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How To Arrange Furniture: Living Room

Arranging furniture is one the most important elements in decorating, but it can also be one of most perplexing, especially if you are dealing with a challenging room. The goal is to set up the room so it works well for everything you want to do there, and enhance its attributes while minimizing its shortcomings. Here, our tips to help you make the most of whatever space you have.

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START HERE

Four key questions to ask when arranging any room:

  • Who uses this room? Create a comfy seating group that’s big enough for everyone in your family, whether that’s a sectional, two loveseats, or just four comfy chairs gathered around a coffee table.

TIP: To encourage conversation, sofas and chairs shouldn’t be more than 8 feet apart.

  • What do you like best about the room? Is it a leafy view out the windows, the cozy fireplace in winter, or a handsome set of bookshelves? You’ll want to arrange your seating around this focal point—if not facing it directly, then at least keeping it in view.
  • What do you use this room for? If it’s watching TV, you’ll want everyone to have a comfortable viewing spot. If you entertain here, you’ll want a seating group for conversation, and tables within reach to put down a drink. If you like to play games, or you work in this space, see if you can fit a desk or small table + chairs at one end.

TIP: A cozy rug on the floor with big baskets or cabinets for toy storage nearby can create a flex space for kids to play.

  • How do you walk through the room? Is there a clear path to get from one door to the other? Is it easy to enter and leave the seating group?

TIP: Allow a 3-foot-wide path for the main walkway, and 2’ for less-used routes.

TIP: Movable furniture, whether it’s swivel chairs, an easy-to-move ottoman, tables on casters or lightweight chairs that can be pulled up as needed, will give you flexibility.

Need help measuring your space or creating a floor plan? Our Design Crew pros will do it for free!

 

STEP BY STEP

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  • Start with the sofa. In theory, your largest piece of furniture should be parallel to the longest wall, but that’s not always the best arrangement, so be open to the idea of floating your sofa in the center of the room or placing it perpendicular to the wall.

TIP: If you’re buying a new sofa or sectional, use painter’s tape or even empty boxes to mark out where your sofa would be to make sure it fits and the scale feels right.

  • Alternatively, start with the TV. If it’s a big screen or the main use for this room, its placement is paramount. Decide on the best spot and then arrange your sofa or sectional opposite it. Ideally, your TV should be at eye level when you’re seated (roughly 4’ off the ground), despite all the TVs you see hung above fireplaces. This will avoid neck strain and feeling like you’re in the first row of a movie theater.

TIP: The ideal viewing distance for a standard TV is 8-12’. (One rule of thumb is to multiply the diagonal width of your screen by 3.) And be sure to place your TV so it faces away from sunlight.

  • Don’t line up furniture against the walls. Create a more cohesive seating group by pulling your sofa and chairs into the center of the room, or organized around your fireplace, TV or other focal point.
  • Add a pair of chairs or another sofa or loveseat opposite the sofa. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but in general, you want to balance the bulk of a sofa or sectional with a pair of chairs opposite it, and a coffee table or large ottoman in front of it. Allow about 14-18” between your sofa and coffee table.

TIP: Angling the chairs a little will make the grouping feel more open and inviting.

  • Anchor the seating area with a rug that’s large enough to fit at least the front legs of your sofa and chairs on it, and allow about 2’ of bare floor between rug and walls.
  • Think about scale: You don’t want every piece of furniture to have the same horizon line. Keep sightlines open to windows, TV and fireplace, but find places to use taller pieces such as bookshelves or an armoire or even high-back chairs to vary the skyline of your room.
  • Rely on symmetry: Pairs of chairs or bookshelves help balance your arrangement and make it feel cohesive.
  • Consider the perimeter: Once you have your seating group set, add pieces such as a console table behind your sofa (perfect for lamps and drinks), a media cabinet below your TV, bookshelves, or a small desk or comfy reading chair in an empty corner.
  • Fill in (some) corners: They’re a perfect place for a tall plant or tree, a sculptural floor lamp or a roomy storage basket for magazines.

 

SOLUTIONS FOR PROBLEM ROOMS

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  • A long, narrow living room: Visually divide the room into two squares. Place your seating group in one area, and either a table and chairs, pair of reading chairs, or a desk at the other end. Consider using rugs to help demarcate each area.
  • A really small room: Keep furniture scaled appropriately. A loveseat and two chairs will feel more open + welcoming than a giant sectional. Use small ottomans or stools for extra seating, and our narrow C-side tables for side or end tables. Choose double-duty furniture, like a pop-up coffee table, to make the most of limited space. Airy, open shelves are better than a big, bulky entertainment unit.
  • A very large, open-plan room: Create distinct zones for sitting/TV watching, dining, and work or play through groupings of furniture and rug placement.
  • An awkwardly shaped or angled room: Don’t line up furniture along angled walls; instead, float furniture and center your seating group on the fireplace or other focal point. Consider using any odd corners for a reading nook or grouping of plants.
  • A room with no focal point: If your room is plain-Jane, don’t despair: Use a great piece of furniture, like well-styled bookshelves, or large-scale art or a gallery wall as your focus.
  • Room still not working? Try removing one or two pieces of furniture and see if it feels better. Overcrowding a room with furniture will make it feel cluttered, not calming.

Still not sure? Our Design Crew pros are room-planning masterminds! Book a free appointment.

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