How to Decorate a Shotgun House

If a shotgun were shot from the front door of a shotgun house, the bullet would shoot straight through to the back door, or so <atarget="_blank" href=""> </atarget="_blank">the theory goes. These historic homes are commonly found in Southern cities where they were a solution for homeowners of the day for their skinny, elongated lots -- and to help provide adequate ventilation. Decorating a shotgun house is tricky, but with an understanding of certain types of furniture layouts, sizes and color schemes, your home will be a cozy oasis.

Where to Begin

A true shotgun house floor plan is made up of a row of three to four square rooms -- no hallways -- with a door for each room lined up with the front and back door. Depending on the year the home was built, a bathroom is normally installed somewhere in the middle, in the rear of the house, next to the kitchen and plumbing. The bedroom and dining rooms are placed within the middle two rooms. Regardless if you are renovating the entire home or redecorating a room, always measure each room with consideration as to where windows, doors and entryways are located. Then measure your furniture, cabinets or fixtures you are planning to use to determine if they will fit, where they will fit, and if they're to scale for your home

Fixtures and Furniture

  • Kitchen: A large double-bowl farmhouse apron sink may seem like a good idea, but it will take up valuable countertop and storage space. Instead, use a small, white square ceramic sink.
  • Living room: An overstuffed leather recliner may consume most of your entire living room. Instead, consider a smaller contemporary or modern version.
  • Bedroom: A California king-size bed is too large for a bedroom in a shotgun house, consider a queen- or full-size bed instead.

Find a Focal Point

Determine what your focal point will be in each room. Living rooms typically have one of three common focal points: the fireplace, media center/television or conversation area. In a kitchen or dining room, the focal point centers on eating and food preparation; for example, an island and decorative hood over a stove create focal points in a kitchen. A rich, dark wood table and chandelier in a dining room are common focal points. The bed and headboard are focal points in a bedroom.

Create Common Areas

Because the space in a shotgun house is small and limited, creating common areas with furniture and fixtures is ideal. For example, if you decide to combine your living room space with another functional space, such as a home office or dining room, use your furniture to divide the space. Do so by placing a small desk directly behind your sofa for a home office or a formal table and chairs behind the sofa for a dining space. Do the same for the kitchen; use an island with a sink and add an eating space with bar stools to create both a multi-functional area and additional storage.

How to Lay Out Your Furniture

Long, narrow rooms need balance, which you can accomplish by arranging furniture asymmetrically, with larger pieces balanced by two to three smaller pieces of furniture.

Asymmetrical Furniture Layouts

  • Living room: Balance a large entertainment center with two club chairs or a love seat and chair. Another layout for a living room is a sleek, modern L-shaped sectional sofa -- the long section -- placed opposite of a fireplace or large flat-screen television.
  • Kitchen: An L-shaped or single-wall layout is best for small, narrow kitchens with an island or small table placed in the center for food preparation, additional storage and eating.
  • Bedroom: Place your bed and headboard in a corner at an angle to provide more circulation space and room for a wardrobe or cabinet.

Color Schemes and Finishes

Use color and finishes to make your small, narrow rooms appear large and spacious. Do so by using white or light pastel shades on your walls.

Other tricks to make a room feel spacious are:

  • Bring in as much natural light as possible by refraining from hanging heavy blinds or shades on your windows.
  • Use reflective decor and furniture throughout for additional light; some examples include mirrors, high-gloss wood floors or metallic pieces of furniture.
  • Add height by placing your drapery and curtain rods a few inches from the ceiling and hanging the panels outside the window casements.
  • An accent wall is another solution to help create the illusion of depth and space, particularly if you use a horizontal wall running the length of the room. Use a textured wallpaper or finishes, such as stone, plaster or wood paneling to add character as well as another focal point to draw the eye. Offset the accent wall with smaller pieces of furniture, such as sleek, contemporary sectional sofa, and Hughes or Eames chairs opposite the wall.

Kimberly Bartosch

Kimberly Bartosch has been writing interior design, travel, women’s style and wedding-related articles since 2010. Her articles have appeared in “BeautyLook” magazine. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in interior design from Park University. Bartosch is an avid fan of “Star Trek” and is working on her own young-adult novel about space travel.