OB-girl loftDear Lala,

I really enjoy the photos of beautiful rooms that you share on Crasstalk. As someone who has no natural design ability (as you’ll see from the fact that I still own a butterfly chair; mostly I use it as a receptacle for coats) I find them delightful and inspiring.

It’s pretty typical for old Chicago buildings to be long and narrow as that’s how the property lots run, and my problem is that I am not using half of the space in my small apartment at all (“the dead zone”).  I’d say the main room is 30ish feet long by about 9 feet.

My furnishings are spartan and everything is mismatched.  I feel shame.  A piece of your soul might die if you saw photos, so I went with a sketch of the layout. I do have the money these days to buy some nice things, but I cannot visualize what would work in the empty space without looking just haphazardly plopped there.
– Kickin’ Chicken

Well, I ultimately convinced KC to send me actual photos and my soul remains intact. I swore not to share them but I must say that it is a gorgeous apartment- beautiful wood floors, high ceilings and many windows. It is seriously under furnished and the long, slim layout is a bit tricky.

Where to begin? You definitely need to expand into the dead zone.

It is not uncommon for dwellers to end up with these vast dead zones in open plan spaces. Somehow the absence of walls inhibits our ability to ‘see’ the room. You see a dead zone and I see a fully fleshed out dining room and foyer.

Aside from adding function and style, I think the greatest part about really fleshing out the spaces we live in is the additional vantage points we get. You have zoned yourself into two spaces- the sofa and the bed. So, outside of the bathroom, you really only ever look at two corners of your apartment with any regularity. How dreary! I want you to waver momentarily before choosing which dining chair to sit and write your  memoirs from. Because it’s a toss up between facing your new sassy mirror and side board that you just put flowers on, or towards the balcony windows framed in beautiful structured blinds.

I am proposing two solutions that you might like to mix and match from depending on the function that appeals to you most. Using the same living room layout in both; a nice roomy sectional in the far end corner, easily movable tables, and a flat screen on a shallow bookcase on the bedroom wall.

This plan incorporates a large island with seating. This should be done in a style that really marries your kitchen with the rest of the apartment as it will serve as a connector making all of the open spaces one.

How can you beat the functionality of a giant island? Spreading a newspaper out and enjoying your breakfast, a buffet at parties, casual dinner with guests, a home office all in one.

floor plan with dining table and side boardFloor plan with dining table and side board

This floor plan includes a fairly large dining table and sideboard, offset between the new dining space and entry.  I love this plan. Don’t be afraid to use large scale pieces- not all apartments require doll sized furniture.  Buy pieces that can do some double duty; pop an extra dining chair in your bedroom or by the door, tables that can easily be reconfigured and moved around.

The fixed elements that would be must haves for me in any apartment are window treatments and lighting. Custom fit blinds and original, interesting lighting are the two things that will tailor your space to you and really set the tone for a finished, grown up home. In your case, I would go for a streamlind white shade or a woven natural blind in the same tone as your floors- really make a feature of your gallery of tall windows.

As for your style, there are literally zero number of clues in your photo and for this, I crey.

So it is your journey to decipher these floor plans in whatever style makes you feel at home. Traditional, eclectic or modern, make a statement. Have artful lamps and mismatched pillows. Fill your walls with amazing images. Love your home.

OB-kicken chicken

OB-kicken chicken2

As Ever,