How to Choose Living Room Furniture

Ideas for selecting the best furniture for your space

By Jan Soults Walker

Outfitting this frequently used home space can be a significant investment. Here's how to make smart choices to create the living room of your dreams, all within your means.

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Tobi Fairley
Perhaps you've always wanted a sleek sectional with an extra-long lounger, or maybe you have your eye on an easy chair you dream of sinking into each evening. Put your emotions aside and be strategic before you buy, says interior designer Jim Powell of J. Powell & Associates in Avon, Colorado. Before you settle on a single piece of living room furniture, think through these considerations.

Size it up

When envisioning new furniture, there are two questions you should answer right away about your living room because "they almost always tie together," Powell says:
  • How much space do I have available for furniture?
  • How will I use the living room?
"If the space is large, such as an open great room, you can look at dividing it into two conversation areas or maybe a conversation area and a media area," Powell says. "That's why you need to determine what activities will happen in the room. Do you plan to have cocktail parties? Will you be reading? Watching movies? Listening to music? Do you need a spot to do some quiet work at home?"

The answers to these questions help you begin to form ideas of the types and quantities of furnishings needed. "And, if the space is small, you may need to look for multi-functional furnishings or some downsized pieces," Powell adds.

Read more about working with the size of your space:

Go with the flow

Think about how traffic will most efficiently flow through the room. How might you arrange furnishings to accommodate the activities you have in mind? To answer that question, draw your living room's floor plan to scale on graph paper. Note room dimensions and primary architectural features, such as windows, doors and passageways, and the fireplace or built-in bookcases. If the living room opens to another room, note that, too.

Experiment with layout ideas to see what pieces might fit where, using to-scale furnishings cut from graph paper. Position and reposition a selection of possible furnishings to form groupings for activities, such as watching movies or socializing with friends, while allowing people to move through the space without tripping over furniture.

"You don't want a sofa right in the middle of a walkway," Powell says. "Draw lines from point A to point B where you want to walk, and keep furniture out of those zones. You may learn that you need to choose a pair of smaller chairs in one area so you can move about easily. Don't create barriers where you want to travel."

Conversely, don't place furnishings too far apart in a large space. "If conversation is your goal, create intimacy," Powell says. "You want people near to one another and not shouting across the room."

More ideas for achieving the perfect living room flow: 

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