10 living room sofa ideas – the essential design rules for sofa layouts and trends

Invest in a hardworking sofa that is sumptuous enough to sink into – but still looks smart

Living room sofa ideas with colorful upholstery and grey walls
(Image credit: Davide Lovatti / Future)

The living room sofa is usually the largest – if not the most expensive – item in a room and is often the most dominant piece, so it is no surprise that the sofa usually dictates the style of the room. 

Asked to name their most indispensable piece of living room furniture, most people would opt for the sofa. Cosseting and useful, upholstered seating has been a feature of the western home since the 18th century, morphing gradually from the prim settles of Georgian days to the more familiar sofas and armchairs of the 20th-century. 

But today, as technology and lifestyles change, the living room sofa has acquired a more pivotal role. Gone are the days when the three-piece suite, festooned with antimacassars, was the place to entertain visiting vicars or slump in front of the television on a Saturday night.

So whether you are buying new or decorating around an existing one, look to these living room sofa ideas for inspiration.

Living room sofa ideas – invest in the best seating

Sofas and living room seating ideas are becoming more multi-purpose as the routines of family life blur. Nowadays, a living room sofa is not just for entertaining or watching TV; we eat on them, use our laptops or play games from them or watch our home-cinema screens. 

Concurrent with our quest for functionality is a return to more nostalgic seating. Perhaps it is a reflection of the economic climate and a desire to turn our homes in to reality-buffering cocoons. Or maybe it is just a flamboyant thumbs-up to a decade of minimalist living room ideas. Whatever the reason, there is no undermining that our sofas play a pivotal role in our homes.

1. Get the scale right with the two thirds rule

A living room with navy blue panelled walls and a burnt orange velvet sofa

(Image credit: Future/Brent Darby)

A living room sofa that’s the full length of the opposite wall could prove overbearing in a room scheme. But you also do not want a sofa that is too small. One approach to getting the right proportions is to aim for a sofa that’s about two-thirds of the wall length.

'It is possible to choose a smaller sofa, however, perhaps influenced by the pieces of furniture nearby. ‘When scaling a sofa to a room – as a rule of thumb – we tend to make the sofa half the size of the wall it is going on. This will allow the space around it to breathe – and also accommodate space for side tables with lamps on either side,’ says interior designer Bee Osborn of Studio Osborn

2. Think about functionality as well as style

Living room with white sofas and cream walls

(Image credit: David Cleveland / Future)

While the dimensions of the living room are an essential factor when choosing the right sofa, how the room is used will also influence which sofa size is best for your space. 

When a room is used largely for entertaining visitors, two sofas facing one another can prove more sociable than one large version that puts sitters in a line. The sofas will accordingly need sizing down with adequate space between and around them. 

3. Invest in a sectional sofa in an open-plan space

Open plan living room with white walls and l-shaped sofa

(Image credit: Anna Stathaki / Future)

A sectional will often work well as a room divider. ‘A large L-shaped sofa is a great choice for an open-plan space as it helps to delineate the sitting room area from the dining area or kitchen,’ says Emma Sims-Hilditch of Sims Hilditch.

But a sectional can also be a smart choice for a small living room because it’s more space efficient than a sofa plus armchair combination. In this case, choose a design with dimensions that follow the perimeter of the room.

4. Go for a statement color

Living room with green sofa and blue armchairs

(Image credit: Ian Baldwin / Future)

The living room color scheme you choose for the sofa will influence how commanding it appears in the room, so consider its hue in these terms as well as thinking about it as part of the space’s overall color scheme.

Color-wise, we're increasingly looking to nature to inform the narrative, leaning towards inky blues and moss green, while there's also a return of earthy tones, like beige and rust. When homeowners want to go bold, hues are still warm and inviting, echoing nature's spices like hot paprika and golden turmeric.

5. ...And interesting shapes

Living room with blue fluted sofa and mirror wall

(Image credit: James Merrell / Future)

The shape of the sofa is also a key consideration. If the room has a low ceiling, opt for a sofa with a lower back to keep the design in proportion to the room’s height. A design with a low back can also create the illusion of extra space below more usual ceiling heights.

When it comes to sofa trends for 2022, modern-retro fluting and glamorous curved lines are de rigueur, while at the opposite end of the scale a raw, organic and unrefined aesthetic is also breaking through.

6. Consider the sofa's arms

As well as the overall form, or shape, of the sofa, focus on its arms. ‘We consider the height of the arms and the reach to the side for side tables,’ says interior designer Amanda Meade. ‘Bulky arms can often obscure the flow in a room.’

Pay particular attention to how the sofa’s arms will affect sight lines through the space. They shouldn’t block the view of a window nor another of the room’s features.

Furniture trends 2021

(Image credit: Future / Jake Curtis)

Rattan, wicker and woven materials are no longer considered dull, dated or dreary, and we very much welcome its highly-anticipated revival. With texture and intrigue at the forefront of design for 2022, rattan furniture has quickly found itself to be one of the hottest trends in the world of décor.

8. Go for raw beauty – and neutral colors

Living room with cream sofa

(Image credit: Davide Lovatti / Future)

‘Raw materials and unrefined finishes are without a doubt two of the biggest sofa trends we’re seeing for 2022,' says Nicola Bissoli, head of interior design at The Sofa & Chair Company. Natural, pared-back designs are combined with heavy textures such as boucle, creating a lovely tactile look and feel.

‘Along with this, we’re seeing the return of beige – warm, earthy shades are making a big comeback to replace cool greys as a base color. If opting for a statement sofa that will add a pop of color to a neutral space, tones inspired by nature (particularly ocean blues and mossy greens) are still the best option.'

9. Sink into curvaceous designs

Living room with orange curved sofa

(Image credit: Davide Lovatti / Future)

Full-on voluptuous or gently rounded, curves will lift the layout and soften the overall look of your room, adding a statement design focus to your living room décor.

'There’s been a shift away from the more formal arrangement of two sofas facing each other in favour of more relaxed, curvaceous shapes that provide both comfort and ample space for entertaining,' says Suzy McMahon, buying director at Sofology.

10. Upholster your sofa in a statement fabric

living room with blue floral sofa pink rug and black cabinet and artwork

(Image credit: Polly Wreford / Claudia Bryant)

Let your living room sofa do the talking. Lisa Whatnough, of Studio Squint observes:  ‘Instead of a wallpaper or curtain fabric being the catalyst for a room scheme, I advise clients to start with the sofa; everything should compliment that.’  

Here, the neutral backdrop allows for the bright, floral upholstery on the sofa to take center-stage.

How should I arrange my living room sofa?

Be mindful of scale in interior design when arranging your living room sofa. Correct sofa scaling is an imperative for a successful living room, along with selecting its shape and color.

‘Size takes precedence as it is crucial for the perception of a room volume to choose the most appropriate dimensions,’ says BIID registered interior designer Hedayat of  Jam By Hedayat

'You want to make sure that your sofa has enough circulation around it – as well as space – so that it does not dwarf any design details or features in a room. A living room sofa that is too large will engulf the room disproportionately, and one that is too small will not serve its function.'

Jennifer Ebert

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.