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A North Carolina Living Room, 2 Ways (& Tips for Rearranging)

Every few months, a room in my house will start to feel stale, or inefficient, or just plain boring. Sometimes it’s because the function of the room has shifted (like maybe we’re spending more time in the living room, after a long winter of watching TV and hanging out in the den). Sometimes I think I want to buy something new, but have since learned that I really just want to try something new.

That’s when I know it’s time to rearrange. It can be as simple as moving a single piece, or exchanging something from another room. Or maybe a full redesign is in order.

Our living room.
Our living room.
Photo by Liz Johnson

Below are two layouts I’ve used in my living room, and three things to keep in mind if you’re feeling the rearranging itch. In both arrangements, I’ve used the same major pieces: a couch, a coffee table, two armchairs, a credenza, a lamp, art, and my ubiquitous fiddle-leaf fig. (I did use different rugs in each room, which also made a noticeable difference—but that’s a completely different post!)

Note: I used Adobe InDesign to mock up simple floor plans, but graph paper and a pencil would work just as well in a pinch.


Arrangement 1

Photo by Liz Johnson

Arrangement #1 is a little more of a formal or traditional living room layout. There’s strong symmetry, and the couch and armchairs face each other, across from the fireplace. It’s full but doesn’t feel crowded. Floating the chairs creates two distinct zones: an entryway near the door, and a seating area across from the fireplace. This was arrangement I set up when I first moved into our house, and was excited about also having a (separate, more casual) den.

Photo by Liz Johnson
Photo by Liz Johnson
Photo by Liz Johnson
Photo by Liz Johnson

Arrangement 2

Photo by Liz Johnson

Arrangement #2 is a little more modern and organic-feeling. It uses all the same furniture, but the room feels more expansive. The layout is asymmetrical yet balanced—the chairs are on separate walls, but mirror each other, making the whole space feel unified. I had this arrangement when my son became mobile (seemingly overnight!) and needed more floor space to explore.

Photo by Liz Johnson
Photo by Liz Johnson
Photo by Liz Johnson
Photo by Liz Johnson

Here are three things to remember when (re)arranging your own space:

Consider the “flow.”

Where are the doors or entrances? How do people most often walk through this room? A room can feel “off” when there isn’t enough room for the intuitive paths through it, so make sure there’s space to move around, and through, your room. If you’re not sure, try it out! If you have to really squeeze by or around something, it’s probably not an ideal layout.

Don’t automatically put everything up against a wall.

I understand how placing all the furniture up against walls would sound logical—it makes more room in the middle of the space, right? But purposefully floating some furniture can delineate functional areas—“mini-rooms”—and encourage flow through the room, which actually ends up creating a more spacious-feeling space. It’s also helpful for rooms that have to serve more than one purpose.

Try a new angle!

If your room feels static or kind of lifeless, try shifting a piece or two to an angle. This can be slight (like the two chairs in the first arrangement), or more extreme (like the couch in the second arrangement). This brings a kind of coziness to the arrangement—I like to imagine if people were actually using a piece of furniture, how easily could they interact with others? Does this layout foster conversation (or whatever you might be trying to foster in a particular room)?


And finally, remember: If you don’t like it, you can always move it back.

Liz Johnson is the Creative Director, Designer, and Writer at Braid Creative in Durham, NC.

Are you a serial room re-arranger? Discuss in the comments!

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