Whether you want a living room for lounging, somewhere to entertain– or both – there are a few basic principles to get right when it comes to how to arrange living room furniture.
You might feel your space needs a bit of a redesign, or have plans to invest in new furniture or storage. Or maybe you're just looking to rejig what you have to give it a style boost. Either way, there are plenty of designer tricks that can help you make the most of your living room's potential.
We ask our favourite experts from the world of interiors to share their top living room ideas when it comes to arranging furniture and fixtures. From TV's loveable Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen to sofa connisseur Charlie Marshall, founder of Loaf, they've come up with some real winners...
How to arrange living room furniture
1. Begin by thinking about how you use the room
'I'd always start with what the actual lines of sight are when using the room and how you use the room,' says TV presenter Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. Charlie Marshall, founder of Loaf, agrees. 'It's all about understanding how you're going to use the room' says Charlie.
'You may use yours for watching telly, the kids doing homework, reading a book as well as entertaining friends. This will help you understand what living room lighting, seating and storage you need'
2. Choose a focal point
'One big problem is that most people tend to have two focal points in a living room. The fireplace and the TV,' says Laurence, 'but in my home, we've incorporated our TV into a bookcase.'
'In a family room, a TV will likely be the focal point,' Charlie explains. 'But it's also one of the things I hate to see in a smart living room, especially mounted above the fireplace. That should be reserved for something beautiful, like a mirror or painting. The furniture itself could also be used. A statement armchair could add a wow factor when people enter the room.'
This clever living room storage idea helps the TV to blend into the space, making it less of an eyesore. The Home Collection Manhattan in Graphite and Rustic Oak starts from £1,500. Enquire online at Sharps.
3. Give your furniture the space it deserves
Should furniture go back against the walls of your room? Well it's a question that firmly split our experts. 'It depends on the size of the room,' says Charlie. 'Keeping furniture against the walls maximises the space.'
Laurence, however, thinks furniture should 'never' be pushed against the wall. 'If you possibly can – even if its just a few inches – then make sure it's away from the wall. It is the absolute worst thing the British do... it's as if our furniture is agoraphobic! Plus it limits the sense of space, making the room look much smaller.'
Lisa Mitchell, Design Director and Founder of Interior Style Studio goes on to say, 'Always give your furniture space to breathe. Stand back and check nothing is getting in the way.'
4. Create a sense of balance
'Decide where you want the eye to focus,' says Lisa, 'and layer around it. Stand back and contemplate the room as you would a picture. Sometimes a 10cm nudge to one side can make all the difference. A two-or three-seater sofa and a pair of armchairs opposite with upholstered pouffes always works well to balance a room.'
Charlie says, 'If it's a family room, it's likely that the sofa will be the main feature. Create balance with a coffee table or storage footstool and an armchair or love seat to one side. The trick is not to group too much furniture in one area.'
5. Avoid common mistakes
'Your home should really reflect your personality- don't go too stark,' says Charlie 'and I also think sometimes you don't need to make a room look larger, so don't paint it white but opt for darker colours to make it cosy instead.'
Laurence says to think carefully about feature walls: 'The idea of a feature wall is to make one wall much stronger that the other three. So why use the chimney breast, which is already a dominant piece of architecture?'
'I love to test a really comfy sofa before making a purchase,' says Lisa. 'I hate the disappointment of a lovely-looking sofa or chair that is incredibly uncomfortable.'
Should I have a coffee table in my living room?
'I'm not a coffee table enthusiast,' confesses Laurence. 'They make rooms feel a lot smaller, and are basically a shin-high obstruction. I think it's better to do the Georgian thing of smaller occasional tables.'
Charlie disagrees: 'If you have the space, then I'd always go for a really large coffee table to create impact or provide an area for board games, magazines and sharing food.'
Lisa likes to see a selection of round coffee tables at varying heights. All three love an upholstered ottoman or footstool as an alternative. 'They look more inviting than a coffee table,' says Charlie, 'and storage footstools are great for busy families.'
Is a sideboard or shelving best for a living room?
'Clever storage is king,' says Charlie. 'Backless shelves are great for zoning a space, but I think a sideboard is one of the most versatile pieces of furniture in the home'
Lisa goes on to say, 'Have an idea what you will be using the sideboard for, or what you'll be putting on shelves. It's about a piece being functional as well as beautiful'
Words by Jennifer Morgan.
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Holly Walsh has been Content Editor at Ideal Home since 2021, but joined the brand back in 2015. With a background of studies in Interior Design, her career in interior journalism was a no-brainer and her passion for decorating homes is still as strong as it ever was. While Holly has written for most of the home titles at Future, including Livingetc, Country Homes & Interiors, Homes and Gardens and Style at Home, Ideal Home has always been her ideal home, and she can be found sharing her expertise and advice across both the printed magazine and the website too.
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