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Design

Figuring Out The Best Living Room Layout For The River House

We are in the “choosing furniture” stage of the river house (they moved in their old furniture last week and began living here this week after our family reunion). The room is big and very open, but it’s off to the side (not a pass-through living room THANK THE HEAVENS) and while there are multiple focal points (fireplace/TV and big doors to the outside), this one feels easier than others have in the past. And before you get your panties in a bunch (I’m looking at you Orlando) about the TV over the fireplace, this house is meant to really be lived in and was designed for my brother’s family. While it looks high-end (and it is), my brother is a high school football coach, so sports will be watched in almost every room and Annie (the architect) designed the house so that the TV can be seen from the kitchen and dining room. This house was also designed/laid out during lockdown where we were obviously spending so much time in our homes and we really really want every room to be lived in, a lot. Max is also a huge TV person (which surprised me) and therefore the TV on the tiled fireplace was the clear winner. We chose black tile which we think integrates the fireplace box and the TV the best. If you want quick resources here you go: wood flooring, ceiling wood, fireplace tile (chalkboard matte in Peaks and Valleys), fireplace stone, ceiling pendants, semi-flush mounts, and sconces.

It’s also near the home office (that currently has my brother’s baby grand piano in it right now – yes he plays the piano, too – we were raised Mormon!! It was a requirement in the 90s!). I love those wall washers by Blueprint Lighting, they create such a pretty soft light (we are likely going to manipulate them so they hang opposite ways flanking the doors).

So for the sake of the blog here (and for our design purposes) Gretchen drew in some options to walk you through the thought process for how we are thinking of arranging the living room.

A Sectional + Accent Chair

I really like this option, it creates a clear conversation area. But I think we could spread it out, use more of the space, and sit even more people. They’ll have a sectional in their TV/family room too so this is an opportunity to do something more interesting, in my opinion.

Two Facing Sofas

I love two-facing sofas as it keeps the room open and symmetry makes my eyes happy. It allows you to play in other ways while still looking curated. But it’s not right for this room because neither faces the TV and one of them would block the view. Fun to see but a no.

An Angled Sofa And Swivel Chairs

I asked Gretch for options and she drew in this one (in addition to many others) which cracks me up. Y’all, I HATE furniture on an angle (and rugs for that matter), so don’t do this but I think my strong offense to this layout was worth sharing. I have so few strong design pet peeves, but in a room this squared-off, angled furniture is an absolute crime.

P.S. I found out that this was a little joke she played on me lol but I’m glad I could let my opinions be known!

A Sofa, A Loveseat, And Swivel Chairs

Now there we GO. While the sofa could be bigger (the room is huge so we’ll go big) I love the idea of a huge sofa facing the fireplace, a smaller sofa (either a loveseat or even an 84″) on one side, and then yes two swivel chairs opposite it. This requires a huge coffee table and a pretty darn big rug, but all doable. (Remind me to do a roundup of huge but not crazy expensive coffee tables – I feel like they are so hard to find!!).

As you can see the swivel chairs will be able to rotate to see the view which pleases us so much. So now, we are on to furniture selection and we have some exciting ideas happening. Thanks, Gretch for your excellent drawing skills – I’m VERY excited to get this going and hope to show you some progress in the fall.

*Photos by Kaitlin Green

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Stephanie
22 days ago

What program did she use to draw these? Super handy!

Jamie
22 days ago

I totally agree, the last one! I also am not a fan of angled furniture.🙃

22 days ago
Reply to  Jamie

And angled rugs! It drives me crazy to see layered rugs with one on an angle; PLEASE STOP, HGTV PEOPLE.

J
21 days ago
Reply to  Colleen

omg yes totally agreed!!

Christina
20 days ago
Reply to  Jamie

I agree too. Though the angled one looks so wrong, it made me wonder if a semicircular or curved sectional would work, playing off the square room without fighting it.

Roberta Davis
22 days ago

Yeah- I like the one with the sofa, love seat (or second sofa) and two chairs. Lots of room for family members to watch tv or visit!

Julie
22 days ago

I like the last option best as well! Please consider a more living-friendly side and coffee table setup than one huge one floating in the middle – it’s what we see in designer pictures so often, but no one can set down a drink or put their feet up with that setup! I see drink/side tables on either end of the loveseat, a long oval/rectangular one within foot reaching distance of the main sofa, and something in between the swivels. There can be a little space in front of the hearth! Room for large football playing high school bodies to move freely. I am even seeing the hearth as natural seating that people will gravitate toward, but it can be its own drink table 🙂

monica
22 days ago
Reply to  Julie

I think a center table will work if the coffee table is appropriately close to the furniture so that one could put feet up or put a drink down within reach of the furniture. As the drawings are now, the last option feels like the furniture should all be a bit closer together. Also agree that a side table or two woudl be great and add interest.

Jill
22 days ago
Reply to  monica

I have seen you use two coffee table, I believe!

Paula
22 days ago
Reply to  Julie

Yes, last is best, and a centered coffee table is o.k. if it’s not too huge, and you have at least three small side tables.
For me, the TV looks too high. I’d have a crick in my neck if I was sitting there for any length of time watching it.

Leslie
22 days ago

Absolutely oppose TV on that beautiful wall. Also, if you are gathering at a river house, why even have a tv? maybe put it in a back room someplace? I liked the sectional. could you get another chair or two in there with it

MBJ
22 days ago
Reply to  Leslie

She explained the “why” in the post. This is a big sports and TV watching family and they want to use every room, not have some rooms look pretty just for show. Also, they aren’t “gathering at a river house”, they are living in this space every day. It’s not a vacation home and it’s real life so no, they aren’t going to idly stare at ONLY the beautiful nature view all day long.

KL
22 days ago
Reply to  Leslie

I think Emily made it clear enough in the intro: her brother and his family/friends are TV people. There’s no crime to gathering at a river house and also watching TV! Putting a TV only in a back room just makes it super inconvenient for people for whom having the TV on in the background is an essential, like you probably wouldn’t put a stove without a range hood in a kitchen (although some people do).

I say this as someone who doesn’t have a TV or any place to put one in my post-reno living room; if the next owner of my house wants to watch TV on the main level, they’re going to have to put in some kind of complicated projector system over the window. I am very much not a TV person, but I know lots of people who ARE TV people and they deserve to live in beautiful houses too.

Jenms
22 days ago

I love these kinds of posts – keep ’em coming!

Damia
22 days ago

The last option seems great!
Maybe instead of a massive coffee table to go with the large couch, using 2 or 1 that can split – that way if the couch is full and someone is in the center of it, it’s not such a climb to try and get out.

Amber
22 days ago
Reply to  Damia

Agree with this 100%. In large rooms, it’s often nice to have some human scaled furniture too.

Tiffanie
22 days ago

Hi! I’m loving these furniture placement option posts. This reminds me of a post years ago where real-life readers rooms were fixed by making better furniture choices. Wasn’t there an angled loveseat option in the patio one?

Carolyn Hurst
22 days ago

Maybe this would work instead of a traditional coffee table. We have it in our family room and LOVE it!
https://www.article.com/product/15419/tablet-charme-black-square-ottoman?queryID=aa4c45c66cfbdff5c46d850aa43d8e47&index=production_product

Lee
22 days ago

Definitely the last option. I love my sectional, it
is super comfortable but the corners are useless.This layout is much more functional.

Kaiulani
22 days ago

I certainly hope it will be a Frame TV. Would hate to ruin that beautiful tile with a huge black box in front of it.

Amy S
22 days ago

Hey! We are considering new furniture for a similar layout living room (TV above fireplace, open to kitchen, etc). What are the dimensions of the room? Hoping we can pull off a similar layout!

Dree
19 days ago
Reply to  Amy S

“The room is big (about 22′ x 28′)”

Jill
22 days ago

The last option w/ two big sofas! Love swivel chairs, too.

Sharon P
22 days ago

Great plans! Super curious what you would use for swivel chairs! I would love to find a non-ugly swivel recliner. Also would you mind sharing room dimensions?

Dree
18 days ago
Reply to  Sharon P

“The room is big (about 22′ x 28′)”

Kelsie Jordan
21 days ago

Can you share who did these ceilings? I’m in Oregon and looking to do something similar!

Dree
19 days ago
Reply to  Kelsie Jordan

“We used Stuga’s Drift wood on the ceiling and it’s super beautiful.”

JeffreyC
21 days ago

I have never seen a sectional and one lone chair that does not look weird given the difference in massing of the two objects.

Erin
20 days ago

Whatever you do please please please put the coffee table close enough to the seating so you can actually use it. It is functionally useless when it is floating in the middle. I also wonder if you can get a giant couch that is a bit open on one side.