Expert advice: how to arrange your living room

Interior designer Rebecca Wakefield shares her rules for creating the perfect living room

Interior Designer Rebecca Wakefield perches on back of modular sofa
Rebecca Wakefield

1 The rule of three There is an unwritten rule of still-life styling that says you should work with uneven numbers. Avoid symmetry and ‘coupling’ objects; instead, think about balance for a more interesting and appealing composition. A lateral object (such as a book or tray) with something tall and vertical (like a vase or candlestick) and something low and bulky (such as a paperweight or bowl) is a great starting point for styling a coffee table or sideboard.

Oak fitted shelves in alcove next to marble fireplace  
Rebecca Wakefield

2 Work with your room size If you have a large room, don’t be afraid to buy an oversized sofa and armchairs – you can often get away with much bigger pieces than you think. It will look underdressed if you scrimp on small furniture. You can add more delicate elements with lamps and side tables. With a small space, it’s the opposite: you often have to downscale more than you think to create the illusion of an open, airy space. Get a sofa that is less deep but as wide as the room can take, placing it against the wall. Armchairs should be smaller too, but if you don’t have room for any, don’t force it as it will overpower the space.

Armchairs and round coffee table on rug with fireplace and white shuttered window
Rebecca Wakefield

3 Get the right rug A rug should be the main anchor of your room. Avoid it being too small; a rug covering only the floor around a coffee table will make the space feel incohesive. Go for the largest rug you can, providing that doors can open clearly. Rugs should extend at least halfway under sofas and 30cm either side of them; side tables need to sit either fully on or off to avoid a messy look.

Artwork hung above bed headboard
Rebecca Wakefield

4 How to hang art I am a huge advocate of unexpected artwork positioning and sizing, which adds real interest to a space. If you’re not confident doing this, use your furniture layout and architectural features as a guide. Don’t just hang an artwork precisely in the middle of a wall as it can look contrived. Hanging a small piece above a side table in the corner of a room, and adding a lamp alongside, can create the illusion of a secondary space – especially useful in small rooms.

Want more inspiration for your living room? Head to our ever-expanding Pinterest living room moodboard

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