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How to arrange a living room

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

How to arrange a living room can be quite challenging

How to arrange a living room can be quite challenging

You walk in. It’s a big empty room or, conversely, a small, barren room. It’s your living room. You gulp. Although you already have the furniture, you do not have any idea how to arrange it in this new space.

How to arrange a living room takes some thought, planning, preparation and a measuring tape. Do not despair before even starting. You may be surprised at how well your old furniture works in this new space with a few tweaks. New living room furniture can be purchased so that it fits in with a well-thought out room layout.

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If the color of the room is hideous or simply not to your liking, paint the space before moving in your furniture. You know what color the existing furniture is so work with it. Coordinate the wall color with the items.

Remember, dark paint will make the space look smaller whereas light paint will make the room look more spacious. If the ceiling is too high, paint it a darker shade. If it is too low, paint it white or a lighter shade than the walls.


The room needs to be functional particularly if you plan on using it regularly. There needs to be a clear pathway so people are not falling over ottomans or end tables. Sketch a plan on paper and see if you can come up with a workable idea.

Determine where walls plugs are so you don’t inadvertently cover them with furniture. Measure the room. You need appropriately 20 to 24 inches for foot traffic lanes. If the room is too crowded or set up awkwardly, this is not going to look good and people are going to have a hard time navigating the space.

Determine what the focal point is: The fireplace and mantle? A window? The TV? Position the furniture accordingly and so the focal point remains just that. Do not shove a couch in front of the fireplace or place furniture so it’s impossible to see the TV without craning the neck. Keep in mind the concept of creating conversation areas, such as two comfortable chairs with a small table situated in between them.

Organize furniture in a balanced fashion so the room doesn’t appear too heavy on one side, as if it were about to tip over. It is okay to place furniture away from the walls. The tendency is to shove couches and chairs smack dab up against a wall but you do not have to do that. Situating the furniture in a comfortable, cozy conversation area in the middle of the room can certainly work.

If you have a long, narrow living room this can be problematic when it comes to arranging furniture. A no-no is directing foot traffic between the couch (or a chair) and the coffee table sitting in front of it. If you have, for example, a fireplace on the east side of a long, narrow room, put the the couch and ottoman or end table on the west side of the room, facing the fireplace. Foot traffic will move in a straight fashion in front of the seating area and in front of the fireplace. This arrangement keeps the traffic to one side of the room and eliminates potential collisions.

When using area or throw rugs, make sure they are placed either in a space where they will not be walked on at all (under a table, for example,) or where they can be completely walked on. This way, the ‘pedestrian’ does not end up with one foot on the area rug and the other foot on the carpet or hardwood floor. This can be a tripping hazard. 

In a long, narrow space, consider placing furniture perpendicular (at right angles) to the length of the room, which de-emphasizes the length and narrowness of the space. Putting a piece of furniture, such as a couch, at the far end of a long, narrow room makes the room stop. If nothing were placed at the far end of the room, the space would appear even longer and narrower than it really is.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Shove the furniture around until you find an arrangement that suits you and is functional. You’ll get it eventually.

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