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When it comes to designing a living room, we often think the first step is landing on a color palette or selecting your decor (probably because they're the most exciting parts of the process). But the secret ingredient to a well-designed, functional space that actually brings the aforementioned puzzle pieces to their full potential is arranging everything into the best layout possible. Of course, living room layout options are endless and can vary greatly depending on the bones of your space, but there are a few general tips and tricks that designers tend to keep in mind no matter what they're working with. Keep reading for preservation specialist and designer Caitlin Laskey's living room layout tips and use the accompanying templates to guide your own setup, give or take a few adjustments.

The Fireplace Focus

credit by Caitlin Laskey

If you're designing a more formal, television-free living room, this layout is for you. "The focus in the fireplace and a space for conversation," Laskey explains. While it doesn't necessarily have to be a fireplace that anchors the room, it helps to have something—a large window with a nice view, for example—serve as a centerline "from which to symmetrically place furniture around." The general goal is to create a visual and functional flow for conversation with symmetry, but the actual furniture you use to do so is more open ended. "You could swap out the two arm chairs for another sofa," she says, though great chairs are always a wise investment because they provide a little more flexibility and versatility. You could also flip the sitting area so your sofa or chairs are facing the fireplace, but, this way, no one has their back to it. Also with symmetry top of mind, Laskey suggests flanking that focal point with something like bookcases or pedestals that will further accentuate the fireplace while providing some display and storage space. Lastly, a credenza is always a good call in a living room—either beside the stairs or behind a floating sofa—as a landing place for any items that need to be stored away.

The Open Floor

credit by Caitlin Laskey

And now for the open concept living room, also known as a great room... This is the template for you if your kitchen also shares a space with your dining room and your living room. Though these can be ideal for family gatherings, they can also pose some tricky layout questions, like where to place the television and how to create flow but also distinguish each zone. Laskey explains that "putting the TV over the fireplace can just be too high" sometimes, so in this case, you can install it a bit off-center. "Despite the sectional not facing it directly, it works really well for watching TV and for enjoying a fire," she says.

In these open floor plans, it's also always a good idea to strategically place extra seating throughout, since it's one of the main hangout spots. And a great way to achieve that "activity zone" sensibility is by adding a console table behind the sectional for additional table lamps while also signaling the end of space and the beginning of another (say, an adjacent dining room, breakfast nook, or kitchen). Unlike the template above, this living room setup doesn't emphasize symmetry but it still creates a sense of balance thanks to the sizing of the seating opposite the large sectional.

The Two-In-One

credit by Caitlin Laskey

When your family room is also your living room, you'll have to make it feel formal enough for guests but comfy enough for casual lounging. For example, "this living room is formally defined by pocket doors, separating it from other rooms in the house much the way a formal sitting room would be, but there was no other room in the house to place the TV, so it doubles as a family room," Laskey tells us. "Because of its formal separation, however, it was important to the family to keep the pocket doors open and have a sense of flow, therefore keeping open traffic paths was crucial," she tells us. Not to mention, the unconventional shape. "The long length of the living room is a little awkward when it came to trying to create a cozy feeling, so I made two 'zones'; one focused on the fireplace, and one on a custom corner TV cabinet. Again, I established somewhat of a centerline between the two windows for the sectional, balanced by the fireplace on one side, and the cabinet on the other—but note, these elements aren’t the same size in each corner and that’s ok. The two chairs at the fireplace area are swivel chairs so they can be easily turned if the occupant wants to see the television. I used a large rug to anchor the two zones together. Large rugs like this used to be hard to find, or had to be custom ordered, but these days, it’s easier and easier to find them online. As with the other plans, I like to place plants in corners as they add a nice pop of color in spaces that are otherwise not easy to use sometimes."

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