5 sofa styles to avoid in a family living room – the styles experts warn will spell disaster for busy families

Avoid choosing these sofa styles in a family lounge, warn experts – these are the styles you should be investing in instead

A living room with a large brown leather corner sofa with multi-coloured cushions and a glass-topped coffee table in the middle
(Image credit: Future PLC/James Merrell)

The sofa is arguably the most important piece of furniture in any living room – and this is especially true in a family living room as the whole pack gathers here to relax and watch TV together. But in order to make your life easy and avert any disasters from taking place, there are some sofa styles to avoid in a family living room.

Considering that they have to work both for adults and small children in the household, family living room ideas should always be practical and prioritise function over style. And this applies to the best sofas for a family lounge, too.

At the same time, we believe you can get both style and function from your sofa pick that will work for the whole fam – but only as long as you steer clear of certain designs, materials and colours that might be nice to look at but will likely not stand the test of time and wear in a busy home.

A living room with a kids' play corner and a corner green velvet sofa with contrasting cushions

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

Sofa styles to avoid in a family living room

‘Typically a family living room needs to be fairly practical as it is one of the most used rooms in the home, so choosing furniture that is durable is key,’ says Ashleigh Ellis, director of upholstery and furniture at ScS. ‘This tends to be a space used for relaxing and downtime, so when it comes to choosing furniture styles, I’d avoid choosing armchairs or sofas with more style than substance, and prioritise size and comfort.’

Consider this your guide to what sofas to get and not to get in order to avoid making family living room mistakes that could cost you later down the line.

1. Prioritise seating space over chunky arms

A living room with a brown leather sofa with slim arms, a rattan pendant lamp shade and a lounge woven chair to the side

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Bevan)

Similarly to the best sofa ideas for small living rooms, sofas with chunky arms that take a lot of space are not ideal for family rooms either. Instead, opt for a design that prioritises seating over stylish chunky arms, one with slim or no arms at all.

‘It goes without saying you need to measure your space and choose furniture that fits comfortably, but when you’ve got a family to think about, it’s worth looking at the seating dimensions, to ensure there’s enough room for everyone to comfortably relax - both the length and the depth of the seating cushions. Sometimes, chunky sofa or armchair arms can look great, but if your space is limited, a more streamlined design that maximises more seating space is a better bet,’ Ashleigh says.

2. Avoid light colours

A teal-painted living room with a green sofa and patterned cushions and ottoman

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Sticky fingers and a constant danger of spillages usually hangs over most family living rooms with children involved in the equation. So steering clear of light colours like white, cream, beige and light grey is the best way to go as they are most difficult to clean.

‘Families often avoid lighter coloured furniture pieces especially with younger members of the family to consider,’ says Gisela Lancaster, head of buying at Sofology. ‘Blue, green and grey sofas are great for weaving into neutral living room schemes.’

Ashleigh continues, ‘Safe colours for a family living room tend to be dark greens, browns or grey as they are less likely to show wear and tear. Bright colours can help to make a statement in the home and add personality, however these colours are frequently in fabrics like velvet, that do require a bit more upkeep.’

3. Don’t go for high-maintenance materials

A living room with a large brown leather corner sofa with multi-coloured cushions and a glass-topped coffee table in the middle

(Image credit: Future PLC/Adam Carter)

Speaking of fabrics that require more upkeep, if you know how to clean a velvet sofa you’ll also know that it’s best to avoid such materials in a family living room in order to make your life easier. But velvet is not the only material to steer clear of – most natural fibres are also not ideal as they are more porous and therefore absorb stains and spillages easily. Not ideal!

‘Fabric is such an important consideration for family style sofas. There is an abundance of choice so think about the practicalities as well as the look and feel. Hard-wearing and woven mixed fabrics offer slightly more durability than the luxurious chenille and velvet options,’ Gisela says.

Patricia Gibbons, head of buying at Sofa.com, continues, ‘Textured weaves and tweeds look and feel ultra-luxurious, while being hard-wearing and easy to clean, ensuring they are suitable for the most active of households. You will find tactile upholstery is worth the investment in the long term, as they are made to work harder for busy family life and will withstand the daily wear and tear for years to come.’

'We also recommend picking your fabric from the Aquaclean collection as they feature smart chenille and velvets too. They offer a stain-release technology that will allow you to remove most stains with only just water,’ she adds.

But one other fairly surprising low-maintenance and durable sofa material is leather which can easily be wiped and doesn't absorb most spillages.

4. Don’t forget corners of the living room

A living room with a dark grey corner sofa and wooden wall panelling in white

(Image credit: Future PLC/Ryan Wicks)

If you have a big family, then it’s best to avoid sofas where you’ll all just be in a row. Instead, use an under-utilised corner of your living room by filling it with a corner or an L-shaped sofa.

‘I love an oversized corner sofa in a family living room - it provides enough space for everyone to be seated comfortably whilst also being practical and creating a social zone within the room. This sofa shape is perfect for pairing with a large footstool or coffee table, which allows you to stylishly fill the space whilst also providing plenty of surface space for family board games or movie night snacks,’ Ashleigh suggests.

Patricia adds, ‘An L-shaped sofa is typically less imposing than a corner sofa whilst still helping to offer plenty of room for all the family. The chaise section also optimises space, offering the chance to recline in comfort.’

5. Steer clear of single-function designs

A living room with white walls and built-in charcoal grey storage with a matching sofa and a Berber-style rug on the floor

(Image credit: Future PLC/Douglas Gibb)

Everything in a family home needs to work double hard, including the sofa. So it’s best to avoid single-function designs. But rather than going for the best sofa bed, it’s better to get a sofa with built-in storage that can hold extra blankets for movie nights and toys for the little ones.

‘The best sofas for a family living room are storage sofas which are perfect for hiding away everything from toys and puzzles to magazines,’ says John Darling, founder of Darlings of Chelsea.

Ashleigh agrees, ‘Functionality is key in this kind of space, so look for furniture items with hidden storage to maximise their usage.’

A living room with a large brown leather corner sofa, an animal skin-style rug and a colourful painting on the wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/James Merrell)


What is the best sofa for a family living room?

There are a few sofa styles that are best suited for a family living room. A corner sofa or one with a chaise is one style as they maximise the seating space while utilising the often overlooked corners.

‘Sofas that incorporate a chaise lounge are ideal for providing extra space and work well in both large and smaller spaces,’ says Patricia Gibbons, head of buying at Sofa.com.

Another sofa design perfect for a family lounge is either a storage or a modular sofa. ‘A modular sofa is really versatile and allows you to switch up the space regularly, which can be useful for family living. You can combine the units in different ways to provide more leg room if needed, or to give additional seating if your children have their friends over,’ says Ashleigh Ellis, director of upholstery and furniture at ScS.

Our top sofa picks for family living rooms

This shows that you don’t have to sacrifice style in the name of practicality and comfort, as long as you keep all of the above in mind when choosing your family sofa.

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.