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Tips on Arranging Living Room Furniture

Updated on December 31, 2012
My impossible living room
My impossible living room | Source

Some rooms seem to come ready laid out. They're symmetrical, have an obvious focal point and a single point of entry. If that describes your living room, then congratulations. It shouldn't be difficult to work out how to lay out your furniture. All you have to do is think carefully about the activities that will take place in the room, and plan accordingly.

If however, your room is blessed with no symmetry at all, doors or windows in every wall and some wildly off center features, all I can tell you is that you're not alone. My living room is a nightmare. Every wall has an opening. The ceiling is low, there are no ceiling lights at all, and the fireplace is at the extreme right, and is a peninsula. In the last few months I've spent time scouring the internet and interior design books for the best way to lay out my room. This hub contains much of what I've learned.

Make a Functional List

For a truly functional room, you need to list out all the things you want to be able to do in it. In the case of a living room there may not be many, it may be the primary room where you greet your guests, so all you need is a comfortable room which will make a good impression, maybe somwhere you can go to read a book while other people watch television.

In my home the living room is the office my husband and I use, so our living room and family room occupy the same space. That means the room has to be truly multi-purpose.

Here's a list of things you may or may not want to do in your living room and what that means when it comes to your living room furniture.

Read. You'll need good light close to the reader. Think sidetables with lamps, but that may not be enough. How about a sofa table behind the sofa with a pair of lamps, or, if you have very little space, an arc light on the floor which arches over the seating.

Watch TV. You'll need something to put your television on. Open shelves look good in brochures and may even be cheaper, but remember you'll see all the wires. Wiring makes a room look untidy no matter what! If you have large TV and you don't want it to take over the room, you may want to conceal it. You'll also need space for other equipment like a cable box or speakers. You'll need a window covering to keep reflection off the TV screen.

Listen to music. If you enjoy listening to music you may want a sound system attached to your television. To get true 'surround sound' you need speakers placed all around the room. If you have no way of concealing the wires, consider wireless rear speakers.

Eat your evening meal. If you tend to eat in front of television, you'll need to find somewhere to put your plate. There are three simple solutions to this.

  • A lift top coffee table. The lift top allows the main body of the table to sit at a reasonable distance so your movement isn't restricted, but when you raise the top it also pulls forward. This is also useful for anyone who likes to work at a laptop in the living room. Pick the right table and you'll also have somewhere to store books etc.
  • Side tables which 'nest'. Leave the side tables in place and use the smaller tables when you want to eat, These are usually too low to be really useful for laptop users.
  • A set of fold up 'TV" tables. These can be rather flimsy, but if you have little space this is often the best option as the tables can be folded and placed against a wall when not in use.

Entertain guests. Ideally you need seating for however many people usually live in the house plus four, but plus two will do. A sectional sofa will often provide the extra seating you need, but check you have the space before buying. Guests also need coffee or end tables to put down a glass or cup since you will usually offer them something to eat or drink.

Relax. If this is your main area for relaxation, do you need a chair or sofa that reclines?

Do homework. If you do homework, or work of any kind in the room, you'll need somewhere to store stationery, books etc. A lift top coffee table may be the solution, or you may find and end table which will work well with a laptop. You might also use a low bookcase as a sofa table behind your sofa, books can be stored there. Lighting is also important.

Sewing or crafts. Many people like to keep their hands busy even when watching television. If you sew, knit or have some other hobby, find a way to store your supplies in a decorative way. If all else fails, a basket will usually look good enough. You'll also need good task related lighting. A floor lamp with a daylight bulb and or magnifier may be ideal.

Seating Arrangements

Seating should be in conversational groups around a feature. That feature can be a fireplace, a coffee table or a television, and is sometimes all three.

Make a U shape with three sofas. Once facing the TV, the others at right angles. If your traffic flow allows, you can do this with a single sectional setup.

Use two sofas, facing each other. In this case the sofas will usually be at right angle to the TV or fireplace.

Use two sofas in an 'L: shape. Usually the one sofa faces the TV or fireplace while one sofa is at right angles. The other side of the 'U' may have one or two chairs.

Create a shallow 'U: with one sofa and two chairs, one at either side.

If your room has two focal points, as mine has, a fireplace and a TV, try not to have a chair with it's back to either.

This is my dining room. It is much taller at one end than the other and the fireplace is all the way over at one end.  There is no way to make it look symmetrical, so we celebrate it the way it is.
This is my dining room. It is much taller at one end than the other and the fireplace is all the way over at one end. There is no way to make it look symmetrical, so we celebrate it the way it is. | Source

When Your Room Has No Symmetry

You have three choices.

  • Remodel the room until it is symmetrical. This is usually expensive and may even be impossible.
  • Try to ignore the lack of symmetry. In my experience this doesn't work and is just annoying.
  • Celebrate the asymmetry and even accentuate it. This is the best approach. Use single lamps instead of pairs and go with the flow. It can actually be fun.

In the room above you can just see the dove decals we used to emphasize the sloping ceiling. while the candlesticks on the fireplace do the same thing.


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    • Amaryllis profile image

      Lesley Charalambides 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hi sgbrown and thanks for your comment. It took me quite some time to find a layout for our new living room the u shape was key but in my case I had to learn to use chairs as well as sofas. They cost more but the result is a lot more versatile .

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      You have some great ideas here! We just finished adding another room to our house. We actually made a new living room, as before it was way too small. Now the small living room is my dining room. I am still struggling to get the furniture situated the way I want. The U shape, using the couch, recliner and a comfy chair sounds like it may work for me. Voting this up and more! Have a great day! :)

    • Amaryllis profile image

      Lesley Charalambides 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      Thanks! I plan to keep updating this hub as, to be honest, I haven't solved my own furniture problem yet. I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Have a Happy New Year!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Some good suggestions here for making a living-room a comfortable and welcoming room for living in. A useful and interesting article.