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Living rooms and family rooms are places where we spend much of our time at home – and a lot of our decorating energy. Your main living space(s) set the tone for your whole home, which is why it’s important to give thought to how it inspires and influences all other rooms – even outdoor rooms. Here are a few tips on how you can create a successful living room in your home.

Identify Your Goals

The success of any living space requires clearly identifying your goals for the room at the very beginning. Focus on both function and form. Do you want your room to be more formal or casual? Will your family use it as a media center most of the time, or do you entertain and, therefore, require multiple seating/conversation areas? Whatever your needs are, take the time to map out the main furnishings before starting. It is best to use a consistent scale – 1/4” = 1’0” is fairly standard, and drawing vellum with that grid is available at any stationery store or online.

Begin Your Plans With the Larger Pieces

Think about your sofas, armoires, armchairs, etc. These larger pieces will help you determine how you might use furniture you already have and where you will need to supplement to create the look and function you’re after. Don’t forget that re-covering furnishings is always an option – and usually less expensive than buying new. So, if Grandma’s sofa is still extremely comfortable, but you’re not in love with the lime green fabric, don’t let that get in the way of your plans.

Conversational Groupings are Further Defined by Area Rugs

Ideally, the furniture would all fit comfortably on the rug. But, if that’s not possible, choose a size that is slightly larger than your coffee table. Rugs tend to “warm” a space as well, and offer textural and visual interest.

Plan for Major Traffic Patterns

Allow approximately 3’ to 4’ for comfortable passage through the main living areas. 18” is a good guide for the distant between coffee tables and sofas.

Where Space Allows, Subdivide Seating Areas into Smaller Groupings

This allows both family members and guests to use the spaces simultaneously for different purposes or conversations. Since many of us don’t have the square footage for this, think in terms of flexibility. Choose furniture and arrangements that can be shifted with the seasons or for special occasions. Smaller sofas, rather than large, are ideal for moving things around. Matched armchairs are more easily paired side by side or placed around a table than mismatched ones. Benches and ottomans serve dual-purposes of extra seating for a party or a classy coffee/footstool for every-day use. Also, consider smaller occasional chairs to offer further interest and flexibility.

When In Doubt, Keep It Simple

While there are no hard and fast “rules” for furniture arrangements, if you keep in mind the views (outdoor or fireplace) that you would like to enjoy, the function(s) of the room, the people who will be using the room, I believe it will all fall into place for you.