living room with natural stone fireplace

Let’s Arrange It: Tips for Laying Out Furniture in the Living Room

When designing a room, the first thing I do is lay out and arrange the furniture. This comes before curtains, before artwork, before rugs. Furniture placement is paramount, and if you do it right, you’ll reap the rewards of a pleasing, comfortable space to come home to at the end of the day.

Today we’re going to talk about arranging your living room. This is typically the biggest, most used room in the home and the one people tend to spend a lot of time decorating, at least in my experience.

So, let’s get to it. First things first…

Your Couch/Sofa and Your Focal Point–Deciding your focal point can be tricky. The focal point is usually the wall that your couch faces. I’ve lived in a lot of homes where focal walls (for example, the wall that includes the hearth or wood-burning stove) are off-center, are perhaps located mid-way between the living room and the dining room, or are stuck in an odd corner without any actual walls in the vicinity. Ideally, the sofa faces the hearth. In our home, the wood-burning stove is in a corner, the television is on the opposite wall, and we just put the sofa between the two of them. It works because we anchored the couch with a coffee table, side table, rug, and another chair.

But if you don’t have a hearth and don’t want a television, you can use a window as your focal point or even a wall with a pretty bit of architecture or a big beautiful painting you love.

Secondary Seating–Now that you’ve determined where the sofa will go, it’s time to add a few other seating options. An oversized sectional sofa can usually work well independently without any additional seating required, but I’d say you should rethink that. I love a big comfy sectional sofa. In fact, right now, I want to throw my leather couch out the window and invest in a big, deep, cozy, comfy sectional. That said, it’s ALWAYS a good idea to include at least one or two extra comfortable chairs. Older people who have trouble with their backs or knees prefer more upright chairs that they can sit down in and stand up from with ease.

If you have a smaller couch, you’ll need additional seating so the whole family can have a place to sit. A recliner, a loveseat, or a lounge chair of some sort can work.

Some fun tertiary seating can include bean bags, poufs, or even a couple of small stools that slide in and out from underneath the coffee table if you have the room.

A Place to Put Things–Other pieces of furniture like tables, storage, shelves, armoires come next. Remember, every seat in the room should have a surface close enough to set a drink on. And keep in mind the purpose of your room. If you need a table for playing board games, make sure your coffee table is big enough to accommodate this. I almost got us a tiny round coffee table (it was actually a varnished wood stump), but my husband reminded me how we love to do big puzzles on the coffee table during the holidays. So, I backed off (and instead added it to the room where we don’t play board games!) Do you need an armoire for your television? Is your living room doubling as a library of sorts? You’ll need bookshelves. Do you want a place to store extra blankets? Oversized storage ottomans are great for this!

Divine Proportion–This mainly applies to your television. I hate using a television as a focal point, although I get why it’s done. A few years ago, I despised the sight of the television so much I sewed a cover out of an old sarong and tied it to the television so that it was out of sight, and the sarong was on display instead. I still am not a fan of the television taking center stage in my living room; I much prefer a fireplace or even a window. However, I know a lot of people still favor the television as their center of focus. For your television to look like it’s blending into the room, you’ll need to adhere to divine proportion, also known as the golden ratio. When your things are in divine proportion, it means they are pleasing to the eye; in other words, they fit together. A television, to look divine (wink, wink), must be about two-thirds the size of whatever it’s sitting on or hanging over.

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