Arranging a Living Room Layout
The concept of a living room conjures varying mental pictures for different people. There is not one clear definition for the room other than a most basic one "a room in which social activity may occur." For some, the living room is a place for formal, elegant furniture. A room in which guests are invited to sit, discuss the affairs of the world and drink sherry. For others, it is the room where the family meets to relax, socialize, play games and watch TV. The latter is also what nearly everyone thinks of when speaking of a family room.
If you do not have separate family and living rooms, then you must combine all the features of both into one room. If this is the case in your home, then you may decide to skip the rest of this article and read about arranging a family room. If, however, you do not need a family gathering space, or you wish to layout the space in the traditional manner of a living room, then read on.
As with any room, you should start by making a list of what the room should be able to accommodate. Your list should include both activities that will occur in the room, and furniture that you will definitely place in the room. By starting this way, you can establish the requirements of the room. For example, you may have an antique writing desk that must be placed in the room, either because you love it so, or because there is no other place for it to go. Establishing activities for a room, such as playing a piano, reading, listening to music, playing cards, group meetings etc., will help you to identify requirements such as seating, lighting, and specialized furniture.
Next, consider the style for the room. Will it be formal, traditional, casual, modern, eclectic or something else. Also, will it have a theme? A theme doesn't have to be over the top, it may be something as subtle as the colors or accessories used. You might pick an Asian or Mediterranean influence. The room might have a recurring detail such as timepieces, musical instruments or a collection. We think a theme is important because it adds interest and it makes a room cohesive.
Selecting color for your room is an important way to set a mood. Putting a bold color on one wall is an excellent way to add drama and to draw focus to that part of the room. Earth tones are a good choice for a cozy or relaxed feel. Dark colors make a room feel smaller. This can be useful to "bring in" large rooms, but should be avoided for rooms that are already a comfortable size. Bold colors add energy to a room, and may be a good choice in a room used frequently for entertaining.
Draperies, to some, are an afterthought. However, draperies can be instrumental in making positive changes to a room. Of all the rooms in your home, this is probably the most appropriate place for dramatic, elegant draperies. Of course, every situation is unique, your room may be better suited to shades, shears or another simple window treatment. But if you to go with draperies, go bold. Bland draperies do nothing for a room, they become strictly utilitarian. They provide privacy and block out light, but they do little for the look of the room. They might be a suitable choice when you want to emphasize the view through a window. Otherwise, we feel that draperies should help shape the room. Using draperies that are darker than the wall color will increase their emphasis. Lighter or similar to the wall color, will deemphasize them. For drama, a drapery should be floor length, full, and have complimentary top treatment.
Arrangement of furniture has a big impact on the room. Avoid the temptation to push every piece up against a wall. Also, don't feel that you must align everything with the walls. Furniture should "float" in a room. Avoid overfilling a room with furniture. There needs to be a flow for traffic and too much furniture can destroy the flow. A classic living room's chief need is seating. Arrangement of seating should create one or more conversation areas. An area for larger groups and a more intimate place for two or three persons is ideal.
Lighting should be broken up into general illumination, task and key lighting. A hanging fixture or a series of recessed can lights are good choices for creating general illumination in a room. For task lighting floor and table lamps can be used for reading as well as lighting an otherwise dark corner of a room. Key lighting includes fixtures focused on wall hangings and artwork. Key lights add elegance and interest to a room. Sconces can serve as any form of lighting and are a good way to add height to a room. Placement on the wall help to draw the eye upward. Tall floor lamps are also a good way to add height. We recommend putting the room's general lighting on a dimmer circuit, so that a mood can be set depending upon the circumstances.
Rugs are a good way to help define subspaces in a room. Placed beneath two chairs a smaller rug helps define an intimate conversation space. Similarly, a large rug, placed under the main seating space, helps to unify the space. Don't be afraid to use rugs on top of a carpet. If a rug creates too much depth on an already thick carpet, consider removing the carpet in that room and covering the floor with a series of rugs.
For more information and ideas on arranging specific rooms in your home, see our other articles;