Choosing Living Room Furniture

Consider fabric, function and style when selecting furniture for your remodel.

CI-Ann-Lowengart-green-blue-pillows-living-room_s4x3 Photo courtesy of Ann Lowengart

We've all seen cold rooms with furnishings lined inelegantly against the wall. Yes, the floor space is preserved wide and open. Yet the room doesn't appear larger or more inviting. It isn't conducive to conversation or drawing closer for a chat. The best rooms are not static boxes. They include furnishings that can be pulled up, dragged over or gathered around.

Designer Ann Lowengart says moveable seating is key. "We love swivel chairs that can face a sofa, the television or the outdoors," she says. "Other favorites are stools and benches that can be moved around to create extra seating or facilitate intimate conversations. Moveable pieces give a space versatility — that's why we love them so much."

Every living room has a focal point. It's the spot that begs attention when we first enter the room. Designers Alison Vanderpool and Ariana Villalta of The Elegant Abode suggest starting there. "Make sure you always start with a main focal point and begin placing furniture from there," says Vanderpool. "Don't be afraid to have your furniture placed in the middle of the room. A decent-sized area rug will ground it and create a more comfortable feeling."

Vanderpool and Villalta begin with upholstered pieces, first and foremost, to delineate a pleasing seating arrangement. They like to use either two matching sofas facing one another or a sofa with two armchairs to encourage interaction and engagement with others in the room. To ensure there's always room for more, "ottomans can also be a great addition to seating and can easily be moved around," says Vanderpool.

Ways to Design Behind the Sofa

Ottomans, coffee tables, occasional tables and other portable surfaces lend the room a congenial atmosphere, ensuring that there's always a surface nearby for a book, drink, lamp, tray or vase. These are the pieces that catch all of our stuff — the worthwhile things that engage us and encourage us outside the rush of day-to-day commitments.

"Focus on the living part," advises designer Andrea Brooks. "Make these rooms livable, with comfortable, deep upholstery pieces and snuggly but durable fabrics. I love using chairs that swivel when you have multiple seating areas. And I love my overscaled ottoman — it's moveable, inviting to sit upon and you can put your feet up when you want to."

So play around with the placement of your furnishings. Pull up a chair, put up your feet and find an arrangement that encourages living in your living room.


Styles: Bridgewater, camelback, Chesterfield, club, Knole, Lawson, midcentury modern, slipper, tuxedo

Fabrics: Cotton, linen, wool, microfiber, velvet, cotton/poly blend, faux suede, leather

Keep in mind: Stain resistance, durability, pets, loose or attached pillows and cushions, filling (often foam wrapped in polyester or down)

Additional options: Loveseats, sectionals, sleeper sofas, chaises, settees

Occasional Chairs

Styles: Armchairs, barrel-back, club, slipper, wing

Fabrics: Cotton, linen, leather, microfiber, silk, velvet, wool, cotton/poly blend

Keep in mind: Comfort, stain resistance, durability, pets

Additional options: Rockers, recliners, swivels, gliders, chair-and-a-half

Upholstered Ottomans, Benches and Stools

Styles: Rectangular, square, circular

Fabrics: Cotton, linen, leather, microfiber, silk, velvet, wool, cotton/poly blend

Keep in Mind: Storage capabilities, portability, stain resistance, durability

Additional options: Small portable poufs

Coffee Tables, Side Tables and Accent Tables

Styles: Rectangular, square, circular, oval

Materials: Wood, Lucite, glass, metal, woven fibers, shagreen, mirror or some combination thereof

Keep in mind: Storage capabilities, shelving, durability, portability

Additional options: Trunks, garden seats, stools, nesting tables, multiple small tables in place of one large coffee table

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