If you’re looking for the most useful living room furniture ideas, you’ve hit the jack pot!
Rather than throw up fifty copy-and-paste living room inspiration images for you to sort through (we know you already have Pinterest!), here is all of the most important information about furniture for living rooms that you should know. It’s all in one place and it comes to you straight from a real designer.
Starting at the very beginning with your home? Read our popular article on getting started creating a home you will love.
We won’t actually tell you what furniture to buy for your living room.
Instead, by the end of this “crash course” article on living room design with furniture, you should know enough about furnishing a living room that you have the confidence to proceed with creating your own living room arrangement. Barring that, you can always take your renewed vision for your space to a virtual or traditional design professional.
Either way, we’re going to help you get the living room you’ve always wanted!
What follows is a break down of each of the categories and common types of living room furniture so you can assess all of your options. We want you to feel like an expert the next time you walk into a furniture showroom.
Let’s talk living rooms: The basics
Identify function and purpose
The living room is the most commonly redesigned room in the residential interior design industry, with kitchens and bathrooms a close second. The living room is the most often featured room in home and shelter magazines. They are also usually the first room that people consider decorating or redecorating.
Why is this? Why is almost every interior design picture of a living room?
A simple answer to this is that the living room is the most “lived in” room in the home and is used by the most people. Since it is the most public common space in a house, it is usually furnished to be the most comfortable and inviting.
A quick history of living rooms
The modern day living room is really an evolution of a social institution which was at its height in Victorian times: that of the ‘entertaining parlor’, or ‘conversation parlor‘. This room was usually the front-most room in a middle or high class home, and it was specifically for receiving guests.
Of course, times change, and the Victorian art of entertainment so popular in the late 1800s slowly gave way to more passive activities in the twentieth century. Families first gathered to listen to the radio later to watch television. As it became more and more common for families to own these devices, social calls became less frequent and people spent more time on the telephone.
In time, living rooms shifted their focus to ‘common areas’ for families and individuals to take leisure time in. The idea of a living room is so normal that we expect to have a small living room even if we live in a studio apartment or a tiny home. It just wouldn’t be a home without one.
And while the primary function of a living room has shifted from entertaining to relaxing, what hasn’t changed is the need for this room to be the most presentable.
The birth of interior fashion media
In Victorian times home image consciousness was so strong it spawned the first housekeeping and home decorating magazines. These frequently offered tips for living room decoration.
The modern day living room is still the room in the house that is used by the largest number of people. Because it is the most common area, it is also a reflection of all the inhabitants of the home. For many people this is an important reason to get it right.
Dual purpose: The most important function of a living room is to offer leisure room for the family and to support leisure activities. At the same time it should also be comfortable and presentable enough to have guests over to.
Common Furniture for Living Rooms
The most common furniture choice for living rooms is lounge seating like sofas, armchairs and occasional chairs, and solid units such as tables, including coffee tables and end tables. Many people also need media consoles and storage units for games and digital accessories.
Once you’ve picked out your perfect seating arrangment, some further additions could include bookshelves or floating shelves, special lighting accessories like floor or table lamps, and soft furnishings like rugs and pillows for comfort. Decor and art are usually added later.
Living Room Seating
We begin our exploration into living furniture with the most important component of all: seating. While it is possible to design a sofa-less living room, it’s also fair to say that for most people, seating is the first thing they would buy when furnishing their living room.
How much seating you choose to put in your living room and of what variety are very individual choices. Some cultures are very happy with lounging on the floor, but for westerners who tend to find it uncomfortable, skipping a couch is largely taboo.
Some important considerations for living room planning are:
-How many people will typically use the space?
Account for the entire family as well as occasional guests
-What are the ages of the users?
Children may have different requirements to the elderly
-How much wear is expected?
Does the home have any children, teenagers or pets?
-How important is comfort and flexibility?
Are the aesthetics most important to you? Do you have a penchant for wooden or cane sofas? Or do you want only the softest, deepest and most luxurious seating that you could even fall asleep on?
Do you want to be able to move the furniture around and rearrange it or otherwise modify it?
-What activities will typically take place in the space?
Watching TV and gaming might call for more comfortable, reclined seating; hobbies and conversation do better with more upright seating
-What is the climate like? How easy will it need to be to clean?
Some fabrics shrink in damp weather, others don’t do well with direct sunlight. Blended fabrics are often higher performing than pure natural fiber upholstery or cheap synthetics
Large-scale lounge seating furniture ideas
Couches, Sofas and Loveseats are the mainstays of living room furnishings. They usually “ground” the arrangement as they are the largest items. Thus, when space planning, they are usually given first consideration. The terms ‘couch’ and ‘sofa’ are interchangeable. Smaller “loveseats” may be used in pairs, as occasional seating or for small spaces.
Couch beds are used in small spaces and where extra sleeping accommodations need to be made for occasional guests.
Sectional and modular sofas are super practical and great for large families and homes where living room comfort is of prime importance. They can be configured in multiple ways. ‘L’ and ‘U’-shaped sectionals are common, with ‘U’ shaped being the larger of the two.
Comparing large-scale lounge seating
|Couches and sofas||Love seats and accent sofas||Couch and sofa beds||Sectional and modular sofas|
|Users||3-5 person sofas have a wide range of appeal for all types of users||Good for couples and single users and small children||Good for singles, young people and those living in small spaces or as an occasional guest bed||Great for big families, multi-generational living and large spaces|
|Activities||TV viewing, reading, relaxing, hobbies and gaming||TV viewing, cuddling, conversation||Regular seating and relaxing or used for sleeping||Lounging, reading, hobbies, TV viewing, gaming, conversation|
|Comfort||Usually seats one less than the name indicates, comfortably||Sometimes awkward for two if they are not well acquainted||Well-made sofa beds are just as comfortable as seating as they are as beds and come in various sizes and styles||You tend to get what you pay for. Watch out for units that don’t align well and leave gaps|
|Flexibility||Not much flexibility, except for how you arrange it in the room and with what||The least flexibility, but can be moved easily||Good flexibility in small spaces as it is dual function. Some types are heavy and difficult to move||Highly flexible and the best example of modifiable|
|Wear||Depends on frame type and upholstery. You get what you pay for||Can tend to be on the flimsier side if it is an “accent” piece||Depends on materials. You get what you pay for||High performance frames and fabrics are best|
Small-scale lounge seating furniture ideas
Armchairs come in many varieties. Some have legs, others have square frames or are cantilevered. Others still, hug the floor and appear “legless” Armchairs are designed to seat one persona comfortably for activities such as reading, conversing or watching television.
Generally the deeper armchairs are and the more they wrap around, the more support they offer. Old styles were often wing-backs, newer styles are low-profile tub chairs. Look for upholstered arms or well tapered arms for maximum comfort.
Occasional lounge seating furniture ideas
Recliners and Chaise Lounges are also known as ‘daybeds’ and they have been around since the Romans. Sofa chairs and club chairs that recline are the most comfortable options, but they lack the aesthetic appeal that the elegant ‘chaise lounges’ (long chairs) do. Not all people find chaise lounges comfortable, but they do look good.
Ottomans and cushioned stools can serve dual purpose as storage units or for serving when used together with a tray. They make great flexible seating for extra guests and occasional use.
Beanbags and Floor Cushions tend to be best for children’s rooms, casual lounging and reading spots and for homes that enjoy a “bohemian” vibe.
Legless Floor Sofas are not that common in the west, but there is a good market for them in the Far East where sitting on the floor is common. This type of sofa is seen as the next step up from sitting on the floor and is popular with families that have small children.
Living Room Tables
After chairs, our second category is living room tables. The most obvious living room table is the standard (and let’s be honest, expected) main coffee table usually placed directly in front of the main sofa in the room. It’s not the only table you’ll find in a living room, though. We can also find occasional tables like nesting tables, end tables and side tables.
Some living room tables are open designs, some are closed for storage, and yet others have open storage or glass top display cases. Tables often have a frame and can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, styles and materials. In a small living room, a living room coffee table may be replaced with an end table, a bar cart on wheels or even a drink tray!
The decision of what type of coffee table you need will depend on other factors like the size and shape of your living room sofa. Some large living room arrangements can accomodate two tables. Round tables are easier to navigate around with less change of bumping your legs on the corners. If you want variety in shapes, use a square table with rounded sofa lines and a round table with angular sofas. The bottom line? It comes down to personal preference.
You might substitute occasional tables for one big coffee table in a living room, or you might want them as extra real estate for setting down cups, reading or working on a hobby, or even for sitting on! The smaller your living room the more you will want furniture that does double duty. Drum style stools and even ottomans or sturdy pedestal style occasional tables can fit the bill. Make sure to keep safety in mind and check the manufacturers recommendations for weight allowance.
Media Consoles and Storage Units
If you’re the type of person that wants to arrange their living room’s focus toward the television, a media console is probably going to be your centerpiece. The size you choose will depend on the wall available, and around which you will orient your living room seating. It should also make sense as part of a grouping with your seating in terms of style and color. Finally, how much storage do you need in your living room? If you don’t need much, consider a streamlined modern unit which is wall mounted with some open shelving.
Of course, the television doesn’t have to be your living room’s center point. Many people even prefer to keep it hidden while not viewing. What are your other options? You can orient your living room seating around a fireplace, or toward an incredible view. Another idea is to make it centered around conversation, family board games or hobbies. If all else fails, put up a large piece of art or sculpture. Always a worthy centerpiece!
If you’re an avid gamer without a dedicated gaming space, you’ll probably have your gaming set up in your living room. Try to work your living room arrangement so that you can get all your gaming gear out of the way when you have company over. This is the way to make a great impression on your guest.
Living Room Lighting
Ceiling Mounted Lighting
After seating, tables and storage, our next category is lighting. When it comes to lighting for your living room, you’re most likely going to want one statement piece which is centered over your coffee table and living room seating arrangement. Knowing what style your furniture is will help when it comes time to choose your ceiling lamps. It’s also possible to use this as your starting point.
Statement lighting comes in several varieties, usually chandeliers, which are larger and more elaborate with multiple lamps on them, or pendants, which are not usually as large, and tend to be hung lower.
If you aren’t looking to make a big statement, you can always go with ceiling flush mounted lighting or even recessed lighting options. Try to go for LED lamps when possible. They are more energy efficient and also offer better quality light. Consider having your lighting on dimmer switches so you can adjust them as the mood suits.
Wall Mounted Lights and Floor Lamps
Besides your ceiling mounted lights, you might want to have some extra, occasional lighting for reading, working, or just when you want to dim everything down. Both wall mounted sconces as well as floor lamps are good for this, alhtough wall mounted lighting has the added advantage of not taking up extra space.
Here, again, you can choose to make a statement or simply to let the light speak. It’s important that all of the room’s furnishing and fittings work together in harmony, so if you have other strong pieces, keep your lighting simple. On the other hand, if you are a maximalist, or if you want to go with a special lighting choice, go ahead and choose a show stopper.
Although not pictured here, you also have the option of using table lamps on any of your occasional tables. Be sure to keep messy cords tamed for a streamlined look.
There are many options when it comes to soft furnishings for your living room. If you don’t already have carpeting, having a nice large rug to ground your living room seating arrangement is always a good idea, but things get tricky when you are working with small rugs. Try to get the largest rug you can so that all of your furniture can stand on it, or at the very least the front legs can.
Small rugs are good for layering or for smaller seating areas which need extra padding on the floor. Some people actually like to sit on the floor, so for them, floor cusions are a nice extra. Throw pillows are a very common addition to living room seating, and if they don’t already come with your sofa, you can get extra cushions for decoration and for comfort. If you live in a place where it gets cold you can add some throw blankets for cuddling up on the sofa.
Decor and Art
No list of living room furniture ideas would be complete without the finishing touches: art and decor. After the big pieces are out of the way, it’s time to give your space an injection of your sparkling personality! This is where you can let your individuality shine.
Art work can be mounted or framed, classic or pop art. You can put up your favorite photography or prints. You can even hang tapestries and weaving! Don’t forget that digital art can be displayed in a variety of ways too. Whatever you choose to put up on your walls, something original and meaningful to you is always going to beat some cheap, dollar store alternative. Living rooms were once the place to be formal with art and decor choices, but that is changing. Don’t worry about making it one hundred percent yours. It’s your home and your space. Do what makes you happy and show off your unique taste.
Decor looks best when arranged in smaller groupings and you can tidy the arrangements by grounding them with attractive trays. Mirrors are a good choice for walls; just remember that whatever it reflects must be something you want to see twice. Best to have it reflect a beautiful view or a window to bring in more light into your space. If a large mirrow is too much, consider several smaller ones.
Plants makes any room look better, as we always say here on Design Baddie. Choose plants that are local and that go with your aesthetic, if possible.
We didn’t include wallcoverings, paint colors or window treatments in our discussion of basic living room furniture. For that, we will do another article in the near future on the room “shell”. Come to think of it, each of the furniture categories can be explored in further detail, and we will be doing that in upcoming issues.
We can’t wait to share which furniture works with which of our five style genres, for example, or what your art and decor choices can say about your personality. All good things to look forward to in upcoming issues!
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