Proper furniture arrangement is crucial to a well-designed and functional living room. Rectangular rooms can present a challenge when you're trying to determine how to fill a large space or how to place furniture in a long, narrow room. Use a scaled floor plan to explore different arrangement options for existing furniture or to determine how much floor space is available for the furnishings you plan to purchase.
Make a Floor Plan
To make a scaled floor plan for a rectangular room, measure the width of a short wall and a long wall. Measure the width of doorways, windows and any other architectural features such as a fireplace. To mark their exact location on each wall, start in a corner and measure the distance to the edge of each feature. Then measure the width and depth of each furniture piece if the room is already furnished. Record all of your measurements, taking care to label each. On 1/4-inch graph paper, draw the outline of the room, and make each square equal 1 square foot of space. Use another sheet to draw scaled furniture shapes and cut them out, or make photocopies of the room outline and draw in different arrangement ideas.
Determine Traffic Flow
The easiest way to determine traffic flow in a rectangular living room is to stand in a doorway and walk from one entryway to another. If the room is already furnished, make note of any obstacles you had to walk around. Use dotted lines or lines with arrows to sketch traffic flow patterns on your floor plan. Indicate which way doors open by drawing a small arc between a line representing the open door and the wall, which should form a 90-degree angle.
Determine the Focal Point
Depending on the size of the room, rectangular living rooms often have more than one focal point. Architectural features such as a fireplace, art nook or large picture window are built-in focal points. An entertainment center, wall-mounted television, sculpture, large piece of wall art or piano could serve as a second focal point. Divide the space in a long, rectangular living room by arranging seating furniture around each focal point, creating at least two separate conversation areas.
A room can feel cluttered if you don't provide adequate space for major walkways or leave space to maneuver between furniture pieces. Major walkways, which should follow the path of the traffic flow lines on your floor plan, require a minimum of 3 feet. A walkway between two pieces of furniture should measure at least 2.6 feet. Leave 18 inches between the coffee table and sofa or 12 inches between the coffee table and an armchair.
Some rectangular living rooms are very long and narrow, creating the feel of a tunnel or bowling alley. To help remedy this effect, create a conversation area at one end of the room. Place a small end table between two chairs facing each other or angled, facing out if there is a window. Place a loveseat against the short wall to help stop the eye. If a TV or fireplace exists on a long wall, arrange seating furniture to accommodate a walkway on one side of the room. Face-to-face sofas or chairs placed directly in front of the fireplace but perpendicular to the wall leave space for a walkway against the opposite wall. Sofas and chairs placed against the opposite wall leave room for a walkway between the coffee table and wall-mounted TV.
Large rectangular living rooms provide a multitude of furniture arrangement options. To help fill the space and create a balanced look, float furniture in the middle of the room. Place two sofas back-to-back, separated by a sofa table in between. Place a coffee table in front of each sofa followed by one or two chairs, creating two conversation areas. Alternatively, create a U-shaped conversation area in front of a fireplace or TV on a long wall, leaving a walkway behind the sofa. Place a desk and large bookcase along one short wall and two small chairs and an end table on the opposite short wall. A floating sectional sofa can also be placed on the diagonal in a wide rectangular living room, breaking up the long lines of the room.
Michelle Radcliff owned a retail home furnishings business for eight years. Radcliff offers decorating advice on her blog, Home Decorating News, is a regular contributor on interior design at LoveToKnow.com and earned certification as an interior decorator from Penn Foster College in 2013.