When my husband and I decided to rent this one bedroom railroad apartment in NYC, we had to figure out how to divide the main room into a living, dining, office, and library space. It took a couple of tries, but we finally made it work by utilizing the high ceilings and carefully placing our furniture in a functional layout.
Pick a focal point for the sofa. At first, we had the sofa floating in the middle of the room, with a console table behind it and a salon grouping of artwork on the back wall. While it was nice looking, functionally it cut the space in half. In order to get the most out of the room, we shoved the sofa right up against the wall and put our biggest painting above it. This provided a focal point to build the rest of the room around.
Clear a path. It's important that you or your guests don't have to walk around furniture to get from one side of the room to the other. We decided to put our round dining table in the corner of the room. At first, our two club chairs were next to each other with the small black cocktail table in between. This meant you had to walk around them to get to the dining table. By moving the club chair on the left to the side and placing it on an angle, one could walk through easily. When we entertained and wanted more seating closer to the sofa, we would move the club chair closer in.
Make table surfaces multi-functional. The round skirted table in the corner, or, as we called it, "the dining room," was used for much more than just dining. It was a desk when I needed to write letters, pay bills, or use my laptop. It was a buffet table when we entertained and needed a space to put out food (the kitchen was at the opposite side of the apartment; you had to go through the bedroom to get to it!). And since it was skirted, we were able to store things underneath it. My advice is to use one substantial table surface for many different purposes, as opposed to filling up the room with various furniture.
Reserve a spot for your favorite pieces. Since the sofa was against the wall on the right side of the room, putting my favorite art and furnishings in a prominent place across from it allowed me to enjoy the vignette whenever I sat on the couch. The seafoam green console table didn't necessarily serve a function, it just created an area upon which I could put some of my favorite white objects, arrange flowers, and hang two favorite abstract paintings above it. I think it's perfectly fine to reserve a small area that is simply there to be pretty. I always loved looking at that corner with my grandmother's white chair.
Go floor-to-ceiling with storage.We've got a pretty substantial collection of media, not to mention a serious sound system and turntable. It all had to go somewhere, so we got two of these industrial shelving units from the Home Depot. It looks pretty messy, I have to admit, but all our records, CD's, books, DVD's and other extraneous items were kept intact within that floor-to-ceiling unit. A step ladder was key to be able to reach the top.
Apartment renters, how have you have you've divided up your main living space?
(Images via C.W. Styling)