Designer Barbara Brock reveals the room-arranging tricks to make the most of a small, narrow space that includes both a living and dining room.


Before: Drab and Dated

This New York couple's apartment featured a small open-space living and dining room combo. Unfortunately, it was crammed with a mismatch of bachelor pad furniture and heavy inherited antique pieces. The styles clashed, and the couple wanted something different. See how we updated the room, below, plus learn designer tricks for refreshing an open floor plan.

before makeover living room with dark brown furniture

After: Anchored Look

Start with one beloved statement piece and build around it. Think about a large art print or a unique piece of vintage furniture that can anchor the room. These residents owned a low midcentury-style coffee table—a trendy item—so that stayed. Other elements were brought in to pair with it but make the room feel more modern.

Arrange My Space: Open Space Makeover

Enlarge the Space

An already tight space looked even smaller with all of its dark furniture, including a deep maroon rug and an overstuffed brown couch. The designer replaced the sofa with a lightweight, creamy white version and added two smaller chairs with open legs to provide additional seating that doesn't drag down the space. A row of large mirrors above the sofa makes the living room area appear double its size.

Carve Out Zones

Before, the living room and dining area merged awkwardly with overlapping rugs. The designer took out the dining room rug altogether and delineated the living room with a larger, light-color rug that blends with the coffee table. It now serves to clearly define where one space ends and the next begins. The tall, dark dining hutch was also removed and replaced with an airier glass bookshelf. Too many vertical objects in a room is overwhelming—it's best to stick to just one. Removing that weighty piece helped balance the two room sections.

Give It Character

This room was in need of some contemporary accessories to bring it up to date. Metallic accents, such as a shallow bowl on the coffee table and textured vases in the dining room, help bounce light around the space. Glass-topped side tables and a simple pale blue vase on the windowsill keep things light and airy.


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