Don’t put your sofa against a wall – and 9 more tips for arranging a living room

Arranging your living room properly will make the area easier to use, and more enjoyable to spend time in.

Whether you’ve just moved into a new property or you’re looking to rejig your current space, the arrangement of your living room should be considered carefully. Not only will a properly arranged space look put-together and stylish, but it will also allow you to use the room in the easiest, most logical way.

Our living rooms are hardworking, multifunctional spaces, used for both rest and relaxation, as well as for activities such as reading, working, and socialising. Because of this, a living room that isn’t arranged properly can quickly become impractical and difficult to navigate. And if you’re struggling with mobility issues, a space that was intended as a sanctuary quickly becomes a headache.

Living room with fireplace, built in blue-grey bookcases and silver sofaCredit: Bridgman

To help you figure out the best way to arrange your living room, we consulted the experts. They shared their biggest tips for furniture and decor placement to allow you to create a living room that is both streamlined and easy to use, as well as beautiful and inviting.


1. Consider what you actually use the room for

Is it a private space or entertaining hub?

Snug Big Chill 3 Seater Sofa sitting in bay window with navy wallsCredit: Snug

To arrange your living room in the most useful way possible, be honest with yourself about how you really use it. Is it primarily a space to relax and watch TV in at the end of the day, or do you rarely spend time in there unless you have guests? Perhaps it’s the room where your grandchildren play? Whatever it may be, arrange the room according to its true purpose.

For example, if you often have guests in this space, ensure every piece of seating you have faces the other.

Lou Petersen, head of design innovation at DFS, says: “Placing sofas and armchairs together, for example around a coffee table, creates a designated area for gathering that feels sociable and encourages conversation.”

2. Create a focal point

It doesn’t have to be the TV

Peach living room with mustard sofa arranged around fireplaceCredit: John Lewis

One of the easiest ways to begin arranging your living room is to locate a spot around which the rest of the room can centre.

Rebecca Snowden, interior style advisor at Furniture And Choice explains: “Having a focal point is extremely important in setting the mood of the living room; without it, the space will feel disorganised and slightly chaotic.”

But how do you know which part of your room should become the focal point? Snowden suggests: “It can be a fireplace, statement artwork, rug or your TV. Take note of what instantly catches your eye when you enter the room.”

Then, once your focal point is chosen, organise the living room out around this spot. Snowden says: “For example, place your sofa and coffee table to face your focal point, to create an organised flow.”

3. Ensure adequate space around your furniture

And avoid placing your sofa against the wall

Sofology pale sofa in living room with built-in bookcasesCredit: Sofology

Whether you’ve got a smaller living room or are lucky enough to enjoy a bigger space, the experts advise allowing adequate space around your furniture, to prevent the room from feeling cluttered.

Snowden says: “For example, you may think the opposite, but placing your sofa up against the wall will actually make your living room feel cramped.”

Petersen agrees, saying: “Where space allows, it’s ideal to place a sofa away from the wall with a long console table sat behind it. This provides a great space for decor, like family photos.”

Importantly, there should be sufficient space between your sofa and coffee table. Snowden suggests: “A good rule of thumb is to have your sofa and coffee table three feet apart from each other, to avoid bumping into anything.”

4. Be strategic about TV placement

A corner may be best

Samsung curved TV on fireplaceCredit: Samsung

Our televisions may not be the prettiest parts of our living rooms, but for many of us, they’re one of the most important. There may be an obvious spot for yours, but – especially in smaller rooms – consider whether a corner makes sense.

“For many living rooms, the corner is the easiest place to accommodate a TV, giving the best all-round viewing position from sofas and chairs,” Vaila Morrison, Stannah’s inclusive design expert, says.

“And with modern TVs being so slimline, mounting them on the wall is also a great way to position them at the perfect height for viewing.”

Similarly, avoid placing your set near a window or in direct sunlight, which will make the screen difficult to see.


5. Don’t cover radiators

Or face bigger bills as a consequence

Rustic living room with beams brick fireplace and radiatorCredit: Mike Higginson/Shutterstock

It’s vital, practically speaking, to consider your heat sources when figuring out where best to place your living room furniture. If nothing else, it will save energy.

Morrison explains: “If you are working with an existing radiator position, it is best to keep it as clear from obstruction as possible to allow heat to circulate.”

As such, angle sofas/armchairs away from radiators, to allow heat to travel around the room on chilly days.

She also suggests thinking about your window treatments. “For radiators under windows, shorter curtains or blinds will allow maximum heat to reach the room.”

It can also pay to consider the flow of cool air on hot days, too. Interior design expert at MyJobQuote, Ryan McDonough, says: “If you need to access your windows to open and close them, avoid placing any large furniture in front of them.”

6. Consider whether side tables may work better than a coffee table

They can be easier to reach and less obstructive

Pale sofa with graphic rug and side tablesCredit: Bridgman

For many of us, a coffee table is an important component of our living rooms. And, as mentioned, it should be far enough away from your sofa that it doesn’t restrict movement. But when arranging your space, it can also be helpful to think about whether this piece truly works for your home.

Morrison explains: “If you have a regular-size or small living room, a central coffee table can cause an obstruction, particularly to anyone with a mobility aid or wheelchair. They can also be at an awkward height to reach from your chair.”

In fact, Morrison suggests that a different setup could be more functional. “An alternative might be to have a sideboard with space to set things down to the side of the room, and then side tables immediately next to sofas and chairs,” she says.

7. Fill empty alcoves with well-fitting furniture

Good styling is important here

Snug Rebel forest green snuggler sofa in front of charcoal shelvingCredit: Snug

Be sure to take advantage of any alcoves you may have – they are undoubtedly some of the most helpful spaces within living rooms. “Built-in storage is one of the best uses for an alcove,” McDonough says.

“You can create a cupboard where you can hide clutter behind a door or install floating shelves.”

If you already have furniture you love, this can also tuck neatly into an alcove. “For example, if you have quite a large alcove, consider placing an armchair in the corner for an extra seat in the space,” he suggests.

However, Suzanne Roynon, an interiors therapist and author at Interiors Therapy, warns that, if used for storage, alcoves should be properly styled.

“Alcoves can also make those corners feel a bit stagnant, so however you decide to use the space, keep it fresh and boost it with light from a well-placed lamp, fresh flowers or healthy plants,” she suggests.

8. Place multiple lighting sources at varying heights around the room

Layered lighting will make your room more functional

Credit: Bridgman

Opt for layered living room lighting when arranging your space, to create a soothing ambiance, and to allow adequate illumination for different tasks, such as knitting and reading.

Lamps are an excellent way to direct targeted light around your home. When it comes to positioning them, Roynon suggests: “Ambient lighting from table lamps is often best at seated head height – and a brighter light source is better at shoulder height or a fraction above, angled to avoid shadows.”

For lighting that is useful for tasks, try placing lamps behind your sofa, if possible, rather than next to it. “Here, they won’t cause any strain on your eyes when you’re looking forward, and they will also provide you with ample light for when you’re reading,” McDonough says.

9. Ensure easy access to and from doors

Keep furniture a few steps away

Door in living room with shelf and graphic rugCredit: Bridgman

To ensure a proper flow in and out of your living room, ensure nothing is in the way of your doors for at least a couple of steps. McDonough explains: “When it comes to doorways, avoid placing furniture too close to them.

“You want to ensure the door can swing open and closed without coming into contact with any furniture or other items,” he continues.

This step may even involve decluttering your home of belongings and furniture, according to Roynon. “As physical needs change, it might not be so practical to have a plethora of small tables, cabinets or decorative items at floor level. So think about how you use your home, so you can get around without the risk of trips and bruises,” she says.

10. Position storage units depending on their height

If you’re blessed with a larger space, try a symmetrical layout

Wooden display cabinet in pale pink rustic living roomCredit: John Lewis

The best place for things like wall ladders, bookcases or chest of drawers in a living room will likely vary depending on how tall they are, McDonough says.

“Tall bookcases work well placed behind the sofa, or against an empty wall in the living room, whereas shorter, horizontal bookcases work well placed underneath the window.”

In larger properties, bookcases can also add a design element to your room.

“Place identical bookcases either side of a door or window to create stylish framing, with plenty of storage space for books and other items,” McDonough suggests.


Written by Amy Hunt she/her