Planning the right furniture layout for my living room (it’s taken years!)

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Have you ever had a room where you just don’t know how to lay out the furniture? One with an unusual L-shape, or alcoves, or windows on two or more walls? In most rooms you can just ‘feel’ where the furniture should go – a sofa across from a fireplace with armchairs beside it just seems right. And, in many modern homes, you can see exactly where the bed should go, because there are two plug sockets either side where your bedside lamps would plug in!

But what if your room isn’t quote so ease to configure? What if you don’t have those handy electrical-socket clues about where to position the bed, wardrobe, sideboard or sofa? That’s exactly what my 1950s home is like and it’s taken me a while to rejig the furniture until I am now finally happy with every room. I’ve done my research, read furniture reviews and I even wrote a blog post about incorporating mid-century design into your modern home. I’ve tried out multiple options before making a final decision on many of the pieces of furniture and space in my home. Here’s what I discovered…

It’s easy to get it wrong!

Although, is a room layout ever really wrong if you’re happy with it? What I’m talking about in this instance is creating spaces that flow ‘wrong’ – where you have to walk right through the middle of an otherwise perfect living room layout (obscuring the TV!) to get into the kitchen, or where you have to climb over the other person to get out of the bed, or where the daylight from the window reflects off your computer screen, making your desk impossible to work at.

To be honest, I’ve been tinkering around with the layout in my living room ever since we moved in, and have tried different shapes and styles of sofas in many different positions. I’m not saying that I splashed out on new sofas every time – quite the opposite. I’ve been lugging around my squishy, too-big-for-the-space leather couch and I bought a Β£50 L-shaped pull-out sofa bed from Gumtree.

I thought it would be easy to decide on what sofa arrangement to use in my living room and for a couple of days, I remember drafting so many plans, based on budget, preferred style, aesthetics, and room measurements to get an idea of what could be achieved. Unfortunately, in reality, I had to physically move all my furniture around (and completely change out some pieces) until I was happy with the configuration of storage and sofas.

And that’s taken me more than two and a half years!

So that just goes to show that you shouldn’t make any costly purchases of new sofas or sideboards without living in the space first. Sure, the measurements can be right ‘on paper’ but spacing is one major factor that is bound to affect the combination of pieces that can fit within your living room. So, before picking out a new corner sofa or chesterfield, or contemporary storage piece, you must be sure that your living room space can take it! Often contemporary designs and IKEA flat-packs just don’t fit into some older homes.

We’ve tried the L-shaped sofa in four positions – adjacent to the window, back to the wall, with the chaise end pointing toward the window and on the opposite side of the room. Each time, we lived with it like that for a few months before shifting it again. It didn’t help that we were also trying to fit in our huge 4+ seater leather sofa too!

So it turned out that the shape of my 1950s living room just wan’t intended for an L-shaped sofa. Which is unsurprising really because there weren’t many L-shaped designs around when my house was built! So we’ve finally moved on the L-shaped pull-out sofa bed and have downsized to matching pair of three-seater mid-century sofas. The kind that would have been on the market at the time our house was built.

And, what do you know? They fit! Plus, I’ve learnt that it’s not just about aesthetics; I’ve sat on dozens of showroom sofas and thought to myself ‘this is the one’ when actually the fabric wasn’t right (for our cats!) or the size would have meant that no other seating could fit in the room. With the wooden frame Ercol sofas we’ve bought, there’s plenty of room around each sofa and the proportions of the long, narrow room are just right for this pair of sofas.

It does mean that sometimes my husband and I don’t sit together in the living room but, hey, we have a sofa each! We can both lounge around unencumbered and, when we want to sit together, we pull up a footstool and sit side-by-side on the sofa with our feet up in front of us. It just works, so I finally know that the layout I have in my living room is the right one for the house, and not just for us.

I’ll share some photos of the ‘finished’ living room soon but in the meantime let me know if you have any tips for arranging larger pieces or furniture in your home or whether you’ve been able to introduce sofas and beds of modern proportions into your period home. Leave a comment below to let me know how you got on πŸ™‚



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Cassie is a freelance writer with a Masters degree in lifestyle promotion studies. She loves to 'get the look for less' so regularly shares thrifty fashion posts, DIY interior design ideas and low-cost recipes on her blog.

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