If you’re like me, the living room is where we spend most of our time at home (besides the kitchen but I have two teenage boys so….). It’s where we relax, binge our favorite shows, and host the occasional impromptu dance party. With so many roles to play, this room can be tricky to set up. In fact, one of the questions I hear most often is, “how do I set up my living room?” To help out, I’ve gathered up some some of my best tips on how to arrange living room furniture for a cozy, yet well styled space.
1. Measure, Tape, and Box It Out
This sounds boring I know. Like, let’s just jump into the fun stuff, right? Well, my friends, this can be fun. I mean, who says you can’t make a party with measuring and painter’s tape?
Here’s the deal, you want to know what you’re working with. Measure the room so you don’t end up with an itty bitty couch along a big ol wall (happened to me!).
And tape. All the tape. Use that tape on the floor for rug and couch placement. Or on the walls to get a sense of book shelf height.
And boxes? Those come in handy to test things like coffee table size and end table functionality. You know, try it out before committing.
2. Find the Main Thing
Look for the main thing in your living room. It might be a TV (but not always!), a fireplace, or even a window with a nice view. This gives you a place to start. Arranging your furniture with the main thing in mind gives it all a focus.
However, this does not mean everything has to point towards that main thing. Like, we get it, we like our TVs but every single chair and couch and stool and pillow do not need to point towards it.
Instead, think of making that main thing super awesome and style around it. For example, if it’s the fireplace – give that baby an update and make it look gooooood. (See link below). If it’s the TV – then invest in a proportional, stand out media console cabinet.
If it’s the window, then don’t distract with fussy curtains (why would you ever??) and keep that view top notch.
More: Fireplace Makeovers – 3 DIY Project to make update a fireplace
- Measure, Tape, and Use Boxes to Plan
- Find the Main Focus
- Open Concept? Make Different Spaces
- Consider Architectural Features
- Use Symmetry (not matchy, matchy)
- Work with Room Flaws
- Keep Room to Move
- Eyes Up Here Please
- Test It Out
- Change It Up
3. Larger Room? Make Different Areas
If you’re working with a larger space or open concept living room, split the space into different parts. You might have the main area for watching TV along with a cozy corner for reading or writing.
Arrange your furniture so each area feels defined but still part of the same room. (Do not, I repeat, do not use partitions to achieve this look).
4. Consider Architectural Features
Ok, this is where we often run into trouble. Many folks like to take a screenshot of a room or maybe how they saw it arranged in Crate & Barrel and just copy and paste – then get stuck.
But what about that window seat? Those wide arches or windows placed in the most unlucky spot?
Well, you gotta work with them. Don’t try to ignore it, or worse, try to hide them. For example, if you’ve got tall windows it might mean you go for a lower profile couch and chairs.
More: Best Woven Wood Shades
Living Room Design Board
- Coffee Table 2. Marin Sofa 3. Accent Chair 4. Area Rug 5. Floor Lamp 6. Plant Stands 7. Woven Pouf 8. Console Table 9. Art Work 10. Throw Pillow 11. Tassel Lumbar Pillow
5. Balanced Symmetry Over Matchy Matchy:
This is where a modern approach challenges the 80’s to a dance off. I know the urge is there to make it all match. Have one side of the room be exactly the same as the other. One side has a tall bookcase, great let’s do it on the other!
We’re going for balanced symmetry here people. Like we want to avoid the feeling of allll the furniture being shoved to one side (usually facing TV) or everything sitting below eye level.
Instead, think of the room like a tipping scale. If one side has something tall like a bookcase, we can achieve that on the other side with something else such as a large plant, floor lamp, or even vertical artwork.
6. Work with Those Flaws
Every room has that one thing (or five) that annoys us. Like, “why did the builder do this??” If we try to hide it, mask it, or just pretend it doesn’t exist, it will only become more obvious.
Instead, embrace those flaws, or quirks, if you will. One common issue is an off center fireplace (or door, window, etc.)
If you put the exact same thing on each side of the fireplace, the difference will be obvious. (Again, get rid of the notion of matchy, matchy). Instead, go for items of similar height but proportion to the given space. Think a tall skinny lamp on the narrow side and a wider, yet tall bookcase on the other.
The eye will be fooled to think the space is intentional, or at the very least, balanced (see Tip #5, wink).
7. Keep Room to Move
There always has to be an obvious tip to make sure we’re still reading, right? Well this is it, but trust me, it’s no less important.
We can spend hours selecting furniture (though my decor guides make that unnecessary!) and style our little hearts out only to end up with a dysfunctional space.
Sooo, before committing and leaving things just so, make sure there’s space to walk around without bumping into things. Leave about 18 inches of room to flow around the major pieces.
8. Eyes Up Here Please
The biggest issue with living room furniture placement is that we all tend to keep it low, low, low. The result? A room that feels cramped, flat, and small.
Get those eyes moving up! Even if you don’t have grand ceilings (most people don’t anyway), try to find ways to keep the eye movement moving up.
- Tall plants
- Vertical Artwork
- Floor Lamps
- Vases with long dried stems
- Curtains (place rod a good 5-6” above window trim)
- Interesting Light Fixtures
9. Give It a Test Drive
Ok, once you’ve set up your furniture, try it out. Go ahead and sit in every chair and couch seat to get a feel for the view. Is it comfortable? Is it unobstructed?
Now, walk around. Is there easy flow? Could your guests comfortably move around without having to shuffle, pivot, and climb over things to hit up the washroom?
More: 6 Neutral Couch Ideas
10. Change It Up
Your living room isn’t a marriage contract. You do not have to commit to one way just because it’s been like that forever. And you don’t have to feel bad about doing it!
I am giving you permission here and now to make changes whenever something doesn’t quite feel right.
I hope these steps and tips make it easier to arrange living room furniture. With some measuring, creativity, and embracing change, you’ll have a cozy and functional living room that’s perfect for hanging out and hosting.