Expert Living Room Layout Ideas

Maximize flow, storage and seating capacity in your living room with these designer space-planning tips.
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November 18, 2014
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Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Living Room Layout Ideas

The 26x15-foot living room of this two-story Atlanta house was designed to maximize seating and create easy flow in and out of the space. A mix of comfy slipcovered chairs, a chesterfield sofa and a pair of oversized coffee tables (in lieu of end tables) work together to keep the space properly furnished and proportionately balanced.

Create Flow to the Kitchen

Open-concept living rooms allow easy dialogue between the family room and the kitchen. When arranging furniture in the family room, leave at least 36 inches of open space on each side of the sofa or armchairs. This will ensure proper traffic flow between the two spaces.

Leave Space Around the Staircase

Furnishing a living room with a nearby staircase can present a traffic flow obstacle. Similar to hallways, it's best to think of staircases as high-traffic areas requiring at least 36 inches of clearance. Rather than outfitting the walls around a staircase with heavy furniture, try using them to showcase art or accent pieces, such as sculptural chairs or occasional seating in the form of ottomans or lightweight benches.

Inspect From Multiple Angles

In addition to functionality, it's important to consider visual balance when designing a living room. As you arrange furniture, take a step back and look at the room from several vantage points, especially from nearby staircases and landings. What may appear properly balanced from below may look cluttered from above.

Add Outdoor Access

Adding French doors to a living room creates indoor-outdoor functionality and supplies the space with natural light. Before adding French doors to your living room, consider which direction they'll need to swing. If seating will be placed within 36 inches of the doors, it's best to choose an outward-swinging style for optimum traffic flow. If the space just inside the doors will be unobstructed, an inward-swinging option will work well. Most home improvement stores offer inward- and outward-swinging doors for the same price.

Choose the Right Coffee Table

Coffee tables can make a huge impact on the look and functionality of a living room. With their lack of sharp edges, round coffee tables or ottomans are great for living rooms used by children; however, they can result in wasted space when placed next to square or rectangular sofas and chairs. To outfit a seating area with plenty of useable tabletop surface (or multipurpose occasional seating), consider grouping two or three round coffee tables or ottomans together.

Save Table Space With a Gallery Wall

In a living room where space is at a premium, there may not be enough tabletop surface to add framed photos or treasured objects. To inject personality into a living room without taking up valuable tabletop space, consider a gallery wall grouping. Here, a tall wall features nine oversized black-and-white prints of the family with a steel console placed below to anchor the space. When adding a console table to a living room, stick with a maximum depth of 18 inches to keep from impeding traffic flow.

Measure Distance Between Furnishings

When "floating" furniture in a living room – or positioning it away from the walls and centered around a focal point – use a measuring tape to ensure at least 36 inches of space is left between the central seating and any pieces placed along the perimeter. This will allow for ideal traffic flow throughout the room.

Consider This End Table Alternative

If your living room lacks the square footage to accommodate end tables, consider forgoing them in favor of a table positioned behind the sofa. Here, the empty space on each side of the sofa allows for proper flow to and from the nearby kitchen; however, the sofa table still allows enough tabletop surface to display decorative objects and table lamps.

Pick the Proper Sofa Table

When choosing a sofa table for your living room, it's important to get the height and length right to keep the space from looking disproportionate. Opt for a table that's at least two-thirds the length of sofa and with a height between 32 and 36 inches. This offers enough surface to accommodate a pair of table lamps, plus the proper height to keep the top of the table level with the back of the sofa.

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