AFTER: Designer Caroline McCandlish comes up with a comfortable yet practical plan for a young family. (Sketch by Julius Goyanko/For The Washington Post)

“I am just desperate for help with how to arrange furniture in this room,” Kristina Flores wrote about the 11-by-18-foot living room in her family’s Odenton home. Flores and her husband Cesar, have two young sons, Cruz and Javi.


By making efficient use of the narrow space, designer Caroline McCandlish comes up with a comfortable yet practical plan for a young family.

Hang curtain panels above the window trim to accentuate the ceiling height.

Make a formal chair look more casual and inviting with a fun, pattered fabric.

A stain-resistant, indoor-outdoor patterned area rug will stand up to spills and high traffic.

PB comfort square slipcovered three-piece sectional in velvet espresso ($4,500,; Parsons desk with brown multicolor quartz composite top, 60-by-30 inches ($1,250, www. (SPLURGE)

Use a storage cube as a coffee table and more seating when needed.

A small chest of drawers is the perfect place to stash small toys.

A sectional will offer lots of extra seating; the child-friendly dark fabric will help hide stains.

Add warmth with gray walls, like Benjamin Moore’s London Fog.

Caroline McCandlish, of McCandlish Design (703-689-3481), is based in Reston.

Do you have a design challenge? Send photos, room dimensions and contact information to



·Lily accent chair in tan basket weave solid ($240,

·Wayborn Suchow apothecary chest ($386,

·Sauder Vinegate TV stand ($120,

·Westport natural storage cube ($200,


·Bone ceramic and bronze table lamp ($173,

·Leslie green crackle table lamp ($278,


·Sphinx Montego area rug, 7-foot-10-by-10-foot-10 ($289,

·Bangal mahogany fabric for existing armchair ($21 per yard,

·Harrison Gray clock, 23-inch ($120,

·Organic basket weave drape in natural (starts at $79,