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Rules of Living Room Design

Hello and happy August! I’m saying that like I mean it, but I don’t. Summer is going by waaaay too fast and it’s lame-o.

Changing subjects…….today we’re continuing our series on how to create a functional living room layout with Part 2, The Rules of Living Room Design. If you missed Part 1 “Living Room Furniture Layout Guide”, you can catch it right here.

Normally, I try not to adhere to too many design “rules” because it limits creativity. There are, however, some general guidelines that we always follow when putting together a living room design and I’m here to share them with you!

Choose a Focal Point

Some living rooms are blessed with designated focal points, like built-in fireplaces or prominent windows, making it very easy to come up with a furniture layout. Others have to be created, and you can achieve that by locating the spot in your living room where you want to gather and then positioning your furniture around it. Think of your focal point as the North Star, which acts as the visual anchor that sets the tone for the room. 

Remember the Golden Ratio

When it comes to laying out your living room, the golden ratio is key, meaning each piece should be in proportion to what is next to it. Sofas come in standard 72″, 84″, or 96″sizes (unless you’re custom-designing a sofa, which I’m all for by the way), so choose a sofa that is proportionate, or two-thirds the length of the wall or width of the room. The standard of measure for the coffee table is it should be half the length of your sofa. As for chairs, the back height should be within a few inches of the back height of your sofa. To get some height variation, you can add floor lamps, a bookcase, or even a tall indoor plant.

Warm Springs Project

Create a Conversation Area

Your guests shouldn’t have to strain their necks or shout across the room to have a conversation with you. Position your seating arrangements to face each other within a distance that makes sense. Too far and a conversation will be challenging, but too close and your guests may feel like you’re lurking. The addition of accent tables also makes a great place to set down drinks or hors d’oeuvres during a get-together. 

Credit: Studio McGee

Mind the Traffic Flow

When you’re placing furniture, consider how you and your guests are going to enter and exit the living room. By creating a clear path from one end of the room to the other, you provide an open and functional space. The last thing you want is people struggling to walk between your sofa and the coffee table so always allow 18-24″ between the two. And don’t forget the smarts of a round coffee table to avoid any shin bangs on kids.

wide angle shot of living room and kitchen
Warm Springs New Build

Layer Lighting

I’ve talked about the importance of layering lighting on Instagram, and this practice is absolutely crucial when it comes to arranging a living room space. A perfectly balanced combination of ambient, accent, and task lighting can change the overall feel of a room entirely. Does the room feel too small? Brighten up certain areas and add depth to make the room feel bigger. Does the room feel lifeless and dull? Layers can bring out hidden features and create coziness. 

contemporary mountain living room
5th Ave. New Build

The art of laying out living room furniture is more than just aesthetics. Whether you prefer a cozy conversation nook, a spacious arrangement meant for cocktail parties, or a healthy and balanced blend of both, arranging your furniture in a way that makes sense can make or break your space. 

All it takes is this guide and an extra touch of creativity.