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How to Arrange Furniture in Your Living Room: 7 Tips from a Professional

How to Arrange Furniture in Your Living Room Graphic

Arranging furniture can be a challenge. It’s easy to get into a rut — and difficult to come up with alternative ideas to your standard setup — but having a great setup is imperative. You want to create spaces that are welcoming and comfortable, that feature your best furniture pieces or room elements, and that make the best use of your space.

The key to arranging furniture in a living room is to start with the structure and size of the space, focus on realistic seating groups, make sure there are enough tables, and stay flexible.

1. Consider the Structure of the Space

A good rule is to start with the elements you can’t change.

  • Fireplace

  • Picture windows

  • Doors

Don’t try to work around these big, immovable features: make them the focal point of the room. There are a couple ways to do this:

  • Arrange seating on one or both sides of fireplaces and/or picture windows. — For a fireplace, this maximizes the number of cozy seats. For a large window, this can create a bright meeting space with a good view for everyone. Consider keeping a basket or pile of large pillows nearby for extra floor seating next to a fireplace.

  • Arrange the main seating piece to face the room feature. — Especially for large windows and French doors, consider anchoring the main seating piece (usually a couch) opposite the main structural feature. This creates a commanding view and an inviting approach.

Living room by White Haven Interiors featuring a stone fireplace.

Perfect example of a commanding view by White Haven Interiors.

You may be able to do both, or you may need to choose one, depending on the room and the furniture you have to work with. Try a few different options if you have them, until you find the one that feels natural. Whatever you do, just don’t try to ignore or fight against the structure of the room.

2. Arrange Realistic Seating Groups

It's important to not only make your space inviting, but a great gathering place. Arrange seating pieces facing each other. A great space not only features a focal point like a beautiful fireplace or window, but also encourages conversation.

Next, pull seating zones together with area rugs. Area rugs not only create texture in a space, they help define areas in room as well. The legs of any couches should be on the rug while chairs should be completely on the rug. Basically, you want in big enough for it to act as the anchor.

Fixer Upper Living Room By Joanna Gaines

Joanna Gaines spaces are impeccable and the use of her Lotus Rug ties the space together perfectly.

3. Make Sure There are Enough Tables

Every seat should be able to reach a table. Consider nesting or bunching tables, or unexpected pieces — like an antique stool, salvaged tree stump stools, or cylinder-style ottomans — as side tables.

ReFind Design's Antique Stool

I love using antique stools for small side tables!

And try to use tables that are sized appropriately. As for coffee tables, in most cases, they should not be taller than the seat height of sofas and chairs around it. End tables should generally be about the same height of the couch or arm chair that someone has to reach over to use it.

I would make an exception to the coffee table rule if the piece is something really unique like an antique chest or trunk, but be careful to not go too high, maybe an inch or two. I am a huge fan of using unexpected pieces to replace the usuals. Coffee tables can be replaced by a set of small, matching tables (Bunching Tables) or a bench.

This printer-style cabinet-turned-coffee-table while maybe just a touch tall for an average coffee table is super unique and worth bending the rule over.

These ottoman-style bunching tables serve as a functional table while offering the versatility of being used as additional seating.

4. Break Up Large Spaces

Now what do you do if you have an extra large space? Unless you frequently have very large, group meetings (where everyone needs to be gathered together), you probably want to break up the room into smaller, intimate zones.

  • Use the couch to divide a wide space. It can feel super risky, at first, to put a couch in the middle of a room, but try it — as long as the back is not facing a door or other large, structural feature.

  • Create zones for different activities. A couch can anchor a larger seating area for a group, while two chairs and a small end table can create a private space near a window. A basket of pillows and board games by the fire creates a different feel than a small desk with a stool or two near a corner.

Large Living Room by designers Walton Goggins and Nadia Conners

A large space expertly broken up by designers Walton Goggins and Nadia Conners. Source: House and Home 2016

5. Enlarge Small Spaces

For those spaces that are small consider ...

  • Arranging your couch and coffee table diagonally to welcome people into the seating area, and change up a boxy room.

  • Using a set of smaller chairs instead of a couch.

  • Moving furniture away from walls, if possible. It doesn’t seem like it, but pushing all the furniture against the walls actually makes small rooms appear smaller.

  • Using low seating to create visual height.

  • Using furniture with exposed legs to keep floor space visually open.

Small spaces perfectly enlarged with excellent furniture placement by Style At Home, Dear Lillie and Unique Interiors Style.

6. Keep Some Elements Flexible

Major seating elements (couches) should be placed to accompany the main feature of the room. Then, smaller seating can be arranged to face the couch or create separate zones in a large room, but should also be flexible enough to turn. Using poufs, ottomans, and oversized pillows that stow away under tables or in baskets are perfect for additional, flexible seating.

Another great way to accomplish this is using nesting tables and bunching tables. I love having tables that come out when hosting guests, but tuck away when they are not being used.

These farmhouse nesting tables make for stylish flexibility.

7. Exercise the Strength of Variety

A variety of furniture pieces adds visual interest and character to the room. Here is where you can have fun and be creative.

Check out some of my favorite uses of repurposed furniture for living rooms.

  • Try using an antique buffet or vintage dresser as an entertainment console.

  • Use an antique dresser or chest for additional storage.

  • Consider an antique bed repurposed into a bench for extra seating?

And here are some of my favorite repurposed entertainment consoles.

It’s important to not violating the scale of the room, but a variety of furniture sizes adds additional depth and character.

Stage Your Living Room to Impress!

Now that you have great insider tips it’s time to get started. Make a plan to arrange your living room by starting with the elements that you can’t change, adding great seating groups, and enhancing your space with unexpected pieces that will set your space apart.

If you need more inspiration, I have collected a bunch of my favorites on Pinterest!

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