6 easy rules to create the perfect living room design! From mastering furniture arrangement to styling the coffee table, these rules will help you create a space that feels right and looks great!

For a person who claims not to have a lot of rules, I sure have a lot of rules when it comes to decorating!

But I can’t stress this enough. Rules are really just guidelines that are there to help create a balanced feel to a space. For example, a too small or too large coffee table can make a space feel “off”. And you might not know what’s wrong until you read about Coffee Table Dimensions and then realize that there are size rules! Who knew?!

But of course rules can be broken…

linen french wingback chair next to antique wine tasting table in spring living room

Living Room Design Rules

When designing your space, you want it to be functional, look great, and feel right. While decorating IS a personal process, there are some basic guidelines that will help you achieve a space you love.

I’ve written about each of these rules before, but I thought it might be nice to pull all of the living room-specific ones together for you in one area. I’ll provide additional links in case you want to read more about any of these rules.

This article will cover:

1. Create a Conversation Area

“Helloooooo over there!!!!”

Have you ever sat down in someone’s home only to feel like you’re having to shout at them across the room? Or worse yet, you’re sitting so close that your knees almost touch!

Furniture should be arranged to create conversational groupings. This means you should NEVER put all of the furniture lined up against the walls. While you might think that leaving as much space as possible in the center of the room will make the space look bigger, it actually makes the room look smaller!

Here are some general spacing guidelines for a living room:

  • Amount of space for a walkway: 26″-36″
  • Distance between chairs: 4″-12″ or the distance of an accent table
  • Distance between furniture and coffee table: 14″-18″ (within arm’s reach)

2. Choose the Right Rug Size

When creating a conversational area, the size of the rug fits your furnishings. If you have wall-to-wall carpeting, then this isn’t really an issue. Unless of course, you decided to layer a rug on carpet.

Why is the size important? Well, a rug that is too big for the space looks a bit like it’s eating the furniture. And a rug that’s too small feels awkward and doesn’t actually do its job of defining a space.

  • Either all legs should fit on the rug, or at least the front two
  • Your rug should be at least 6″ larger than your sofa on all sides
  • If you’re covering the entire room with one area rug, leave at least 12″-18″ clear all around to the wall.  In smaller rooms, 7″-12″ will work. If your rug comes too close to your walls, it will look like carpet (that has shrunk!) instead of a rug.

3. Style Your Coffee Table

french coffee table styled with antique dough bowl full of old books with two brass candlesticks in background

Well, technically you first have to pick the right size coffee table, but after that, it’s important to style it!

When seated in a living space, the coffee table becomes a focal point and there’s nothing like a beautiful vignette to help set the tone of the room. I’m not gonna lie…an empty coffee table hurts my decorating soul just a little bit!

No matter which of my 6 design approaches you take to styling your coffee table, make sure that your decor represents things you love, fits the style of your home, and coordinates with your color scheme. And don’t forget, a coffee table is a great place to introduce texture!

4. Add a Throw

blue and white herringbone throw with white fringe folded over the arm of slipcovered sofa in living room

Okay, this might seem a little random but stick with me here!

Throws are a great visual representation of cozy, but of course, they’re actually practical when you wrap yourself up in them. But beyond that, throws also help introduce other decorating details, like accents colors, and textures. And depending on how you style them, they can also break up the structure of the room with a more organic flow!

So, not only is the throw you choose an important decision but so is how you style it!

Be sure to keep the seasons in mind! A heavy chunky-knit throw might feel a bit out of place in the middle of summer. It’s okay to rotate your throw blankets with the seasons!

5. Vary Your Lighting

Overhead lighting does a good job lighting providing overall light, but it should never be the sole source of light in a room. Overhead lighting is often unflattering and not even throughout the room, leaving some corners and focal points in the dark.

In addition to overhead lighting, add floor lamps, table lamps, and even sconces if possible. Multiple light sources not only help create an evenly lit room, but make a space feel warm and inviting. Additionally, they help to add a layer of depth to the space that overhead lighting alone just can’t achieve.

6. Include a Plant

neutral living room with wooden top coffee table with old books on top and a vase with olive branches next to santos doll with french wingback chair in background

In my opinion, a living room design without a plant just isn’t finished! I believe every room needs a “live” something, whether a plant or flowers. Now why is “live” in quotes? Well, because not everyone has a green thumb. And not every room has the light that plants need, especially if filling empty corners with a plant.

Whether you use a live plant or a fake one, doesn’t matter. What matters is that somewhere in the room, you include one.

Tall plants are great for filling empty corners or visually lengthening a piece of furniture. Smaller plants are great for coffee tables, mantels and console tables.

More Decorating Rules

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