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.