Do you have a long, narrow room that you don’t know what to do with? It's easy to visually break up the space and add interest with a few simple but striking illusions.
Paint One of the Short Walls a Bright Color
Vivid, intense colors give the impression that they are moving toward you and will make the room feel shorter and wider, while pale colors seem to move away from you and will accentuate the narrow space. Choose your accent color to harmonize with your main wall colors and your accessories, or even to sharply contrast by choosing a color opposite to your main colors on the color wheel. If the main wall color is pale blue, for example, paint your accent wall in a deep orange.
For similar reasons, paint your ceiling in white or a very light blue, which will give the illusion of raising it. Choose a blue so light that you don't even realize it is blue when it's on the ceiling; it will give the illusion of a higher ceiling without your noticing why.
Place Furniture on the Diagonal
Asymmetrical arrangements always create a sense of movement, which keeps the eye traveling around the room. Area carpets, also placed on the diagonal, will enhance the effect, seeming to create two or more smaller rooms out of the one large room. Arrange seating areas around the borders of the area rugs, always keeping in mind the focal point or points in the room. Make sure to keep adequate traffic space around the furniture so people don't bump their shins; 18 inches between a sofa and coffee table, and 36 inches between major pieces of furniture, are standard.
Vary the Height of Furniture and Accessories
If all of your furnishings are at the same height, this will emphasize the sameness of the long, narrow room. To counteract this, vary the heights: break up a long wall with an armoire, hutch, or tall plant; hang various sizes and shapes of artwork from floor to ceiling, not just on the upper third of the wall; have at least one floor lamp providing ambient light, rather than using only table lamps.
Add a Curtain or Folding Screen
Hang sheer, floor-length curtains from a swing-out rod on one long wall to create the illusion of a room divider. Besides supplying an optical illusion, they will move gracefully in the breeze from ceiling fans or open windows. Swing-out rods are available in different lengths, but you don't need one to extend more than about 18 to 24 inches for this trick to work.
Folding screens are available in many sizes, shapes, and materials. They can be almost see-through or totally opaque. You can even make a basic screen yourself: Prime and paint (or stain) three or four bifold doors, available at your local home center. Attach them to each other with brass hinges so that they form a zigzag, and there you have it: an instant room divider. Another way to activate your creativity is to purchase or make three or four tall stretched canvases, join them with hinges, and paint your masterpiece on the canvases! Now you have personalized artwork in addition to a room divider.
Mirrors bounce light around a room, and because they reflect scenes in other parts of the room or outside, they add to the illusion of a wider space. For best effect, hang one large mirror and several smaller ones around the room.
Define Spaces with Molding
Attach decorative wood molding to the walls to define different areas. Paint it the same color as the walls, but in a satin sheen. This will subtly outline various conversation areas and also serve as a natural border for artwork.
Change Around Room Function
Instead of thinking that you have to stick with the traditional living room function for your long, narrow room, think "outside the box!" Make one end of the room into a dining room; this option works especially well if you have a pleasing view out of the windows on that end of the room. Alternatively, make one end of the room a cozy library: Install a few bookshelves, some reading lamps, and comfortable chairs for a nook you'll happily curl up in on rainy days. Bookshelves can line the walls in the traditional manner, or set them facing in toward the library so that they form a natural room divider.