Living room layouts & measurements can be a daunting design decision and it is one of the most common questions we get asked by our clients. They are often curious about selecting the right pieces of furniture, choosing the ideal placement of furniture, the size options for area rugs, etc.

The living room is the most ‘lived in’ room in the house, and the one that generally has the greatest impact on the appreciation of the entire home.

When it comes to designing the perfect living room the first step is planning, which starts by asking yourself certain key questions – primarily what you plan on using the room for.

A living room can serve many different purposes depending on how you want to spend your time. Will it be used for entertaining guests?  If so, how many?  Is the primary purpose to binge shows on Netflix?  Or is it meant for playing board games? 

You need to understand and prioritize those purposes in order to create the right mix of furniture and flow. 

Although I understand that – sometimes – “rules” are made to be broken, it is important to understand those rules before you decide which to break (and why to break it).

Sofa Placement

GUIDELINE: There should be at least 3–5” of space between your furniture and the walls.

Furniture should be placed in a way that allows for easy traffic flow. This means that if possible, you sofa should never be flush to a wall. Instead, you should create an open space in the middle of the room.

While this can be tough when you have a small space and it may sound contrary, it does help the room feel less crammed together if you can spare a few inches to get your sofa off of the wall.

Setting the Right Seating Distance

GUIDELINE: They should be at least 30” apart.

Sofas, chairs, and other sitting areas should be placed so that the people in them are no less than 2 1/2 feet apart from each other.  This doesn’t mean that the furniture needs to be 3 feet apart, as larger (or oversized) sofas & chairs with large armrests provide a certain amount of buffer room space through their size alone. 

Anything closer than 2 feet could lead to a sense of claustrophobic design.

Coffee Table Sizes & Placement


  • Your coffee table should be at least half the length of your sofa.
  • 14″ to 18” is the ideal distance between the sofa and coffee table.
  • Your coffee table should be no more than 4″ higher or shorter than the top of your sofa seat cushions.

Picking the right sized coffee table for your living room has to do with both form and function.

Going back, again, to the first part of this blog… it’s important to understand what the coffee table will be used for when helping to pick the size. 

If it will truly just be used to hold a cup, or two, of coffee… you can keep the table on the smaller scale.  If you intend on gathering around it to play board games or want to be able to layout large spreads of appetizers, you’ll need a larger surface space.

When it comes to placement, the general rule of thumb is that you want it to be close enough to reach for what’s sitting on the table (coffee, a book, a snack, or the remote control), but far enough away to offer plenty of leg room and avoid banging your shins on the coffee table every time you stand up from the couch.  

This rule still applies when planning a large living room furniture arrangement, because if a piece of furniture is too far away, it might look like it's floating in the room without purpose.

Side/End Table Sizes & Placement


  • Side/End tables should be around 6 –12” away from the side of the chair or sofa, but can be closer if space is restricted.
  • A side/end table should be no taller than the height of the sofa or chair arms and no lower than the height of the seat.

An end table or side table can be a very handy feature in a living room. Not only do they provide space for additional decor accents, lamps, etc. but they also serve as additional surface space in the room. 

For ease of placement (and removal) of things from the end table, or to be able to reach the light switches on the lamps, experts recommend that a side table height should be around 3” shorter than the arm of the chair or sofa. For sofas & chairs without arms, aim for a side table that is no more than 8” above the seat height.

Unlike coffee tables, which require one to lean forward to reach the items on them, side tables need to be closer to the chair so that things can be reached without reaching.  Aim for no more than 12” between where your arm comfortably rests on the chair or sofa to the edge of the side or end table.

Area Rug Sizes & Placement

GUIDELINE: Area rugs should sit between 12-18” way from the wall in standard living rooms, up to 24” in large living rooms.

Area rugs is one area where rules change constantly and can be broken easily. 

Area rugs should never be less than 6” away from the wall. If you’re going less than 6” away from the wall, you might as well lay wall-to-wall carpeting instead.

There are 3 common layout and size options when it comes to living room area rugs.

All Legs on the Rug

Using a large enough rug so that all the living room furniture rests within its borders is the best choice for anchoring a seating area within a large living room or open-concept space. Basically, any time the furniture setting would sit away from an anchor wall. 

By placing all furniture on the rug, you instantly create a defined seating area. However, the area rug should not be so large that there’s more than 2 feet of empty rug beyond the furniture.

Just the Front Legs on the Rug

Your area rug should be large enough for at least the front legs of the sofa and all chairs to rest on top of it.

Most living rooms need at least an 8 ×10 with most needing larger. Don’t try and ‘stretch’ a small rug into the room and then have all the furniture floating around it.

This area rug placement option works well when at least one part of the furniture grouping rests against an anchor wall.  

To achieve this look, the area rug should be sized to allow for front-legs of each piece of furniture around the perimeter to rest on the rug. Normally, you want anywhere from 6” – 12” of the rug to slip under the furniture, anything more than that is a waste of the rug & money.

Just the Coffee Table on the Rug

The smallest of the options, this layout is perfect for making smaller living room spaces feel bigger by playing with scale. 

To get the right size, measure the interior dimensions of your seating area and aim for a rug that fills the negative space, allowing for 4 – 6” of floor to show between the outer furniture edges and the area rug itself.