Anne Hathaway's living room furniture arrangement is the best we've ever seen – experts love the 'conversational seating'

The right furniture arrangement is for a space that is ideal for entertaining, say designers

Anne Hathaway
(Image credit: Getty Images / Dominique Charriau / Contributor)

Practicality is key for the living room, and the layout you select should not only be able to accommodate your lifestyle but enhance it. Seating should be at the forefront of your plans.

When you have people over for festive gatherings, you notice when you’ve got the seating arrangements right. Seating plans are very important – and not just at a dinner table. I like to think of seating plans for the living room as the heart of the layout – also known as ‘conversational seating'. 

Actress Anne Hathaway and her husband, jewelry designer Adam Shulman have perfected the living room seating arrangement in their chalet-style residence in California. But it all starts with knowing how to maximize your floorplan.

Figuring out your floor plan is vital to ensure that your living room works from a practical and aesthetic standpoint. Start by working out the central point of the room; this will guide you as to where to place large pieces of furniture, such as sofas and chairs.

Design icon, Nina Campbell is a champion of what she likes to call 'conversational seating.' A living room layout designed entirely around your seating arrangement.

'For example, when designing a living room with a traditional fireplace, this will be a central point,' she says. 'You can then either have the sofa to one side with a couple of chairs opposite. Alternatively, you can position the couch so it’s facing the fireplace and chairs on either side.' 

It’s always good to throw off the symmetry of the room and add an extra dimension with mismatched furniture, color schemes, shapes, and styles to make the space feel more relaxed and encourage conversation.

But there is so much more to choosing a living room sofa or chair than just their appearance. The number of chairs you set out is an important consideration, too. Odd numbers are good for seating plans in general because they allow for some rotation of guests. 

The interior designer Elsie de Wolfe wrote in 1913 that you must never place a chair on its own in a room; she was very shy herself and noted that it is always the shy person who arrives first, sits on the lone chair, and then is often rooted there for the whole party. But two next to each other does not always work, either. I find that two people sitting side by side do not always speak to each other, so having an occasional chair pulled in at a diagonal can create conversational triangles, similar to the seating placement in Anne Hathaway's home above.


Another way to arrange your seating is to place them within arm's reach of a side or coffee table. Can you imagine having to get up every time you – or, your guest – wanted to reach the remote or sip their drink?

Finally, you should never skimp on the most important piece of furniture in your living room; the sofa. 'The sofas and bigger pieces of furniture should be covered in a tough, strong, and relatively plain fabric, so you don’t tire of it; they are expensive to re-cover. You can jazz them up with cushions and throws,' says Nina Campbell.

Shop the living room seating edit

Jennifer Ebert
Deputy Editor (Digital)

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.