5 Tips for Planning for the Right Furniture for Your Living Room

Source:  Studio McGee

Source: Studio McGee


Hi guys! Feels great to be back! Took partial summer off and it was fantastic to focus on family and other projects. With that said, I did miss writing! Back and ready to share more of my design tips and inspiration.


Now that summer is coming to an end we have switched gears to “back to school” mode and yes, for some, already thinking of the holidays, getting the house ready for guests and/or to host the festivities. This was high season when I would get most of my calls to help redesign spaces in time for Thanksgiving (USA). The kitchen is the heart of the home and the living room is the lounge, so today I am here to give you 5 major tips for planning the right furniture for these spaces.

These are not your ordinary tips, I am giving you my professional knowledge. At the end, your head may be spinning! I would not ever recommend going into a project without the help of a professional interior designer because they save money rather than waste it on costly mistakes. With that said these tips are for the ones who want to move some furniture around and need to bring in a few pieces, and/or the efficient DIYer - you know if you just need a road map.

1.   Questionnaire

First and foremost, ask yourself these questions: 


  1. How many people do you need to seat at all times?

  2. Do you entertain a lot?  

  3. How many children do you have?

  4. Storage needs?

  5. Is the living room where you will have family movie night as well?

  6. If so, what other activities will be conducted in this room?


As the very first step in the design process, these are just a few of the questions we, as designers, ask in a questionnaire. This is to understand how the space is lived in, so we can turn around and recommend how much furniture will suffice for your family needs in addition to the full scope of the project. 


Example: Bob and Mary have 2 kids living at home and use their living room for games and family movie nights, in addition they like to have about 4-6 friends over on the weekend for dinner parties, and host once a year for the holidays for 10+ plus family members

 . Yes, this was my life in the USA…sigh. Ok moving on. So depending on the size of the space, of course, I would recommend a sectional that can seat 5 people comfortably, so they can lounge for family movie night and still feel relaxed when friends come over plus you can always squeeze in that 6th person if need be, 1-2 accent chairs and two ottomans off to the side that can be pulled in for additional guest, and maybe a bench if possible. My advice is to always make furniture dual purpose.




Second part is measuring out your space(s) you want to redesign. This is the most important part of designing because this shows us what size of furniture pieces we can fit in this one space. Without this, you sacrifice scale and could end up buying a furniture piece that is too large or too small. Measure out the length and height of the walls in the windows and doors, so you know how much wall space you have. Also, the door whether it swings inward or outward, you don’t want to buy a sofa and the door bumps into it. Also get the ceiling and window height. See below for an example of this.





Now we are ready to space plan for our furniture. This process is where we look at how the space will be used. In addition to the living room seating, do we need a reading nook, game table and/or a desk. If so, we break these up in zones.  We always start with key pieces, such as the sofa and tv stand. Typically, we like to create a seating arrangement which creates a conversational grouping and is functional in every setting. When laying out furniture you are creating the circulation pattern within the room (see below). Done right and you get a nice and easy flow between furniture pieces, which results in no issues with clearance and walkways between furniture. For instance, if not done properly, you might not have enough space to pull out a chair. Also, things to consider when creating your furniture layout is the main focal points in the room: such as a fireplace, built-ins or windows. Before shopping, If possible, do a cutout version of your room with your scaled cutout furniture pieces to play around with it. You want about 12”-18” between a grouping of furniture for the conversational area and a min of 36” for a walkway between a dining table and sofa if you have an open space.


4.   STYLE

If you know your style, great! This is where you will start to plan for a furniture style that speaks to your soul. It could be retro modern, transitional or Contemporary. Whatever your style is, make the key pieces an investment and show piece. From the beautiful curves in the arm, material finishes or the straight back that creates a sleek aesthetics. If you are unsure of you style, rest assured that finding it is possible, however it’s just more in-depth to cover on this post. In the meantime, there are many online style quizzes that say they can help you find your style. I will be covering this in a future post, if time is on your side. A few questions I will be asking is, are you drawn to bright and bold colors or clean and neutrals? Do you feel less is more or more is more when it comes to decorating? These all can branch off and become more and more developed, because typically people are in between and not all traditional nor contemporary, plus new styles are coming in such as, Scandinavian style and this branches off to modern, boho, mix ect. Below are a few designs that are straight forward, see if any resonates with you.










5.   SCALE

Source:  Darby Road Home

One of the biggest mistakes I have seen happen without the help of an interior designer was oversized furniture pieces purchased at the local furniture store, because proportion and scale was not considered. Scale refers to visual size because when you start to redesign a room, every item from accessories to entertainment unit comes in different sizes and shapes, you do not want two large bulky lounge chairs next to a small sofa in a large room. Instead you would have 2 mid-size lounge chairs across from a mid-size sofa – the height of the furniture will depend on the height of the room. Indeed, higher ceilings allow for tall pieces of furniture, lower height ceilings calls for a lower height furniture pieces, in order to give the illusion of taller ceilings.  

For those simply needing to change out one piece of furniture, in the USA, most of the mid-price furniture shops has onsite designers, in most cases, they will even go to your home to do an in-home visit. Problem with this is they want and will try to sell you everything from their box store, whereas an interior designer is not married to any one store and comes up with creative ways to design your room for function and comfortability. So how do we check scale, you ask? Well, there are many variables, however, start by measuring your space BEFORE buying the furniture. At least for the purpose of purchasing just one item, you can go to your local furniture store and be straight forward and say "I need only a sofa, my existing accent chairs are these measurements and here is the measurement of my room – what size sofa can I fit in there?" This is not a for sure thing, however you can definitely try. 


Thanks for reading and comment below if you have any questions.