The 4 Major Living Room Arrangement Mistakes, According to Home Stagers

updated Apr 11, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

Whether you have an eye for feng shui or you just want to create balance, the way you arrange your furniture has a huge impact on how your home (and its style) is perceived. This is especially true in the living room. Because people spend so much time there, it’s essential for the space to be both comfortable and functional while remaining aesthetically pleasing.

It can be a challenge to pull off a living room furniture arrangement that hits all these marks. Home stagers are experts at figuring out how to place each piece in your living room “just so,” and we talked to a few to get their insight. Here are four common mistakes that are made when it comes to living room furniture placement, and what you can do to fix them.

Putting everything against the wall

If you put all your furniture up against the wall, you’ll create more space in the middle, and the room will seem bigger, right? Although common, this logic is pretty flawed.

According to Kathie Emhof of Transitions Interior Design & Staging in Buffalo, New York, arranging the furniture this way actually defeats a main purpose of the living room: to facilitate conversation. You can’t exactly have a great chat when your friend is sitting on the loveseat on one wall, while you’re on the sofa on the opposite wall.

“Furniture needs to be close enough so the people in it are not shouting at one another. It should be placed so that it looks ‘intimate enough’ for a comfortable conversation to take place,” she explains.

Gerard Splendore of Warburg Realty also agrees that furniture should be pulled off the walls when possible, and he suggests that you make use of open “floating” pieces, such as open shelving or chairs with open arms and legs, instead of bottom-heavy seating, enclosed with fabric skirts to the floor.

Ignoring the focal point

Our eyes naturally tend to gravitate toward a large focal point, so don’t fight what’s already there. If you have a fireplace, large window, or another structural aspect of your living room that can’t be moved, don’t fight it. Emhof suggests you work with what you have, even if what you have might seem less-than-ideal on the surface.

“If a fireplace is in the corner, for example, don’t be afraid to experiment with a sofa and an area rug that are actually on the diagonal of the room,” she explains.

She recommends placing side chairs, cocktail tables, and other smaller items after you’ve placed larger items like the sofa.

If the room doesn’t have a built-in focal point, you can choose one in the form of the television, an entertainment center, or a stunning piece of artwork.

“In any case, pick one focal point of the room,” says Emhof. “Furniture should be placed facing toward the focal point whenever possible.”

Covering up your rugs with furniture

A great area rug can add dimension and warmth to your living room, so don’t defeat its purpose by covering the entirety of it with furniture.

Noel Gatts of New Jersey-based Beam & Bloom Interiors sees rugs as “vital anchors” and suggests using one as a way to create the main area centered off a focal point.

“More often than not, the back half or more of a sofa or chair is off of an area rug in a space that we design,” says Gatts. “We focus much more on the overall look and feel of the space, and using the rug as a center to gather other elements around.”

Flouting traffic patterns

If you don’t arrange your furniture with an eye on how people will move in and out of the room as well as throughout it, you could end up with a super-awkward traffic jam.

According to Splendore, this becomes even more important when a living room has multiple doorways or openings to other rooms. To avoid a backup at the entryway, make sure your furniture is not impeding the flow.