Living Room Layouts and Ideas
For this open living room, sectional sofas from Room & Board create flow, offer versatile seating and help divide the large, sprawling space made for family activities and entertaining. Photo courtesy of Room & Board
One of the best ways to make sure your living room looks and feels inviting is designing a layout and floor plan that works for your space, not against it. The right layout allows you to entertain guests, relax with family, and do activities like watch TV or play games in comfort.
But be aware long, open or square living rooms present different design challenges. What might work for one space doesn't necessarily make sense for another.
Here are the most common design challenges of these living rooms and some smart solutions that make the most of each space.
Long Living Rooms
With two walls longer than the shorter walls at both ends of the space, a long or rectangular-shaped living room can feel narrow and claustrophobic. But with strategic planning, you can make this type of living room feel welcoming and user friendly.
"My living room is actually a long, narrow rectangular space," says designer Abbe Fenimore of Studio Ten 25. "Really think about how you will be using the room. Instead of just putting things in the room to fill the space, find pieces that are both fun to use and help create function."
Fenimore believes adding a built-in bar, bookcases, shelving or even a workspace that are similar in style to your furniture can pull the look of a long living room together. Make sure to take note of doors, heaters, outlets and windows before you plan your layout — the location of these items can limit furniture placement and be problematic if not considered before final floor plan decisions are made.
What you want to avoid is a long living room that feels like a hallway, says designer Marysia Rybock of ScavulloDesign Interiors. Using narrow furniture will just emphasize the long lines of the room. Go for a sofa with a tailored feel and tight upholstery.
"Using smaller pieces and a variety of them, instead of one sofa and a coffee table, helps the space feel more spacious and unique," says Rybock.
Open Living Rooms
Open living rooms allow for easy entertaining and good traffic flow. But a living room that shares space with an adjoining dining room, family room or kitchen can present challenges for those who want some type of definition for each area.
To create an efficient layout for an open living room, keep the flow around furniture and accessories open so your family and friends can be doing numerous things at once while still being together.
Photo Credit: HDR Homes
A dark brown gray living room with fireplace, tv, couches, large ottoman, and fluffy rug and a kitchen to match the style in the background.
"Go for vignettes instead of two sofas flanking a fireplace," says Rybock. "Creating different seating areas makes the space feel a bit more intimate, since open floor plans can be overwhelming."
Thinking about the function of the room will help you make smart layout decisions. An open living room often serves as a hub in the house, so make sure any floor plan includes comfortable spots for everyday activities like watching TV, eating or socializing.
"Pulling furniture pieces off the wall and tying them all together with an area rug, balancing with ottomans and adding extra seating will visually balance out the room," says Fenimore. "Stick with one main paint color so the open spaces do not fight each other, which can cause the room to look cluttered."
Square Living Rooms
Adding warmth and creating an inviting atmosphere can be a challenge for square living rooms. When all of your furniture is pushed up against the wall, which leaves seating far away from each other, you can make the space feel cold. But you can also make your square living room feel crowded or awkward if all the furniture is forced into one corner. Instead, float furniture away from the walls.
"You can gain more surface space by having a console table behind a sofa and a variety of seating, like one sofa and four chairs that are not all the same that can float in a room and even be moved around," says Rybock, "and then use a cocktail table as the anchor in the center of the space." Once you have the furniture in place, Fenimore suggests using textural or colorful artwork to visually fill the room.
Think Big: Bold and Traditional
Design elements in a traditional-style space are prominent and sophisticated. This living room showcases bold details and dramatic architecture on a grand scale. For a similar effect in a small space, add white crown molding around the perimeter of a room and paint it to match the ceiling. This creates an illusion that the ceiling is larger. To increase the height of a room, use wainscot to draw the eye up.
Get the Look
For an updated approach, start with a bold color palette of cream, khaki, blush and royal blue. Our shopping list: custom upholstered SOFA, 40"H x 88"W x 37"D, HGTV HOME; Spring Blossom Oushak RUG, 6'x9', Williams-Sonoma Home; traditional cherry CONSOLE TABLE, 32"H x 50"W x 18"D, Bassett; cast bronze CANDLE HOLDERS, Pottery Barn; red Gate ACCENT PILLOW, Harper Bergere ARMCHAIR, and blue Lotus Garden STOOL, One Kings Lane.
Think Big: Casual Chic
An abundance of natural light and cool hues makes this sizable morning room an elegant retreat. In the tiniest spaces, lighting makes a big impact. Exposed bare windows visually enlarge a space by bringing the outdoors, along with natural light, into the room. Design by Marika Meyer
Get the Look
Start with a unified color scheme of cream, gray and blues. Our shopping list: gray Clara apartment SOFA, 75"W x 33"H x 38"D, Pottery Barn; citrine velvet throw PILLOW, Etsy, Nelson Design (shop owner); navy Quadrille Volpi PILLOW, Etsy, Spark Modern (shop owner); gray tile RUG, 5' x8', Pottery Barn; Oliver Lagoon CHAIR, 24"W x 27.5"H x 28"D , West Elm; gray and silver Damask PILLOW, Pillow Décor; framed BUTTERFLY COLLECTION, One Kings Lane; Forest Hill hallway LIGHT, DVI Lighting Inc.; Curtain end Venetial sterling silver TABLE, 27"H x 26" D, Nancy Corzine; Ceramic Shell BOWL, One Kings Lane.
Think Big: Eclectic Cottage
HGTV designer Sarah Richardson used layers of textures and artsy elements to make this home's large living room addition feel warm and welcoming. Similarly, in a small space personal touches go a long way. Avoid clutter with too many accessories. Instead choose a thoughtful collection of items that add a layer of sophistication on the walls. Attract the eye with shapes and textures in complementary colors for a subtle statement.
Get the Look
Start with a plush color palette of cream, blush and maroon. Our shopping list: gray Kingston club CHAIR, 30"W x 37"H x 37"D, One Kings Lane; coral handmade PILLOW, Anthropologie; Safavieh Old World RUG, 5' x 7.5', Hayneedle.com; white Joselin CHAIR, 31"W x 35"H x 30"D , Ballard Designs; Smith one-drawer TABLE, 28.5"W x 25"H x 28.5"D, and galloping horse SCULPTURE, One Kings Lane; iron CHANDELIER, Hacienda Lights; vintage grandfather wall CLOCK, 12.5"W x 31.5"H x 5.5"D, Etsy, Clarbehr (shop owner).
Think Big: Rustic and Refined
Wood finishes, timber ceiling beams and leather sofas portray a sense of comfort in this spacious great room. When re-creating a similar vibe in close quarters, focus on layering textures and avoid overcrowding the area with bulky furniture. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Aron Photography
Get the Look
Start with a rich color palette of burnt orange, green and brown. Our shopping list: hand rubbed LOVESEAT, 62.5"W x 38"H x 37"D, Bassett Furniture; Brackendale striped brown rectangular throw PILLOW, Pillow Décor; Jaipur Poeme Corsica RUG, 5' x8', Wayfair; Rollins corner CHAIR, 29"W x 34.5"H x 29"D, Arcadian Home; Mongolian lamb PILLOW, West Elm; dark brown Minka Ambience table LAMP, Wayfair; pedestal TABLE, 26"H x 22"W x 22"D, Bassett.
Get the Look
Start with a neutral color palette of gray, blue and brown. Our shopping list: Baxter Chaise LOUNGE, 39”W x 69”D x 26.5”H, West Elm; cowhide PILLOWS, TheCowhideStore.com and Room & Board; Koldby cowhide RUG, 48.44 square feet, IKEA; Contact STOOL, 12.5" diameter x 19.25"H, CB2; contemporary chocolate two-tone OTTOMAN, 38"W x 19"H x 26"D, MBW Furniture; musician POSTER, Poster Lounge, Tamara Art Heritage; mid arc floor LAMP, Trend Lighting .
Think Big: Vibrant and Earthy
HGTV 2012 Green Home uses refined, neutral furnishings, pops of color and industrial elements in this quirky, down-to-earth great room. Take the same approach from an ancient small-space design rule by sticking with cool colors to give the illusion of spaciousness. Add interest with funky art and shapes.
Get the Look
Start with a playful color scheme of gray, lime green and navy. Our shopping list: Fairmont David Francis CHAIR, 28.5"W x 38"H x 32"D, David Francis Furniture; light neutral ivory area RUG, 6.7' x9.6', AddARug.com by NetChannel Inc.; Ayodhya round COFFEE TABLE, 19"H x 36"D, Overstock.com; Sputnik SCULPTURE, Jonathan Adler; Buchanan apartment SOFA, 79"W x 38.5"H x 36.5"D, Pottery Barn; Aubree Boucle yellow and Linden green PILLOWS, Crate and Barrel; gray and white circle pattern oblong throw PILLOW, Etsy, Blooming Home Décor (shop owner); expressionistic green and neutral acrylic PAINTING by Elizabeth Chapman, Etsy.
Make It Work
Furniture proportions are key in small-space floor plans. "When spatial constraints are extra tight, it's important to use specialty-sized pieces known as apartment-scale," says Flynn. "These don't sacrifice style for substance, but will allow great-looking seating sized closer to 4.5' or 5' rather than the standard sofa length of 6' or 7'."