A living room is one of the most used and multi-functional rooms in a home and, as such, should reflect the needs of its users. But how does that inform the way it’s arranged? Living room furniture arrangements can be as varied as the requirements of the space.
First, when deciding on your living room layout, you need to determine its purpose. Do you require lots of seating or will a few key piece suffice? Will it be a multi-functional space for relaxation, entertainment, working, reading, hosting? Should the space be casual, formal or a mix? Would you like the ability to change its formation easily?
Once you’ve decided its purpose, you will be able to better understand how the space should be configured. Circulation (the way one moves around a space), balance, emphasis and rhythm should all be considered next.
From small to large-scale plans, formal to informal ones, find out which of these fail-safe living room arrangements is right for you.
Living Room Arrangement #1: U-shaped
U-shaped living room arrangements expand on the traditional L-shape by adding extra pieces or by incorporating a U-shaped sofa (as in the above room by Katharine Pooley). A variety of individual furniture pieces can make up this type of living room plan – a U-shaped sofa, two parallel sofas with armchairs or a bench at their head, a sofa with two chairs at either side and many more.
The semi-enclosed configuration of a U-shaped living room layout encourages and facilitates conversation amongst larger parties, offers lots of seating and (in the case of wraparound sofas) is one of the most comfortable seating arrangements. The formation is used regularly in informal entertaining areas such as cinema rooms, dens and games rooms and is also a recognisable feature of Middle Eastern parlours (called majlis).
U-shaped arrangements work well in larger living rooms which can house such large-scale or so many pieces and where the desire is to draw attention to the centre of the furniture arrangement whilst being semi-open. U-shaped living room arrangements should always bear their focal wall in mind, working well with a room’s natural focal points – a beautiful window view (á la 432 Park Avenue), a killer fireplace or, in a media room, a cinema screen or impressive media cabinet.
“The U-shaped arrangement in this living area worked well as we wanted to ensure that the focus was on the bespoke lighting arrangement and coffee table. The U-shaped sofa faces a beautiful jamb arts and crafts marble fireplace with a large cinema-style television and AV system discreetly hidden behind a mirror above. U-shaped seating was chosen for comfort and to allow multiple [people] to watch TV in comfort together. In general, a U-shaped arrangement works best in areas where there’s lots of natural light.” – Katharine Pooley
Living Room Arrangement #2: Symmetrical and Parallel
Image Credit: Sims Hilditch
In art, design and architecture, symmetry has long been valued for its harmony, beauty and balance. Symmetrical parallel furniture arrangements are, as their name suggests, perfectly mirrored groupings. Two facing sofas, separated by a coffee table, is the most popular configuration although the same idea can be achieved with paired armchairs or chaises.
Symmetry exudes an inherent formality and a symmetrical, parallel grouping will easily make a room look and feel more dignified. This is partly due to the aesthetics of symmetry but, also, how opposing furniture pieces interact. Sitters directly face each other which encourages direct interaction. The balance of a symmetrical parallel living room arrangement also offers a feeling of composure which can be enhanced with grand chandeliers and perfectly fluffed (and symmetrical) cushion arrangements.
The internet formality of a symmetrical living room layout makes the arrangement well-suited to formal homes or in the main reception room of larger houses. Its mirror-image aesthetic particularly suits rooms which have similarly symmetrical architectural features. Like a U-shaped arrangement, when placed in front of a focal feature such as a fireplace or a large window, it results in a grand parlour-like vibe although its facing sofas puts a little more emphasis on direct interaction.
“Rectangular rooms often favour parallel arrangements, particularly lateral apartments and townhouses. The positioning of furniture must be carefully considered. In a sitting room, we like to pair twin table lamps on top of a console table to mirror sofas and armchairs beyond. Accessories, artwork, window dressing and furniture each play an equal part in helping achieve an overall symmetrical look. Creating zones that have uniformity is so important. My top tip to do this would be to introduce parallel lighting at various heights and levels to add cosiness and cohesion throughout.” – Emma Sims Hilditch
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Living Room Arrangement #3: Asymmetrical and Parallel
An asymmetrical parallel living room plan is much like its symmetrical counterpart. It is similarly characterised by facing, parallel seating, separated by a coffee table. Its difference lies in the use of different opposing seating options such as a sofa and two armchairs, two armchairs and a bench or a sofa and two stools.
Like a symmetrical arrangement, an asymmetrical living room layout is well-balanced and offers a decent amount of seating, including personal seating options in the form of individual armchairs or stools. Because of its individual components, it is also flexible and offers further circulation paths. Asymmetry can also be slightly less formal, particularly if benches and casual chairs are used, so it’s a suitable option for spaces which require a composed but informal aesthetic.
Use an asymmetrical living room plan in spaces which would be crowded by two sofas or where extra pathways to seating (between two armchairs, for example) is valued. The arrangement is also a smart choice for multifunctional living rooms as it allows different users to effectively use the space simultaneously. Use the space between side-by-side armchairs for side tables or task lighting which may be needed for reading or hobbies.
“We wanted to keep the space fresh, open and inviting. Opting for two armchairs which are noticed upon entry, allows you to walk into the luxurious seating area and mirroring this is a beautiful detailed velvet sofa. The use of two brass-clad, free form occasional tables have created a sculptural central statement to the room, inviting anyone into the space to flow around.” – Katie Watkinson, A.LONDON by Accouter
Living Room Arrangement #4: L-shaped
Image Credit: Natalia Miyar Atelier
L-shaped living room arrangements are formed by placing seating at right angles, usually anchored by a coffee table. The L shape can be as subtle as a single armchair at one end of a sofa or as pronounced as two sofas butted together. An L-shaped sofa can also be used.
Since asymmetrical arrangements are more casual by nature, L-shaped seating is best for channeling an informal vibe and the formation is often chosen because it encourages relaxed conversation. Open sides make L-shaped seating arrangements not only welcoming but extremely easy to navigate around, making it a suitable option for homes with children or elderly people.
Small spaces and corners are the ideal settings for L-shaped seating arrangements as it doesn’t take up as much space as other arrangements nor does it encroach on a room’s overall space. When flipped around, the back of the sofa can be used to divide a space into two zones which is particularly helpful for open-plan living room/kitchen spaces. Its open sides and informality makes this type of plan is a great option for bedroom sitting areas as well as living rooms.
“I am an advocate of an L-shape arrangement – it creates a relaxed and easy sitting area. Arranging your room this way suits virtually any size room [although] it works particularly well in smaller rooms, freeing the centre of the room for a coffee table or ottoman as a pretty centrepiece. [It] works well when pairing a sofa and armchair [and] I like to place something in the corner to complete the layout, for example, a large planter or a stylish tall lamp.” – Natalia Miyar
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Living Room Arrangement #5: Box-shaped
Image Credit: Finchatton
A box-shaped arrangement channels a certain sense of composure and intimacy. It also works best with cohesive rather than eclectic furniture collections. (Statement pieces may jar too much and fight for attention – the goal of a box-shaped space is to achieve harmony.) This is most often achieved through careful consideration of the colour palettes, textures and fabrics of its individual pieces. Since it’s the main anchor of the arrangement, a suitably proportioned coffee table is essential; too small and it won’t create any impact, too large and it will overpower.
As one of the strongest arrangements,visually, a box-shaped living room layout is ideal for rooms which don’t have a focal point. The purpose of this space is to turn conversation inward and to create a secure place to relax or entertain. It also works well in high-ceiling rooms because it provides a focus in an expansive space. This arrangement also works well for terraces, outdoor cabanas or gazebos with a fire pit in the place of a coffee table.
“These living room arrangements work really well in larger open-plan spaces where you have the freedom to create designated spaces. You can even blend formal and informal spaces in the same room by having formal seating for entertaining in one area and perhaps L-shaped sofas and stylish comfortable armchairs in another for more relaxed family living. The type of seating and fabrics need to be balanced to create a sense of harmony, perhaps choosing colours from a similar palette for both areas to avoid the room looking too cluttered.” – Manoj Patel, Head of Design at Finchatton
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Living Room Arrangement #6: Circular
Circular living room arrangements are characterised by a circular armchair arrangement, often grounded by a matching circular coffee table and rug. Curved sofas make for a streamlined alternative to a four-armchair circular living room layout.
Circular seating arrangements are two-fold in function. On one hand, they encourage conversation and interaction between sitters, offering a self-contained social area; on the other, their seclusive arrangement works well as a calm and restful private space. Since a circular arrangement of more than four chairs wouldn’t be suitable for a residential environment, it is by nature very intimate whilst the spacing between chairs and individual access offers an extra level of comfort for sitters.
Circular configurations are their own entity, anchoring themselves, and need no specific placement in a room. The arrangement enhances a room which needs flexibility as chairs can be moved easily to suit the needs of the users. Multiple circular arrangements can be used successfully in rooms with extremely large proportions.
“The armchairs were positioned in a circular setting to oppose the harsh lines of the building’s internal structure. We used rich fabrics and textures to create an inviting reading pocket. Hammered metals in earthy tones and mercury glass table tops were used to balance out the raw and opulence.” – Georgia Rose Ford, Knight Frank Interior Services
How to Arrange Living Room Furniture in a Rectangular Room
The living room arrangements already mentioned suit the majority of square rooms but what if you have a longer rectangular living room? A living room can double up in its functions or can be furnished appropriately to fill the space.
Living Room Arrangement #7: Double Seating Arrangement
A double seating arrangement is characterised by, you guessed it, two seating arrangements. These separate seating areas don’t have to be identical in furniture, size or purpose; in fact, they can be a good way to create distinction in a room. As well as separate furniture groups, further “zoning” can be achieved in other ways including separate rugs (these don’t have to match but they can), two light fixtures or a tall open bookcase which would give each space privacy. If you want to maintain a sense of oneness in the room, choose a lower dividing piece such as a low bench or a round banquette which can double up for either arrangement.
A double seating arrangement is, most obviously, best for providing lots of seating options. It also utilises large living room spaces well, creating varied, self-contained and separately functioning “zones” within a larger living room. It’s also the easiest way to combine living room arrangements. Pair U-shaped with symmetrical parallel, circular with box… The possibilities really are endless.
Double seating arrangements are perfect for modular, unusually shaped or long living rooms which don’t need to double up as dining rooms. These rooms offer the space needed by separate seating areas which tend to take up more room.
“In some of our projects we create two perfectly symmetrical reception seating arrangements which is very striking and effectful. We give the two sides distinct purposes by centring them around different things such as a fireplace versus a beautiful view.” – Cecilia Halling, Creative Director at Elicyon
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Living Room Arrangement #8: Living Room Dining Room Ideas
The open-plan living room-cum-dining room solution is when part of the living room is reserved as a dining area. Used frequently in compact townhouses as well as grand country estates (like this living room designed by LuxDeco’s in-house design studio), the two-for-one arrangement is highly functional.
Creating a space which is made for dinner parties. Pre- and apres-dinner conversations can be held in the comfortable seating area and when it’s time to eat, there’s an easy and organic transition to the dinner table. This living room layout is also great for smaller homes which don’t have a separate dining room.
A rectangular living room when either a separate dining room doesn’t exist or you want to have a second dining space. One end of the room can be furnished with a dining set and the rest (which will, as a result, be left with squarer proportions) can be used as the seating area.
“A living room dining room combination is a great way to utilise a rectangular living room. The long and skinny proportions are easily handled with two separately functioning zones and it’s clever to double up too.” – Linda Holmes, Interiors Director at LuxDeco.com