Break the Ice: 8 Tips for Creating a Chattier, Cozier, Comfier Living Room

published Mar 16, 2014
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(Image credit: Sherrie and Oliver)

How do you create a room that encourages conversation when you entertain guests? By spending time crafting a sitting area that maximizes comfort, feels cozy and welcoming and puts guests at ease so they can be their charming and witty selves. We’ve got ideas on how to increase conversation and coziness in your living room and seating areas — even some tips you can easily try this weekend.

So what sort of gatherings will these tips prove most beneficial for? Well, not a big party. Cultivating circles of conversation for parties is a whole other ballgame. These ideas are best implemented for your everyday guests and small get-togethers of a handful of folks for drinks and conversation. You won’t find every trick in the book below for creating a cozier space that’s more conducive for conversation, but you will find some ideas that will help create comfortable seating arrangements that may make guests extra chatty!

(Image credit: Andrea Sparacio)

1. Arrange the seating around people (not a TV!)
Put the focus of your living room’s seating area on the people who will be seated and chatting and not something like a TV; this will instantly make your seating area feel more social. Some experts suggest a circular arrangement of chairs and seating, but we don’t think you have to force your arrangement if that wouldn’t be best for your room. Just consider the angles of seating: Make sure to sit in all of your seats and see how they feel. Your neck shouldn’t be strained or your body contorted oddly when trying to look at guest who might be chatting.

2. Put seating close enough
It can be tempting to try to fill out a large room by spacing out furniture. But seating spaced too far apart doesn’t have an intimate feeling, and those too-long distances between seats sometimes inhibit conversation. There’s no set rule to the distance — don’t break out your measuring tape — but no one should have to lean in over a coffee table to hear someone talking at a normal volume. Consider scooting seating in a little closer and seeing if that feels a bit more friendly and conversation encouraging.

3. Pay close attention to the type of seating you choose
Are your side chair seats way higher than your couch? I can’t be the only one who feels weirdly insecure when I’m in a group setting and my seat is much higher than everyone else’s. In general, lower to mid-height, soft but firm seating options that lean back a little (but not too much) tend to be really conducive to comfort. But don’t go for furniture where people sink in too far and it’s difficult to get out of. Unless you are really comfortable with a friend, seating that makes you sit too slouched could actually make guests more uncomfortable.

4. Don’t block the view
Like a good dinner table, you don’t want to have a coffee table filled so high with plants, candles and stacks of books that guests can’t see each other’s faces. Keep coffee and cocktail tables low and the tabletop embellishments simple (at least when you plan on entertaining guests and encouraging conversation).

5. Do create coziness with side tables and accessories
Don’t let someone in a side chair feel like they’re floating off by themselves on an upholstered island. Anchor your extra seating in the space to the rest of the seating arrangement with side tables and other accessories, so you create one cozy, cohesive spot for sitting and chatting that feels secure.

6. Perfect the lighting
You’ve heard this before no doubt: Turn off that overhead lighting, add in lamps around the room for balanced low light and even include a few candles. No one likes feeling like they’re being interrogated, and low lighting complements skin tones and allows others to feel comfy and more like being themselves.

7. Keep the music at a good volume
A personal pet peeve of mine —which doesn’t have to do with the arrangement of seating in a space but still impacts it — is when people play music too loudly when entertaining guests. Of course some nice music in the background goes great with serving a few cocktails, but don’t play music so loudly that guests feel like they have to shout to be heard. It might stop them from speaking up.

8. Include some cozy elements, but don’t let guests drown in them
It’s a bad habit of mine, grabbing a throw pillow to hold in my lap when I sit. But it’s a comfort thing, so it’s nice to have those sorts of elements available to put guests at ease. But don’t have so many elements that they’re in the way of seating or have to be moved just so a guest can grab a spot.

How do you create areas in your home that encourage conversation? Are there any tips you’ve discovered that create cozy spaces that make your guests feel comfortable? Share in the comments below!