9 step homify guide to living room layouts

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
Country Family Home Charlotte Crosland Interiors Country style living room
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Afternoon tea? Entertaining a few guests? How about some quiet reading or a lazy afternoon nap? Yes, the living room is ideal for all of these functions, and more – that is probably why it has the word “living” in it. 

The living room is definitely one of the most used rooms in a house, and its space functions according to the personal needs of its users—that means you, your family, and friends. But what exactly are our options in laying out a living room? Think about the space's required purpose — will it have a more formal feel, or do you want it to function as a more casual setting?

And what about “visual flow”, which is just as important as the physical placement of your furniture? 

Let’s see how to go about setting up your desired living room layout.

1. The focal-point layout

A focal point can be anything that you want people to focus on: a television, a fireplace, that gorgeous window view, or even a stunning bookcase. Decide what your focal point will be and adjust your furniture accordingly. 

Want to entertain in your focal-point layout? Adapt it to create a conversation circle by rotating armchairs and adding floor pillows or ottomans to up the seating options.

2. Emphasis on conversation

Sundown, Widemouth Bay, Cornwall The Bazeley Partnership Modern living room
The Bazeley Partnership

Sundown, Widemouth Bay, Cornwall

The Bazeley Partnership

If your living room is being used to chit chat and entertain, then sofas and armchairs need to be grouped together, allowing guests to look at and talk to each other.

Arrange the room so that people walk around, and not through, the conversation area (thus, avoiding interruptions in the conversation).

3. Counting in the kids

Sometimes a living room needs to be adjusted to have multiple-purpose areas, such as to accommodate children. In these cases, use simple partitions, such as a couch or a table, to naturally divide the spaces zoned off for adults and kids.

homify hint: Include a good storage system with space for children's toys, such as a drawer or two in your TV unit.

4. Remember the balance

Light and bright! CC Construction Classic style living room
CC Construction

Light and bright!

CC Construction

Whether you focus on parties or television in your living room, visual balance is important. This is the relationship between your pieces of furniture to form a pleasing, visual setting, and one of the main focuses of any professional interior designer/decorator.

One way of achieving this is by balancing a big or tall item (like a bookcase) with another piece of similar visual weight (such as a tall armoire) across the room from it. But keep the room balanced by mixing solid, heavy pieces with light, airy furniture (such as soft rugs and scatter cushions), or vice versa.

5. Aligning the furniture

​Sitting room Bedford Gardens house. Nash Baker Architects Ltd Modern living room Grey
Nash Baker Architects Ltd

​Sitting room Bedford Gardens house.

Nash Baker Architects Ltd

Symmetrically arranging your furniture works best for a formal living room, whereas asymmetrical arrangements are encouraged to make a room feel more relaxed.

You can use pairs of furniture or decorations, like table lamps or wingback chairs, for a cohesive, symmetrical look.

6. Furniture distance

Just because somebody isn’t meant to walk between two pieces of furniture does not mean you have to place them almost on top of each other. Take, for example, the distance between side tables and chairs/sofas. Side tables may be placed closer to the chair than the coffee table, of course, but the ideal measurement needs to be practical.

Try it out yourself: sit on that sofa and place your drink or magazine down on the side table. Which distance feels most comfortable?

7. Rug sizes

Deirdre Dyson AUTUMN LEAVES hand knotted wool and silk rug Deirdre Dyson Carpets Ltd Classic style living room
Deirdre Dyson Carpets Ltd

Deirdre Dyson AUTUMN LEAVES hand knotted wool and silk rug

Deirdre Dyson Carpets Ltd

The rule of thumb is that an area rug should never be closer than 15cm from the wall. In a large living room, the ideal distance would be about 60cm from the wall, and between 30-45cm in a smaller space. 

But regardless of living room size, that rug needs to be large enough to rest comfortably under two legs of the sofa. 

Want some fancy underfoot? Then take a look at: How To Choose A Stylish Rug For Your Home.

8. How high for the art?

Want to flaunt your art pieces or family photos against the walls? Make sure that the centre of the piece is at standing eye level, about 1.4m from the floor.

Or, if people will mostly be sitting in your living room, opt to hang your artwork at a seated eye level, which is approximately 70cm above the seat height. 

And remember to allow for 15-30cm of breathing space between your artworks’ edges and the ceiling, floor, or wall edge.

9. Solutions for the small living room

You can easily maximise your small living room area:  

• Consider your furniture sizes: a smaller piece, like a loveseat instead of a sofa, will make the room feel larger. 

• Opt for double-duty furniture, like storage benches that offer seating space while hiding clutter elements.  

• Bring in rich colours and layered drapery to make that living room seem softer and cosier. 

Don’t forget: rules are made to be broken. The most interesting spaces, living room or otherwise, are always the ones that dare to be different. Just keep comfort and functionality in mind!

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