Arranging your Furniture Effectively

Effectively positioning or laying out the furniture in your living room is more of an art than a science. Since every room is different, creating an effective layout will require creativity along with a willingness to experiment. Fortunately  there are some  “rules” that have evolved over time that can help you develop the most effective and attractive layout for your particular room. Here's some ideas on how to effectively plan and lay out the furniture in your living room.

Start by measuring

  • The first step is to measure the entire room - walls, doors, windows, location of electrical and cable outlets, heating vents and cold air returns and draw your room to scale on graph paper.
  • The next step is to  measure the furniture you're going to be using in the room, then using the same scale create furniture cutouts that can be placed on your room graph to determine if the pieces will actually fit the room.

Every room needs a focal point

  • Before laying out your furniture, choose a focal point and try to arrange your furniture around it. A focal point can be almost anything you choose, but common ones are a fireplace, a window with view or overlooking a garden, a large bookcase, a home entertainment center or even a television.

Create 'conversation' areas.

  • Including a conversation area in your room will allow people to sit and chat comfortably. Effective conversation areas have 4 to 10 feet of space between the chairs and your sofa or loveseat. Less that 4 feet feels cramped and more than 10 feet means people will have to shout to be heard.
  • Including coffee or end tables in your plan allows  people to comfortably put down their drinks without stretching or having to rise. Try to leave  14” to 18” of legroom between the sofa and chairs and the coffee table for comfort.
  • Coffee tables that are about ½ to ¾ the length of your sofa and slightly lower than normal seat height (around 14” to 16” high) fit best into most rooms and are the most comfortable to use.
  • Finally, don't forget,  people need to be able to move around in your room, so create pathways at least 18” wide (but preferably up to  2' to 3') around the conversation area, so folks won't be stumbling over the furniture.

Room size

  • Larger rooms obviously offer more options for arranging furniture. A particularly large room can be subtly divided into two or more areas simply by the way you arrange your furniture. Placing a sofa horizontally across a room blocking the traffic flow will effectively create a second space within a large room.
  • Smaller rooms may require more creativity and thought to effectively arrange the furniture. Try to avoid a cramped look in the room by keeping  the number of pieces in the room down and using smaller pieces such as a loveseat rather than a sofa.

No matter the size of your room, there are always to be different ways you could arrange the furniture. Using your scale drawing along with the cutouts of your furniture pieces allows you to try any number of them before deciding on the arrangement  you think will work best for you.


Murray Anderson is an experienced freelance writer with over 800 articles published on the web as well as in print magazines and newspapers in both the United States and Canada. He writes on a wide range of topics and is a regular contributor to He can be contacted at [email protected].