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Tips for Arranging Living Room Furniture

How furniture is situated in your living room — even if it’s a formal one — should be flexible enough to handle multiple activities. If your living room also serves as a den or family room, you probably expect more of the room, perhaps more seating or entertainment space. If you have a family room in addition to your dressy living room, you can probably leave the dressy room for more formal occasions.

Start your plan by listing all the activities that may take place in your living room. Leave out no activity, no matter how trivial it seems. Next, list the furniture and electrical equipment you need to make each function possible.

Furniture arrangement is the art of establishing working relationships among individual pieces of furniture within a room’s context. You may think of only one way that the furniture fits because that’s the way you arranged it years ago. You may have many unexplored options for arranging furnishings. Or you may have the opposite problem: You simply can’t choose the one best arrangement because of all the tempting possibilities.

For some rooms, because of the location of architectural elements (such as windows and doors), finding the perfect layout doesn’t come easily. Difficulties arise when a room has two focal points, areas where attention lingers. For instance, trying to situate seating in rooms with a television and a fireplace or picture window is frustrating. How can you focus on two points? Occasionally, you may figure out a way to take advantage of both focal points, but sometimes you just have to choose one over the other.

Some general guidelines exist to help you narrow down the almost endless possibilities of arrangement. Before trying to decide how to arrange your room, keep in mind the following suggestions:

  • Arrange for traffic not to pass between people and the television if at all possible.

  • To create a greater sense of unity, place furniture so its lines are parallel to the wall. Furniture placed on the diagonal, sometimes called the dynamic diagonal, creates excitement and contrast.

  • Experiment by leaving a wall free of furniture (especially when the wall flanks a walkway).

  • Keep conversations going by grouping chairs a comfortable three to four feet apart. A foolproof and very comfortable seating arrangement is a sofa or love seat flanked by two comfortable, upholstered chairs.

  • Make the most of unusual space by building furniture (shelves, consoles, and so on) into the room. The only potentially negative aspect of built-ins is that you can’t take them with you if you move. (Then again, that’s not necessarily bad.)

  • Place a table near each chair for holding refreshments, reading glasses, a book, and so on.

  • Shield your living room for more privacy by placing a standing, folding screen at right angles to the wall if the front door to your house opens directly into your living room.

  • Large rooms can seem alienating. Cut a too-large room down to size. Treat it as though it were several small spaces by creating more than one intimate seating and activity area.

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