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  • Writer's pictureHeather Holcombe

The art of arranging living room furniture.

As an interior designer, I know that living rooms can be challenging to arrange. Where should the sofa go? How about the armchairs? How far should the coffee table be from the sofa? These, and others, are common questions that come up when trying to arrange living room furniture.

Below are some tips based on fundamental practices for living room furniture arrangement.

  1. Pull furniture away from walls: This is a pet peeve of most interior designers, so I'll start with this one! In most instances, furniture should be pulled away from walls, particularly the sofa. Sofas shouldn't be backed up against and touching walls - particularly in large rooms. (In small living rooms, you might have no choice but to put the sofa against a wall.) Create conversation areas away from walls as if floating the furniture in the space whenever possible.

  2. Focal point: Determine the focal point in the living room because you should arrange the furniture relative to that feature. It might be a fireplace, window, artwork, or television.

  3. Create conversation areas: Furniture needs to be configured so that people can comfortably see each other and carry on a conversation. In large rooms, you might want to create two or more sitting and conversation areas.

  4. Remember the traffic flow: Lastly, don't overlook the importance of traffic flow. Everyone should be able to maneuver the room from one end to the other easily without banging into furniture.

Below are several tips to help you with the placement of furniture pieces.

Sofas & Chairs:

  • Before you buy a sofa or armchairs, be sure to measure the space - twice!

  • Place painter's tape on the floor (adhered lightly) to mark off sofa and armchair measurements. This gives you a visual representation.

  • Using the painter's tape for reference, try various layouts in the space to see how furniture pieces might look. For example, you might first put the sofa facing the fireplace. Then move the tape, so the sofa faces perpendicular to the fireplace.

  • Scale matters. You don't want pieces that are either too big or too small. A sofa that's too large impedes traffic flow and looks too big for the room. Too small means a sofa that looks "lost" in the space. It could be too short or lacking in height relative to the ceiling height.


  • Use area rugs to anchor a room and define conversation areas.

  • Don't use rugs that are too small - a common mistake.

  • Furniture should sit on the carpet; at a minimum, the front legs should be on the rug. In other words, a rug shouldn't end in front of the sofa and armchairs, but underneath.

Coffee Table

  • Every living room needs some type of coffee table, typically in the center of the room, to set down a glass or cup.

  • Many people are using ottomans as coffee tables, which might be a good option for your space. (If you use an ottoman, you can use a tray to place items.)

  • Whichever coffee table you use, its height should be slightly lower than the seat height of the couch.

  • The average length is about ½ to ⅔ the length of the sofa.

  • Place the table or ottoman about 15-18" from the edge of the sofa seat to allow for ample legroom and ease of leaning forward to place something on the table.

  • Scale matters. Don't use a coffee table or ottoman that's too big or too small.

Side Tables:

  • Side tables permit a person sitting by the sofa arm or in an armchair to set a glass down.

  • A side table can be used to hold a lamp.

  • The height of a side table is usually about the same or slightly lower than the nearest arm of the sofa or armchair.

I hope you've found these tips helpful. If you have any questions about furniture placement, feel free to reach out!


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