Where to place furniture in the living room can be a challenge, but certainly not an insurmountable one. The trick is to assess what activities will take place in the room and how to meet your needs via your living room layout.
Formal Living Room
The formal living room is one that is generally dedicated to conversation and entertaining. The furniture layout, therefore, should allow for comfortable face-to-face conversations. In large rooms, one might create different groupings of furniture that can be re-arranged for larger gatherings, or separated for smaller, more intimate moments. A trick with larger rooms is to float the furniture away from the walls, creating the single seating arrangement or grouped arrangements as needed. Never just line furniture up against the wall. It's uncomfortable to look at and to sit in.
Multi-Tasking Living Room
The multi-tasking space is one that might be for entertaining and conversation, but also includes a television for family time. Having a focal point in your living room layout can seem an easy thing to decorate around, but the mistake people often make is to point all the chairs at the television set. Like teenagers against the wall at a dance, there is little room for eye contact and true connection.
I generally recommend that the sofa face the television set and side chairs be oriented toward the sofa. It's much easier for side chairs to be moved as needed than a sofa, after all. Another multi-tasking living room layout option is to use swivel chairs for ease of motion. Either way, creating a comfortable conversation zone that allows for easy television watching is key.
Eating in the Living Room
Another multi-tasking space is one that might incorporate an eating area into the mix. Newer homes often don't have a formal dining room separate from the kitchen, and yet there are times when it is nice to host an elegant, small dinner party away from the pots, pans and cooking smells. A lovely small table with four chairs can easily be tucked into a corner, or bay window, for this purpose. When not being used for dining, the table might double as a game table, or place for reading or studying. There are so many great uses for this living room layout option that it's amazing we don't see it more often.
When formulating your plan for your space, keep in mind that you never want to block paths of entry or exit from a room. The living room layout should promote a welcoming feeling when possible. The back of a sofa isn't always a very inviting site. Whenever I can, I try to orient the seating area so that the entrance into the space is open and easy to navigate. While furniture should not be placed too far apart, it should also not be too close together. My own rule of thumb is to keep 18" for comfort between the sofa and coffee table, and 30" of space for pass-throughs around the room.
Play with your Options
One of the best ways to play with your living room layout is to invest in a room layout kit or online service for virtual arranging. Use your imagination and push little furniture pieces around a page to come up with new furniture layout options. It's much easier than pushing around the real things!