7 Ways We’re All Laying Out Our Living Rooms Wrong

published Nov 28, 2018
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(Image credit: Melanie Rieders)

You don’t need to be an interior designer to know decorating a home is easier said than done. From spending hours on Pinterest to develop your home’s vibe to searching high and low for stylish pieces that won’t break the bank, the design struggle is so, so real. But perhaps the most challenging part of decorating is figuring out your living room’s layout.

Sure, everyone wants their home to feel warm and inviting, yet there’s a lot of room for error. Should you point your furniture toward your beautiful view or your flat-screen TV? What if you have too much furniture for a teeny, tiny room? Even worse, what if your space feels cold and sterile?

Ultimately, when it comes to setting up your place, beauty lies in the eye of the beholder; however, there’s a chance you’re unknowingly ruining your room’s potential. To help make the most out of your living room or family room, interior designers share common layout mistakes people make—and how to fix them.

Mistake #1: It’s Too Symmetrical

(Image credit: Lisa Diederich)

We love an orderly home as much as the next person, but there is such a thing as too orderly. “I see very calculated symmetrical living room designs over and over again,” says interior designer Sasha Bikoff. “Everything with similar shapes and proportions.”

Solution: Don’t be afraid to shake things up! “In order to have a living room with real character, you have to mix and match and be somewhat eclectic,” she explains. Combining different styles, colors, and proportions will make your home feel welcoming and cozy.

Mistake #2: Your Furniture Matches

(Image credit: Diana Paulson)

Speaking of symmetry, interior designer Erin Gates says another faux pas is having a matching sofa and loveseat.

“It’s a tired and dated look that screams, ‘I bought this set at a discount store,'” she says.

While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with shopping at a discount store, it might be fun to switch things up.

Solution: Put your stellar eye for design to good use by mixing and matching your furniture.

“Use a pair of chairs with a sofa or a pair of matching sofas across from one another,” Gates suggests.

And if you already have a matching set, why not add different throw pillows or blankets to differentiate?

Mistake #3: Your Furniture Is the Wrong Size

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

Buying new furniture to fit each room can be expensive—especially if you move homes a lot—but it pays off. Otherwise, your space can run the risk of looking like a scene from “Alice in Wonderland.”

“When I visit a client’s home, more often than not, the living room sofa is either oversized or undersized,” says Vanessa Deleon.

Your sofa isn’t the only culprit; a disproportional rug can also throw off the entire room.

“Your rug should fill the room, and at least two legs of each piece of furniture should be on it,” Gates explains.

Solution: Before you spring for a new sofa or rug, see if you can place your current piece in another room. “Some clients don’t want to part with the piece; therefore, I suggest we find another room where it may fit,” the interior designer explains.

If that doesn’t work out, donating is always a great option.

Want to replace your pieces with affordable alternatives? Check out our favorite budget-friendly stores.

Mistake #4: Your Furniture Is Attached to the Walls

(Image credit: Diana Paulson)

Pushing all your furniture up against the walls makes your room look bigger, right? Think again.

“It actually doesn’t have the desired effect and usually leaves a room looking bizarre and oddly out of proportion,” explains Nidhi Kapur, founder, and CEO of Maiden Home.

Solution: While certain pieces of furniture like a media center or lamp need to be close to a wall, go ahead and center the rest of your furniture.

“Focus first on finding furniture that is properly proportioned for your space and then ‘float’ your sofa off the wall creating enough space for someone to walk by,” Kapur says. “This will give the room an illusion of a larger space.”

We swear the middle of a room won’t bite!

Mistake #5: It’s Not All About Your Television

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

We love to binge on Netflix as much as the next person, but that doesn’t mean your entire room needs to revolve around your television set.

“People often feel their sofa has to be squarely in front of the television in their living room,” Kapur says. “On the contrary, TVs work well when they’re positioned off-center so they won’t become the focal point of all social interactions.”

Solution: Prioritize connection and conversation by taking the attention off your television.

“Arrange your sofas and chairs to face each other, so nobody has to lean forward or scream to have a conversation,” recommends interior designer Anne Hepfer.

As for your television?

“Be creative about where you put your TV and focus your attention on maximizing your entertaining space instead,” she says. For example, you can easily mount your television or camouflage your set by placing it inside a cabinet.

Mistake #6: There’s Only One Piece of Furniture

(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

ICYMI, less is not always more.

“Just because a 10-foot sofa may ‘fit’ through the door and in the room doesn’t mean that it is the best aesthetic choice,” reminds interior designer Alison Pickart.

She has a point: Just like a big dining room table with a single chair, a room with minimal furniture will look incomplete—and a little eerie if you ask us!

Solution: Instead, Pickart assures us that more is merrier.

“A room feels best when it is composed of a number of pieces that are working together,” she says. “Creating multiple seating options around the room is key to having a space everyone feels good in.”

So how much furniture is too much furniture? You should use your discretion when furnishing your home, but here’s a general rule of thumb: If you’re tripping over your furniture to get to the other side of the room, it’s time to edit down your space.

“You definitely don’t want to use all of your square footage, nor do you want to use too little,” adds Caitlin Murray, interior designer and founder of Black Lacquer Design. “Just remember it’s all about balance!”

Mistake #7: Not Enough Light

(Image credit: Mackenzie Schieck)

It’s no secret that good lighting can make or break your space. After all, nobody wants to hang out in a dark room.

“Adding layers of lighting is crucial for the living room in order to set the mood,” explains Alessandra Wood, interior design expert, and director of style at Modsy.

Solution: While adding more lights is a no-brainer, it’s important to be strategic about where you place your lights.

“You might like extra task lighting next to your sofa for reading or want to turn off the overheads when entertaining to create more diffused lighting,” Wood explains.