​How to Optimize Typical Rental Layouts: The L-Shaped Living/Dining Area

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The L-shaped living and dining room may be a typical layout, but that doesn't mean it's without space planning challenges. Here are some suggestions on how to help you improve the flow and function of this floor plan:

When determining the optimal layout, the first thing is first: decide which function will be in which area. Generally speaking, the dining area goes in the smaller part of the L or the one that is closest to the kitchen. Above all, though, you should make your decision based on what kinds of activities you use more frequently. If you love to host large dinner parties but gravitate toward small, intimate conversation gatherings or TV screenings, you might want to go against convention and fill the larger part of the space with a large dining table.

Next, determine how open you want the spaces to be to one another. In the image above, put together by Interior Design It Yourself, the living room furniture is placed so that anyone on the couch would not be able to converse with anyone at the dining room table. This helps delineate the spaces, making them feel more like separate rooms, which would be a boon in a small space. But if you are an entertainer who wants everyone to be able to congregate and chatter, then you may want an arrangement that resembles the Midwest Living image below, where the living room seating opens up to the dining room seating.

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Even when spaces are drawn close together, as in this plan, you still want to give them some kind of visual and functional separation. In the plan above, the conversation areas are still clearly demarcated, thanks to the use of rugs, tightly arranged seating groupings, and a folding screen (number 3). Lighting, accessories, and architectural elements can also go a long way toward creating clear divisions between spaces. For a further explanation of why this plan works better than the "before" image, visit Midwest Living.

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An L-shaped space, difficult thought it can be, is quite well suited to multifunctionality. I love the floor plan above, via Adore Your Place, because the dining room serves double duty as an office and an eating area. Instead of centering a larger table in the room, the designer has opted for a space that can easily switch functions. Books, office accessories, and other necessary supplies are close at hand, and the wall space is maximized for storage, but there is still a space where one could sit at night with a simple dinner and a glass of wine.

This plan offers another difference: the way that floating furniture is handled. In the first two images, occasional chairs float in the space, offering additional seating. Here, an L-shaped sectional, used without floating occasional chairs ensures that there's still plenty of room for moving throughout the space. When designing an L-shaped space, you will probably have some pieces that float (and it's always a good idea to refrain from pushing every item up against the wall), but always remember that you want to maximize the flow of the room around those floating items.

If you have an L-shaped living and dining room arrangement, do you have any space-planning tips to offer?

(Image credits: Interior Design It Yourself; Midwest Living; Adore Your Place)