A step-by-step guide to choosing furniture and accessories to max space, style and practicality in your living room
Houzz Ireland Contributor. I’m an an Architect and House Consultant based in Dublin…. More
Furnishing any room from scratch can be daunting, and you’ll certainly want to get it right in your living room. But where to begin? Here’s a guide to choosing the correct pieces to create the layout that’s perfect for your home.
Start with your sofa
Your main sofa will probably be the largest single outlay in your living room and you may well need to get it made to order, so there’s little scope for error in your selection. For a regular sofa, you can choose between a two-seater (typically 150cm long), a 2.5-seater (180cm long) and a three-seater (210cm long).
Think of the room as a whole when making your choice. A three-seater sofa may seem irresistibly indulgent, but an extremely large sofa can overwhelm the average living room and limit the scope for adding other seating.
A 2.5-seater fits three people, so this is a reliable choice as your primary sofa, unless you happen to have an exceptionally small – or large – room. Bear in mind, though, that in reality only two people are probably comfortable sharing a sofa at one time.
An L-shaped sofa will work well in a large, open-plan room, where it can help define the seating area. Choose the length of your main arm first, then the secondary arm, bearing in mind the need for movement and access around the sofa.
Having chosen the perfect sofa, you can now add additional sofas or individual chairs to create a welcoming seating arrangement.
There are no standard sizes for individual chairs, so you’ll need to work with your overall room size and configuration to find what works best. There are an infinite variety of shapes and styles to choose from, including tub chairs, arm-less chairs, swivel chairs and rocking chairs. One zany chair can provide a great focal point.
Create a window seat
Window seats offer an alternative way of completing your seating arrangement and won’t infringe on the main living area.
There are no rules about the dimensions for a window seat, but it will typically be between 40cm and 50cm high, with an average depth of between 40cm and 55cm.
Find out how to create a feeling of space in a small living room
Build a bench
Adding a low built-in bench (or two), say along a fireplace wall, can be a great multi-tasking addition to any living room.
A height of 45cm will work for both additional seating and perhaps a low-level home for the TV. You can also pack in useful storage below for logs or any other items you may wish to have to hand but out of sight in order to increase the sense of space.
Be generous with your rug
A large rug will add a powerful focal point to your living room. Pick a rug size that allows everybody to have their feet on the rug when seated. There is really no maximum size for a rug, as a large rug can just extend under furniture.
Choose the right coffee table
A coffee table will reinforce the rug as a focal point and provide a useful surface for books, drinks and nibbles.
As a rule of thumb, it should be the same height as the seat cushions of your main sofa, or a little lower. The overall dimensions of the coffee table will depend on your room, but allow for a space of 30cm to 45cm between the coffee table and any seating around it.
Size up a side table
Having pinned down your essential and largest items, you can now add those small pieces that complete the look and feel of your room.
Low side tables are handy for lamps and that cup of tea while you read the papers. Choose side tables of a height that are easy to reach from your sofa or chair.
Tackle the TV…
You’ll have to decide whether your living room is more a place for gathering or somewhere to relax and watch television.
If a large television isn’t your priority, locate it with this in mind. A low bench, say 45cm high, will place the TV at a height that is comfortable for viewing but which will not allow the screen to dominate the room.
This bench could be placed alongside the fireplace, thereby resolving the battle between these two competing focal points.
…or screen your ‘small’ screen
Can’t live without a supersized screen? Invest in a clever system like this one, which allows the TV to be out of view when gathering with friends and family.
Add some art
Art is a great way to create an engaging, complete living space. And how you hang art is just as important as what you hang. You will want to position pieces at average eye level.
A useful rule of thumb is to hang art with the centre of the artwork at standard eye level, which is 150cm above the floor.
Discover the dos and don’ts of hanging art above a fireplace
How have you designed your own living room? Share your ideas and experiences in the Comments below.