As have so many times, families have spent months, maybe years, arranging their lives around an often-published, much-hyped “here’s what you need to do” living room arrangement guide for no apparent reason. They came, they saw, they sifted through pages of photos and felt inspired. Now, they’re sitting down to plan their own living room rearrangements. They’ve done it once, seen it done a thousand times before. But with a little help, they might be able to do it with less stress and frustration.

So, first, let’s look at why people get living rooms rearranged. The answer, surprisingly, is that most people arrange living rooms so that “their stuff goes here,” that is, their things tend to crowd the foreground. In other words, your sofa is usually in the center of the room and whatever you mostly use in your home is either sitting on top of your sofa or, more likely, lying on top of your sofa. The result: you spend all day in front of the TV, and the only real activities you’ve had in the past hours are sipping coffee.

This is not a very satisfactory arrangement. After all, who wants to live like this? Not many people do. But it’s the way most people arrange their living rooms, because there’s just too much stuff going on in the space, and they can’t remember it all. If you’ve got a few big pieces of furniture, like a sofa and a few chairs, you might find yourself making do with whatever you can get your hands on.

Another reason people make the mistake of arranging their living rooms this way is because they try to keep the walls as clear as possible. In other words, they arrange their furniture away from the walls and hope to open up the space. The problem is that this tactic rarely works. It forces people to cramp up the walls – and this makes the space uncomfortable.

You don’t have to arrange furniture so that it faces the walls. Instead, you need to create activity centers where people can gather. You can arrange furniture so that each piece gets attention as it stands next to its neighbor – this is called “traffic flow.” You can also arrange furniture so that each “poster” is a clear representation of a different activity. For instance, the focal point of a conversation area could be a coffee table, surrounded by end tables, side tables, chairs, a lamp, a vase or a plant.

If you use your living room as a gathering place for your family, you will need to make sure it flows well. Don’t place an end table in front of a sofa, or in front of a fireplace. You want people to move freely around the room, and you also want them to be able to chat without stepping on the felt. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to choose your furniture pieces carefully. A good interior design firm can help you do just that!

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