Arranging living room furniture with a TV can be a daunting task. When you’re faced with an empty room, filling it in a way that is both practical and aesthetically pleasing around your electronics can seem like an overwhelming task. But over the years, interior designers have recognized a number of simple, easy-to-apply principles that work to make your TV look good in your living room. Just follow these common-sense rules and you’ll find that arranging furniture—with or without a TV in the picture—isn’t so scary after all.
13 Rules to Arrange Living Room Furniture
Consider Popular Furniture Layouts
- Symmetrical layout: A symmetrical layout works in any size or shape room because it visually balances the space. Two sofas facing one another separated by a table is a symmetrical layout. A sofa flanked with matching side chairs is considered symmetrical.
- Floating layout: If you have a living room with many windows but not enough wall space to anchor your furniture, opt for a floating furniture layout. Float your furniture a few feet away from the walls to create an island in the center of the room with a TV mounted on one wall.
- L-shaped layout: An L-shaped living room and dining room combination is considered an awkward space and presents its own set of challenges, such as less wall space for furniture and TV placement. There are usually two walls you can use for furniture and TV positioning; the sofa sits on the long wall and the TV can be positioned on the wall directly in front of the sofa.
- Layouts for irregular rooms: Narrow living rooms, spaces with nooks and crannies, or fireplaces on an angle—all are considered awkward or irregular-shaped rooms. The key to arranging furniture in awkward living rooms is to create zones using furniture on area rugs. You can also anchor a zone with an oversized statement piece like a dramatic floor lamp.
- Layouts for long, narrow rectangular living rooms: You’ll have two long walls to work with so it’s common to place a sofa on one wall and the TV on the opposite wall, whether it’s mounted or placed on a stand.
Choose a Focal Point
Never underestimate the power of a focal point in a room. Sometimes they appear naturally, such as if you have a prominent window or a built-in fireplace mantel, while other times you may need to create them yourself, as with TV stands and televisions. Whatever your chosen focal point, make a decision and stick with it. You’ll want to arrange furniture around it as much as possible.
Don’t Push Furniture Against the Walls
The measurements of the room will dictate how far you can pull your furniture away from the walls, but even in a small space, you’ll want to give pieces a little breathing room by allowing a few inches between the backs of furniture pieces and the walls. Despite popular belief, this little bit of space can actually make rooms feel bigger. Of course, if you have a larger space, feel free to arrange furniture in such a way that conversation areas are created in the middle of the room, leaving several feet between the walls and the furniture.
Determine TV Placement
Where you place your TV in a living room can depend on its size and a few other factors. Here are a few tips:
- The TV should be placed in an area of your living room that is not affected by sunlight or glare from natural or other lighting.
- Place your TV out of high-traffic areas. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to watch TV while people keep walking past it.
- In general, your TV should be positioned facing your seating so you can comfortably watch it from your couch or chairs.
- Mounting a TV above a fireplace has its pros and cons but if it’s done correctly it can free up floor space in a small living room layout.
Create Conversation Areas
People should naturally be able to talk to each other without having to crane their necks or shout across the room. Position the sofas and chairs to face each other (not necessarily straight on, but close), and so they are close enough that people can converse without raising their voices. If the room is too large, create multiple conversation areas.
Balance is always important in decorating, and never more so than when arranging furniture and other items in your living room. Consider both size and placement of the various pieces, making sure not to group all the large or small pieces in one area or to one side of the room, which can make the space feel lopsided and a little unsettling. Also make sure there’s variety in the shapes—if you’ve got straight-lined seating, for example, consider a round coffee table.
Consider Traffic Flow
One of the most important things to consider when arranging furniture in any room is traffic flow. People should not be tripping over furniture, or each other, to pass through the room. Make sure there are a couple of feet (give or take a few inches) between the coffee table and sofa and between chairs. Create a clear path so people can walk from one end of the room to the other without difficulty.
Area rugs belong under the furniture—all the furniture if you can manage it. Exposing some flooring around the edges of the room is fine, but when using an area rug, make sure it’s big enough that all the furniture in a seating arrangement can rest on it. At the very least you want the front legs of large pieces to sit on the rug (the backs can be on the floor, if necessary).
When it comes to coffee tables, more often than not, bigger is better. A large coffee table in the middle of a seating area is great for both aesthetics and function. It acts as an anchor for the room and it leaves plenty of space for people to put down drinks or for you to display favored accessories. A large table also offers easier access from the seats around it. That said, make sure to leave enough room between the seating and the coffee table for people to pass through (about 18 inches). And if you can’t find a suitable large coffee table, two smaller tables or other coffee table alternatives can be a good substitute.
Every seat should have easy access to either a side table or coffee table. Avoid layouts that force people to move from their seats to set down or retrieve drinks. When it comes to table height:
- Side or end tables should be approximately the same height as the nearby chair arms (if that’s not possible, lower is better).
- For coffee tables, the height should be the same height as chair/sofa seats, or lower.
Lighting is one of the most important elements of any room, and it is neglected all too often. Always use a mix of overhead lighting, floor lamps, and table lamps (and sconces, if you can). A floor lamp looks great at the end of a sofa or behind an accent chair. Table lamps look lovely on side tables, shelves, and even mantels. Lighting needs to be placed at different levels to be properly balanced, so use a variety of fixtures liberally throughout your room.
Things that are hung on the wall—whether it’s artwork, mirrors, or sculptural objects—need to be placed strategically, and in proportion to the furniture. Don’t hang a tiny photo over the back of your sofa, for example; instead, use either a large piece that is approximately two-thirds the length of the sofa, or use a grouping of pieces. If you’re absolutely determined to use a particular piece of art that is too small, put it in a larger frame with a large matte around it so it can hold its own when positioned near a large furniture piece.
Putting It All Together
When it comes to arranging furniture and accessories, it’s best to plan ahead if your plan involves buying new pieces. Either use an online floor planner or old-fashioned graph paper to sketch out your desired floor plan. It’s the only surefire way to know whether or not things will fit the way you want.