February 29, 2024

Image by Haldane Martin via Flickr

As likely the largest piece of furniture in a room, it’s important a couch must be placed to suit the needs of the household first and the aesthetics second.

For many people, the most important piece of furniture (after the television – we just – kind of) in their sitting room is the couch, often opposite the fireplace. The good thing is, no one can tell you where to put your furniture. Well, someone can, but it’s your choice to listen or not. It’s unsurprising people turn to interior designers. However, there are those to whom the only priority is comfort and/or ease of maneuvering throughout the room. It’s likely the most popular room in the house, and most frequently used. Make this decision first: are you able to wrangle your household into keeping a set-up that may not be as conducive to TV viewing and gaming or neighbor-watch meetings, but looks like the pages of Home Beautiful? Or, are you completely focused on the needs of your household?

Paper Samples

If you saw the highly underrated John Hughes’ film “She’s Having a Baby,” you may recall a scene in which newlyweds (played by Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth McGovern – she’s now best known as “Lady Grantham” in BBC’s “Downton Abbey”) by laying out newspapers in lieu of furniture, in order to figure out how best to arrange things.

The first step is to determine how your family uses the room.

  • Next, look at the entrances to the room. Are there doors? Do the doors open in or out? This question is important because it determines the placement of furniture (you have to leave that space open for the doors to open fully).
  • Is the room a destination room or a pathway to another room? Let’s assume that since you’re considering putting your couch there, it is a destination room
  • Consider what kind of vibe you’d like your room to have – are you someone who prefers an open and spacious feel, or one who likes cozy and intimacy?
  • Will you use the room for entertainment? If you’re planning on hosting meetings, events, or parties, you’ll need flexibility in your furniture choices. You might want to have folding chairs, squirreled away in nearby closets, for easy access.
  • We will assume that you’re leaning towards a more traditional sitting room. That means, there are furniture placement guidelines
  • Between the sofa and side chairs, designers allow 48- to 100-inches. But, again, you don’t have to adhere to anything but your own interests.
  • Coffee tables are generally placed in front of the couches and the normal placement is 14- to 18-inches from the sofa. If you have either smaller children or a tall household, you’ll want to adjust the table accordingly.
  • Will television be a priority? (It sure is in our house.) The “normal” guideline is that the TV should be placed at three times the screen size. Given the popularity of gigantic TVs, this may not be realistic.


For traffic lanes, three feet of space is recommended, but if you have those aforementioned tall and/or large family members, or several children, you may opt for an extra foot as a safety precaution for both family and furniture.

Tips for Couch Placement

  • Place the largest couch in front of a window (facing into the room) and the loveseat or smaller couch facing it. The room will be balanced.
  • It’s not a rule – you don’t have to put your couch in front of the fireplace.
  • If you have a large room, place two same-size couches across from each other.
  • Speaking of size, as tempted as you might be, remember that sectionals only work in larger spaces. A sectional should be your only couch in the room and is actually designed for TV viewing, not conversation.
  • For a small room, choose a smaller couch and chairs as seating. You can consider an upholstered table as additional seating, too.
  • For an unusually shaped room, choose the best-suited wall for the couch and balance it with a table and chairs.
  • You may be tempted to push a couch back against the wall. It’s actually better to put it inches away, as it creates breathing room and makes small spaces appear larger.

Ultimately, you may find you’ll have to try at least a couple of variations (likely more) to see what works both aesthetically and practically for you and your family.

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