Interior experts share the golden rule for how much space you should be leaving between your sofa and the coffee table

This is the golden rule interior experts use to correctly space a coffee table from a sofa for a comfortable experience

A living room with a cream sofa with contrasting cushions and a round ombre-effect coffee table with a matching rug
(Image credit: Future PLC)

It feels like a lot of guesswork goes into the task of laying out a living room (or any other room in the house for that matter) - figuring out the proportions of the individual pieces, as well as the distance between them. For example, how much space you should leave between a sofa and coffee table.

But it turns out that interior designers and stylists don’t leave things like these to chance. Instead, they follow a golden rule that dictates the perfect distance between your best sofa and the coffee table, taking the guesswork out of it. Of course, they do – they’re the pros after all.

This ideal measurement ensures the two are not too close, nor too far from each other. It’s set to create a comfortable experience whenever you’re relaxing on the sofa with a tea or coffee, as well as when you’re simply getting up or passing through the gap without bumping into any furniture.

A living room with a large window and cream sofa with textured scatter cushions and a matching rug with a round coffee table on top

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

The ideal distance between a sofa and a coffee table

Similar to the 18-inch rug rule which dictates how much space should be left between your rug and the wall for a balanced look, experts have a similar hack for spacing the sofa and coffee table. The sweet spot seems to be around the 40 to 50-centimetre mark which is between 16 and 18 inches.

‘The ideal length to leave between a sofa and a coffee table is between 16 to 18 inches,’ says Melissa Denham, interior stylist at Hammonds Fitted Furniture. ‘This is a comfortable distance to move around the table but also close enough to allow you to rest a drink while sitting down.’

A living room with a cream sofa with contrasting cushions and a round ombre-effect coffee table with a matching rug

(Image credit: Future PLC)

But you can stretch it as high as 70 centimetres if you have the space, as Tara Rodrigues, interior designer of Tara Rodrigues Interiors, suggests. ‘I would usually leave a gap of 60 to 70 centimetres between a sofa and a coffee table which allows enough space for leg room when seated and to walk around the coffee table.’

If you’re working with a tighter space, this might be a challenge. But it might also mean that the size of your coffee table is not proportional to your living room and even your sofa. So getting the size and shape right is crucial. These are some of our current favourites.

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How to space living room furniture

If you’re thinking how to best arrange furniture, especially in a small living room, then there are some more general guidelines our experts have to offer for you to consider as well.

‘The best living room layouts create space conducive to conversation and socialising – to facilitate this, you want to keep your sofas, armchairs and coffee table fairly close together,’ says Victoria Foster, interior stylist at ScS.

She continues, ‘As a general rule, leaving enough space for a walking path in between furniture is important – you want to feel as though you can easily access any part of the space.’

A green-painted living room with a velvet sofa and rectangular coffee table on a jute rug

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

And if you’re after a more general rule for spacing out living room furniture then Melissa has a number in mind for that too, including tips for small living room ideas, ‘Generally, you should leave at least 36 inches of spacing between larger furniture pieces. If you are working with a smaller living room which makes spacing hard, there are clever storage ideas you can use to maximise the available space. Fitted living room furniture for example can be designed bespoke to your measurements and preferences, helping you keep the room clutter-free and bigger furniture further apart.’

Tara adds a final tip when considering spacing of furniture, ‘The key to positioning large pieces is not only about the space between them but the height of each, so ensuring the height of tall items, mid height and shorter items are well spaced to create balance.’

It’s really all about balance at the end of the day – in life and in your home.

Content Editor

Sara Hesikova has been a Content Editor at Ideal Home since June 2024, starting at the title as a News Writer in July 2023. Sara brings the Ideal Home’s readership features and news stories from the world of homes and interiors, as well as trend-led pieces, shopping round-ups and more, focusing on all things room decor, specialising in living rooms, bedrooms, hallways, home offices and dining rooms. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors, working with the likes of 91 Magazine and copywriting for luxury bed linen brand Yves Delorme among others. She feels that fashion and interiors are intrinsically connected – if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.