How To Arrange Your Living Room Furniture

This question seems to pop up in one form or another more times than I can count – how should I arrange my living room furniture. As always, there is no single correct answer as it depends on the room that you are working on as well as the furniture that you have on hand. Of course, if money is no object you have full control over these two variables but for most people this is generally not the case. First of all, I want to direct you to this video that should help clear up some of the basic questions that I get from people who are first starting out:

As Blanche Garcia states right in the beginning of the video, it doesn’t matter how balanced or elegant your living room looks if you don’t have a comfortable place to sit. See my previous post on the basics of interior design, where I go into more detail about the importance of maximizing functionality.

To expand upon the points that Blanche makes, you want to start with the large items first – for example, your sectional or your sofa. It is important that you arrange this main piece of furniture in a way that promotes conversation with your family or guests. This means that you should make it so that people are facing each other in some way, I generally prefer towards the center of the room, facing as many doors as possible. You also want to keep in mind what someone sitting in the main piece of furniture will be looking at as they sit down to relax. Is there a main focal point, such as a fireplace hearth and mantle, or perhaps a television? These are important things to consider.

Once you have your main piece of furniture in place you want to place your “satellite” pieces to continue promoting the level of intimacy. Satellite pieces could include padded chairs, recliners, rocking chairs, etc. Make sure to leave plenty of space for walkways as people enter the room, feeling cramped is one of the quickest ways to kill the emotion and feel of a living room.

The next piece of the puzzle is to put in a coffee table, or a center table of some type. I tend to recommend something a little higher than the seat of the couch or sectional if possible, this makes it more suitable for placing drinks. As pointed out in the video, make sure to leave ample space between the center table and the main piece of seating furniture. There is a balance however, and you want to make sure that as many of the seating areas can reach the table as possible.

Finally you want to backfill with side tables, and you can make use of lamps and vases to add your final touch of detail. Again, see my previous post for more information on this topic.

One thing I want to stress is that there is no need to go out and buy a lot of expensive furniture. This is the path people usually take when they are first starting out. The cost can add up fast, and when you’re first starting out you’re much more at risk of making mistakes. I would highly recommend practicing with what you have and seeing what kind of improvements you can make before you go out and spend money.

The Basics of Interior Design

When you walk into a room, it is important to be observant and to be present. Take in what is around you – feel the space, notice the lighting, breath in deeply through your nose and immerse yourself in the smells. Take note of the sensations and emotions that come to the surface as you simply exist in the room and become one with it. It is important that you truly understand a room, and feel it’s personality and purpose before you so much as lift a finger. Once you feel you are comfortable with the room in it’s current existence, only then can you begin to plan it’s future.

First and Foremost – Consider the room’s function

For your final design to be fluid, you have to start with purpose in mind. Think – what purpose would expensive and elegant furniture in a kitchen area serve if the family will not be eating there? You’d be better off directing that effort to the dining room. Similarly, if you are working on a living room where the family will spend much of their time, you want to make sure that the layout is open and spacious, while still cozy and inviting. Then you must dig deeper – what paths will people walk as they pass through the room? Where will they focus their attention while they are sitting and enjoying casual conversation. Will they be entertaining in this room, which would necessitate certain placements of side tables for beverages and hors d’oeuvres?

Next – Build the room around it’s function

With a clear image of the room’s function in mind, it’s time to make some decisions to come alive. Does the room have enough light? Make the most of the windows and the daily sunshine if necessary, or make a note of what kind of curtains will best control the light if it is overwhelming. Design the furniture arrangement in a manner that promotes the proper walkways, encourages the eyes to fall on points of attention, and leaves people with an impression of a balanced use of space.

Key Decisions – This is where most people start

Most people skip right ahead to this part of the process in interior design. The problem is that if you have not taken the time to clearly map out the preceding steps you will likely find it challenging to arrive at a cohesive design that really fits the room’s needs. Once you’ve successfully gone through the proceeding steps it’s time to decide on important characteristics, such as colors of the various pieces of the room, the style of the furniture, the use of carpeting and additional light sources – that is, all of the pieces of the room that are usually associated with interior design. Keep your original observations and visions in mind, and it is much harder to go wrong at this stage.

Wrapping Up – The details

Once you’ve made the big decisions, don’t forget to add in a few little details to really capture attention as people enter the room. Adding a soothing aroma can often do a world of wonders in bringing out a room’s hospitality. Placing some pinecones and candles as a centerpiece of a coffee table could give it just that little extra edge. There are really no set rules here, and you will have to use your judgement and experience. Just keep in mind that a little can go a very long way at this point.

These are the basics. Keep in mind that this is a process not to be rushed. Make sure to understand the room you are starting with and the purpose it will serve before diving in and changing everything. For some general tips, I’ve found this page to be quite helpful.