How to Arrange Living Room Furniture

Four Methods:Creating Appealing ArrangementsMaking a Small Room Feel SpaciousMaking a Large Room Feel CozyTesting Arrangements without Buying or Moving Furniture

Whether you are redecorating your living room or designing your first space, arranging your furniture is an important consideration. Follow these instructions to create the atmosphere you desire regardless of the space you have available. The information below should help you select furniture as well, by understanding how various pieces alter a room.

Method 1
Creating Appealing Arrangements

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    Empty the room. Remove all your furniture using a furniture dolly or assistants. This will give you a better idea of the room's shape without the existing arrangement influencing your judgement.
    • If you don't have enough storage space, remove as much as you can, then place the remaining items in unobtrusive corners while you plan.
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    For most living rooms, select a few large elements and a few small elements. Unless you consider your living room extra small, extra large, or an unusual shape, follow these guidelines. A few large pieces of furniture should make up most of the furniture by volume. End tables, ottomans, and similar small items should complement these and provide footrests and drink stands, not obstruct passage through the room or turn a pleasing arrangement into a busy mess.
    • For instance, a couch, an armchair, and bookcase can outline the usable space and set the color scheme. Two end tables and a small coffee table then serve useful functions and provide smaller objects for more visual interest without taking attention away from the larger pieces.
    • See the Small Room and Large Room sections for advice on arranging unusually sized spaces. This can also apply if your living room is an odd shape, especially with angled walls that make the space appear too crowded or too spread apart.
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    Select a center of attention. Every room benefits from a center of attention, or focal point, which can be any object or area that attracts the eye and gives you something to orient your other furniture around.[1] Without choosing something to draw attention, the overall design can look messy and unplanned, and there may be awkward spaces that make guests uncomfortable.
    • The most common focal points are up against one wall, such as a television, fireplace, or set of large windows. Place seating arrangement along the other three sides of the room, at right angles or angled slightly toward the focal point.
    • If you don't have a focal point, or if you want to encourage more conversation, create a symmetrical arrangement of furniture, with seating on four sides. It is harder to accomplish an appealing design this way, however; consider decorating a bookcase or other tall piece of furniture instead to create visual harmony without distracting guests.
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    Leave space between the walls and furniture. If all your sofas are pushed back against a wall, the room can seem cold and unwelcoming. Pull the furniture inward on at least two or three sides to create a more intimate area. Follow the guidelines for distance below, but feel free to adjust these if you prefer smaller or larger spaces.[2]
    • Allow 3 ft (1m) wide spaces where people will be walking. If you have energetic kids or household members who require extra space, increase this to 4 ft (1.2m).
    • If you don't have the space to create walkways on three or four sides of the room, pull the furniture inward just enough place a lamp behind it, either standalone or standing on a narrow table. The light creates the suggestion of additional space.
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    Place your furniture for convenient use. Some of this comes down to personal preference, and you can always readjust to match your household's habits. Still, these simple design "rules" are a good place to start:
    • Coffee tables are typically placed 14–18 inches (35–45 cm) from seating. Shorten this distance if your household members have short arms, and lengthen this distance if they have long legs. If you have both types of people in your household, place the seating closer on two opposite ends and further on the third, or vice versa.
    • Designers place side chairs 48–100 inches (120–250 cm) from the sofa as a default. Just make sure there's enough space to walk between them if you don't have sufficient room.
    • Television placement varies greatly with size of room, eyesight of viewers, and personal preference. As a rough guide, begin by placing the seating facing the television three times further from the TV as the height of the screen. For instance, a 15-inch (40 cm) tall screen should be positioned 45 inches (120 cm) from the sofa and then adjusted to suit taste.
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    Use symmetry to create restful designs. Symmetrical arrangements feel orderly and calm, and are great for resting the mind or low key activities. To create a room with bilateral symmetry, imagine drawing a line across the exact center of the floor; the furnishings on one side should be the mirror image of the furnishings on the other.
    • The most common symmetrical arrangement: a focal point in the center of one wall, a couch directly facing it on the other side, and two chairs or smaller couches on either side of the couch, facing inward. A coffee table and/or end tables complete the space.
    • You don't need identical furnishings to pull this off. For instance, you can balance an L-shaped couch by placing a low end table on the opposite side of the "L" arm. The overall shape is more important than the exactly matching elements.
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    Use asymmetry to add excitement. If one side of the room is different than the other, whether with completely different furniture or through smaller changes, the room seems exciting and has a sense of motion.[3] This step is optional, but a minor asymmetry can add a nice touch even to a restful room.
    • Make small changes at first and keep adjusting until you find something you like. It's harder to create an appealing asymmetrical design than a symmetrical one, especially if you try to make it all in one go.
    • For instance, place a bookshelf against a corner instead of in the center of the wall. If this seems uncomfortable, balance it out with less obvious symmetry, such as one or two small paintings on the opposite side of the wall.
    • If you don't typically have many people in your living room, try placing seating only on two sides, in an L shape, with the center of attention on a third. The fourth side should contain the main entryway. This uses asymmetry to make it easy to reach the seating.
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    Place furniture elements one by one. Using a furniture dolly or strong assistants, bring your furniture into the room without dragging it. Start with the largest, major elements. This helps you get a feel for the room piece by piece, adjusting further elements as you go.
    • If your design includes new furniture, start by placing the existing or major pieces before buying the smaller ones. You may discover you changed your mind partway through the arrangement.

Method 2
Making a Small Room Feel Spacious

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    Use a small number of versatile pieces. If you don't have the living room space to fit all the furniture you'd like, use multipurpose furniture so you can quickly alter the room when entertaining guests or whenever you'd like a change.[4]
    • Consider a multi part sofa that can be divided into two pieces or extended to create a foot rest.
    • Consolidate by having one object serve two purposes. Try moving the seating slightly to create a corner where one end table can serve two sofas, instead of having one end table for each.
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    Add lightweight furniture when entertaining guests. Lightweight chairs can easily be brought in when you have a large number of guests, without permanently taking up space.
    • Keeping a small couch or a couple of armchairs adds variety and comfort, but if you don't rely solely on cushioned, bulky furniture, you'll have more space.
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    Use furniture at roughly the same height. If some furniture is much taller than others, it can make the space appear cramped and claustrophobic.[5]
    • Stack books onto short end tables to raise their height without needing to replace them.
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    Let in natural light. Use lighter or more transparent curtains to make the space brighter. If you don't have windows that let in much light, adding more artificial light is an acceptable compromise, especially cheerier white lamps rather than yellow lighting.
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    Add a mirror or two to the room. Sometimes the illusion of space is plenty to give a room an airy feeling. This is especially useful during times of low sunlight or when your living room has inadequate windows.
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    Replace some furniture with glass or less full-bodied pieces. Glass topped tables, glass doors, or open doorways make a room more spacious. Furniture with thinner bodies on raised legs reveal more space to the eye.[6]
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    Use less intense, neutral colors. Soft colors such as a cool blue or neutral beige make the space feel warmer and airier.[7] Avoid dark or intense shades.
    • Cushions, drop cloths, and decorative objects can be more easily and cheaply replaced than furniture or walls, so begin by adjusting these.

Method 3
Making a Large Room Feel Cozy

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    Use large, low furnishings to divide the room. To make a large living room more livable and less intimidating, create two or more distinct sections. Backless or low-backed sofas, especially L-shaped ones, are excellent for dividing a room without blocking line of sight or creating odd, tall distractions in the center of the space.[8]
    • Dividing a large rectangular space into two squares often improves its appearance, as square spaces are almost always more appealing to the eye.
    • You can use one or more sections for other purposes as though they weren't part of your living room, although the overall color scheme should match.
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    If your room is too small to divide comfortably, fill space with oversize furniture. An extra large ottoman is better than a coffee table for making a large space between couches or chairs feel cozy. A small couch will feel out of place in a large room, so replace a larger one or buy a second matching one and angle them slightly toward each other to form one side of your furniture arrangement.
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    Use large wall art or multiple smaller pieces. If all your paintings or wall hangings are small, place them in groups to make a large, pleasing arrangement that fills visual space.[9]
    • Tapestries tend to be larger and cheaper than paintings.
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    Add tall house plants to fill corners and bare areas. An indoor potted plant you're willing to care for can add color and visual interest where there used to be empty space.
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    Place accessories on tables. Decorative figurines, sculptures, or ceramics draw attention to a smaller scale. Don't clutter the table so much it becomes unusable, however; one to four pieces on each one is sufficient.
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    Paint or decorate the walls and ceiling. If you're interested in a complete redesign, using rich colors, wainscoting, or multiple colors to make the space less bare. Drawing attention to the walls makes your guests feel encompassed by the space in an intimate environment.

Method 4
Testing Arrangements without Buying or Moving Furniture

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    Measure the dimensions of your room and doorways. Using a tape measure and notepad, record the length and width of the room, including the dimensions of each wall if the space is not rectangular. Measure the width of each doorway or other entrance to the room, as well as the distance each door extends into the room when open.
    • If you do not have a tape measure, use a ruler to measure your foot from heel to toe, then walk heel-to-toe along each wall, multiplying the number of foot lengths by the measurement of your foot.[10] Measuring your ordinary stride length and walking normally will provide a quick but less accurate number.
    • If you plan to use the wall space for items such as large paintings or a wall-mounted television, measure the height of the ceiling as well.
    • You do not need to measure the length of a door that opens away from the room.
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    Measure the dimensions of your furniture. If you are arranging existing furniture, measure the width, length, and height of each one, or the length of each side for non-rectangular furniture such as corner sofas. Record this information carefully so you don't get the height confused another dimension.
    • If you plan to purchase new furniture, read Selecting New Furniture, then return to this section.
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    Draw a scale outline of your living room on graph paper. Refer to your measurements to create a map of your living room. Use your measurements to make it proportional: if the room's measurement is 40 x 80 (in any unit), you could make your map 40 squares by 80 squares, or 20 x 40, or 10 x 20. Choose the largest scale that will fit on your graph paper.
    • Include a semicircle for each door that opens into the room, showing how much room it takes up as it opens.
    • The easiest useful scale to remember is 1 graph paper square = 1 foot, or 1 square = 0.5 meters if you are used to the metric system.
    • Write your scale (e.g. "1 square = 1 foot") outside your map on the same sheet of paper so you don't forget it.
    • If your room has a wall that isn't at right angles, draw the two walls that connect to it, mark the two points where that angled wall hits the other two, then draw a straight line between them.
    • If your room has a curved wall, you may need to sketch in a rough estimate of its shape after mapping its end points.
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    Cut out paper models of your furniture to the same scale. Refer back to your earlier measurements and cut out two dimensional outlines of your furniture. Use the same scale you chose for your graph paper map.
    • If you are considering buying new furniture, play around with paper models of different sizes and shapes to try out a variety of possibilities.
    • If you'd like a rough idea of color scheme, cut each one out of fabric similar to that piece of furniture's appearance, or color the paper with markers.
    • Represent wall hangings, flat screen televisions, or fireplaces with rectangles 0.5 to 1 square wide placed over the wall of the map.
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    Try out different arrangements on your paper map. Remember not to block the path of the doors. For each arrangement that you like, plan out how people would walk across the room through each pair of doorways, as well as how they would reach the couch, bookcase, or other functional furniture items. Make adjustments or reduce to smaller or fewer furniture items if these routes seem circuitous or narrow.
    • People typically require 3–4 ft (1–1.2m) for a comfortable walkway.

Things You'll Need

  • Furniture
  • Tape measure (or ruler in a pinch)
  • Moving dolly or strong assistants

Testing Arrangements:

  • Graph paper
  • Pencil or pen
  • Scissors
  • Different color fabric or markers (optional)


  • Look at pictures in magazines or on television decorating shows to get new ideas, then adjust them to match your own preferences.
  • You can purchase virtual room organizing software to get a more accurate idea of the final look before you buy or arrange furniture.
  • Work with your room’s size and shape. If it is small, use furniture that fits the scale.


  • Always have help if you are lifting or pushing heavy furniture. One person can injure themselves if they work alone.

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Categories: Home Decorating