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How to design a living room – 4 top tips

How to design a living room – 4 top tips

The living room is the focal point of any household. Whether you call it the living room, lounge or front room, it is likely to be where you spend the majority of your time when at home. The living room should be a place of relaxation and comfort, where you unwind at the end of a stressful day, so getting the design of this room right is essential for a blissful home life. 

1. Layout is key

Where are you going to put the TV?

You may be surprised with design experts suggesting the first consideration should be the TV, but let’s face it the main purpose of most lounges today is for families to watch their favourite shows together. There’s no point designing a beautiful living room if it’s not designed to actually live in. 

So, think about where you want to put the TV. What height it will sit at? This will affect how tall the rest of your furniture should be. Consider window glare, you don’t want to have to sit with the curtains closed in the middle of the day in order to see what’s happening on the screen.

If you have a fireplace in your living room this could be a competing focal point. With a long enough room you may be able to create 2 seating areas around each focus, otherwise, consider mounting or even projecting the TV above the fireplace, instead of using a traditional media unit, to avoid the two competing for your attention.

Living room with TV over fireplace
Image: dhoum

Conversation Groupings

Apart from watching TV, the other main activity in the lounge is usually conversing with each other. Whether this is families checking in on each other’s day or friends catching up over a glass of wine. It’s important when deciding on your living room layout to think about how people will be able to converse easily and comfortably. 

Having all of the seating space against the wall in a line may leave a lot of floor space free, but it will be challenging to have flowing conversations with the seats arranged in this way. Instead, try to create conversation groupings with your seating arrangement so that your family and your guests can face each other when chatting. To make these groupings feel natural without having everyone sitting on top of each other try to leave 3-7 feet between each piece of seating furniture (sofas, armchairs etc.) depending on the size of your room.

2. The sofa makes the lounge

Size and arrangement

The average 3-seater sofa is around 84 inches in length. Of course, sofas vary dramatically in size with smaller ‘loveseat’ syle sofas measuring just 50-60 inches and some bigger 4+ seater sofas reaching over 90 inches. It’s important to have enough seating space for the number of people who regularly spend time in the living room, this could be made up with one large sectional sofa, or with a regular sofa and additional armchairs or more quirky seating such as a chaise lounge or hanging chair.

Avoid choosing a sofa that is too big for the space. You should leave at least 1.5 times the size of your TV in distance between the TV and the seats around it, for example, if you have a 42 inch TV your sofa should be at least 63 inches from the screen. Sofas that are too big can also lead to difficulty navigating the room. You want an easy flow of movement between the various pieces of furniture, leaving at least 30 inches of walk-through space between each object.

Sofa style

Whether you’re going for an antique, mid-century modern or contemporary style sofa there are a few key things to remember:

  • Less is more – A sofa is a big purchase, both spatially and financially. So, whilst you may be tempted by a statement piece with ornate legs or multi-colour patterns, it is best to opt for simplicity in shape and colour and add details in pillows and throw blankets which can be more frequently – and cheaply – updated.
  • Height matters – The height of your sofa will influence all of the other items in the room. For example, a coffee table should be within 4 inches of the sofa height and the centre of the TV should be around 25-35 inches above the seat of the sofa for comfortable viewing.
Lounge with large sectional sofa
Image: Sven Brandsma

3. Mix eras and styles

How to decorate your lounge

Designing your living room is mostly about deciding on the ideal layout and thinking about how the room will be used. Once you have this figured out and know roughly what furniture you need in what sizes, you can get to the fun part of decorating. Decorating your living room means deciding what decor style and colour palettes best suit the room and your lifestyle.

The first step in decorating your front room is to get inspired by different eras and styles, from mid-century citric colours to Scandinavian minimalism. Once you have an idea of what you like it can be tempting to stick to one strict theme throughout the room. However, this can have the adverse effect of making your living room feel like a showroom set up for a magazine shoot! Try mixing in a couple of vintage furniture pieces alongside modern decoration to give a lived-in, homey feeling to the lounge.

Vintage burr walnut veneer drinks cabinet
A vintage burr walnut veneer drinks cabinet with modern accessories on top

4. How to design a small living room

Rules for decorating small spaces

Having separate conversation groupings and large statement sofas is fine if you have a huge front room but those with smaller lounges can still design the perfect place to hang out at the end of a long day, it just takes some more considerations.

  • Leave space between furniture – try to stick to the minimum space requirements laid out throughout this article, such as 1.5 times the length of the TV to the sofa and 30 inches of walk-through space between furniture. This may mean that you need to have fewer items or smaller pieces but the room will flow a lot better with these spaces left empty and that is even more important in a small room.
  • Use your corners – A sectional sofa or corner unit can be a great way to create additional space by going right into the corners of the room.
  • Know where to go big – Certain items being oversized in a small room can actually make it feel larger than it is. For example, a large rug will make the floor space seem bigger and an oversized wall mirror will reflect light from even the smallest windows – essential in small lounges.
  • Use height – If you have high ceilings, accentuate them with eye-catching light fixtures. If not try to still draw the eye upwards by hanging art above eye-level, this will give the room extra dimension if the floor space is limited.

Featured Image: Kara Eads

One thought on “How to design a living room – 4 top tips

  1. Hannah

    Thanks for sharing some very useful and in-depth tips for designing a living room. Another really important factor to think about is lighting – it is likely you will want different kinds of lighting intensities for different occasions within your living room so this is something that is worth experimenting with.

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