Design Matters

Arranging your furniture to reflect your lifestyle

by Val Nehez
Posted 1/11/24

Many of our clients are doctors, who tend to arrange their living rooms like waiting rooms. We are not on board with that aesthetic.

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Design Matters

Arranging your furniture to reflect your lifestyle


Many of our clients are doctors. I notice that often they tend to arrange their living rooms like waiting rooms. They push shallow seating up against the perimeter of the room – leaving no air between the wall and the chair. 

We are not on board with the ‘waiting room’ aesthetic. We aim to create welcoming, inviting spaces that beckon conversation, reading, and doing puzzles. 

The trick to doing this is to look to create spaces that offer a break from the noise of modern life. Think of the kinds of comfort you want for your everyday lifestyle, not what the occasional snooty guest may think about it. 

It also depends on what you’re working with. Large rooms can be more challenging than small rooms. Small rooms are much easier to make intimate and cozy. Large rooms often need to be divided into zones, ostensibly creating smaller rooms within a larger room. 

Make a plan 

Always start here. There are many space planning computer programs. We like Sketch Up, which offers free trials. It is also very workable to just use graph paper.

I like to use four squares to represent a square foot. Don't be afraid to tape pages together. And rather than drawing furniture on your paper mock-up, measure your furniture to scale and cut it out from another piece of paper, so you can actually “move” the paper furniture around the room as you experiment with your layout. 

Function and focal point

Next, consider how you will be using the room – and what its existing focal points may be. 

Often, that’s a fireplace., Or a television. Sometimes it’s a beautiful bay window – especially if you’re lucky enough to have a great view. 

Will you be in this room mostly at night? Or is it off the kitchen, and will be used at all times? Face-to-face seating welcomes conversation, while focal seating faces the focal point - such as a fireplace or television. 


One of the most common mistakes people make when planning their furniture layout is thinking about how people will be moving through the rooms. Where are the doorways and cased openings? What are the paths they’ll need to take to get from point A to point B?

The more doorways there are in a room, the more challenging the layout, because there are more pathways where people need to walk.

If the room needs more ‘balance,’ sometimes removing a doorway or adding a window can make all the difference. 

Scale and Strategy 

It may seem counterintuitive, but in a small space, one big piece of furniture can be unexpectedly interesting. A very large painting or an oversized chair, for instance.  

Your choice of sofa will also have a big impact. If you go with one large sectional couch, it works better for family cuddle puddles than it does for entertaining. An armless couch can help create a feeling of connection with the rest of the seating in the room. 

If you’ve got a particularly beautiful rug, a glass or acrylic coffee table can show it off, and help the room feel more spacious. And when it comes to rugs, we say bigger is pretty much always better. Undersized rugs can make a room feel naked, or puny. And you never want to see the edge of a rug in the middle of a path of traffic. 

As for coffee tables, of course, young families always need to worry about sharp corners. 


The biggest mistake that is often made in a living room is having a semi-flush ceiling light or ceiling fan with a light. These are massive bummers and will completely drive the charm out of the room. 

Too many large can recessed lights are also ‘no bueno.’ If have have this condition, and removing them is too expensive, just leave them turned off.  If you are renovating, use recessed pin spotlights to light art. 

Do not rely on ceiling lights to light the room. For the living room, lamps are always the best choice.