10 Tips for Styling Large Living Rooms {& Other Awkward Spaces}

Steven Gambrel large living room

House & Home

After recently sharing my tips for styling a small living room, I received a few requests for tips dealing with a larger living rooms! While small living rooms have their own challenges due to their limited space, bigger living areas present their own set of issues. Bigger than average rooms can be wonderful for entertaining, but not as cozy or even functional for day to day living.

So how can you make the best of a large living room? Even if your room is not huge, it can be difficult to furnish if it is awkwardly shaped or connected to another space in some way, so these tips or inspiration photos might apply to a variety of sizes and shapes of rooms or great rooms!

Today I’m sharing 10 of my favorite tips for styling a bigger living room!

large living room and great room ideas

Sarah Richardson

1. Designate zones.

In a small room, you will likely only have room for one conversation area and no additional space for furniture groupings. Large rooms can function as so much more than just a large sitting area, but you might have to get creative with how to best utilize the size or shape of the room you have. Identify several possible functional areas within the room, such as a conversation zone (or two or three!), a media zone, an area for a writing desk, a console or a game table, a dining area or perhaps a reading area.

2. Divide the space visually.

You can add ceiling beams, half walls or pillars (like what is between my own family room and kitchen) to divide up a room visually in semi-permanent ways, or for flexibility you might be able to use area rugs, curtains, wallpaper and furniture placement to help create visually cozy spaces within the larger room. Even a sofa with its back to another space, or a chaise lounge, a large bench, tables between chairs, an attractive screen, large lamps, curtains, or plants can help divide the spaces.

3. Anchor the room.

Great rooms or large living areas can end up feeling cluttered if you put too many small pieces in the room without at a couple of anchoring pieces. A sectional, large sofa, large coffee table and even built in bookcases or a piano will help anchor a room so smaller pieces can be tucked in here and there as accents if necessary.

large living room furniture arrangements

Traditional Home

4. Scale matters.

Do you have tall ceilings that makes your room feel out of balance? Opt for taller furniture whenever possible. If furniture is all short, your ceilings will feel too tall and your furniture will be dwarfed. Consider a taller bookcase, an armoire, taller backs on chairs and sofas and taller accessories.

chango and co large living room

Chango & Co (NYC design firm)

4. Creative lighting.

No matter what size of a room you have, lighting can make a difference in how the room feels. Fortunately with a large room there are often more windows, so during the day lighting isn’t as much of a concern. But shadows and dark corners can make everyone feel uneasy at night. If you have just one center ceiling light, you will likely want to add more light with lamps. A room can look awkward if you have too many lamps, though, so here are a couple of tips for lighting a large room.

Perhaps pick two or three lamps of larger scale with similar shades and then mix in slimmer less obtrusive metal floor and wall lamps to bring lighting all around the room. Mixing in glass lamps can also prevent lamp overload. You can have an outlet put into the floor near the perimeter of a conversation area for a lamp cord if it isn’t convenient to plug it in the wall.

large living room sarah richardson

Sarah Richardson

5. Use color. 

Color and pattern can be used to break up big expanses of walls in a great room or cut the size of a tall wall down to a more comfortable height. Add wainscoting with varying shades of neutrals or colors painted above and below the molding. If you have a high ceiling, you may want to try a simple trick to cozy up your room. If you paint the ceiling a shade or two or even several shades darker than your walls (or use paneling!), your ceiling won’t seem as tall and your room might feel more snug and cozy.

seating areaSeating area for large, small or awkward room via BHG

6. Double up.

If you can’t find a coffee table big enough for your space, bulk up a larger conversation with two matching square or rectangle ottomans side by side. Or use a coffee table with two ottomans pulled up next to it. You can also use two area rugs for two separate conversation areas rather than one large one.

Create greater punch by bringing together four chairs and a round ottoman or table rather than just two chairs. Chairs are less visually divisive in a room than a sofa so they can create a pleasing flow and conversation area in large spaces, small rooms or awkward areas with challenging traffic patterns. Anytime you can use several of anything like double footstools, two lamps or sets of chairs, the impact will be greater!

large living room arrangements

BHG

7. Avoid too much wall ‘hugging.’

One thing that often looks funny to me is a large room with the sofa is pushed back against one wall and the chairs on the opposite size of the room against the other wall, leaving too much open space in the middle. If you have to shout in order to have a conversation with someone sitting across from you in the room, it is likely your furniture is too far apart.

With a larger room you can pull seating out from the walls to create a much cozier conversation area around a focal point like a fireplace. Don’t fear empty walls, you can use wall space for art, buffets and consoles, benches and bookcases or additional conversation areas where the furniture can be pulled closer together.

divide room with seating

BHG

8. Bold is best.

Art work and accessories in a big room should be bigger and bolder. If you have framed prints or photos for your wall, go with a larger size than the standard 8 x 10 or 5 x 7 frames. Go group larger pieces together to make an even more bold punch in a room rather than several smaller pieces spread throughout the room.

large living room ideas

9. Layers cozy up the space.

If your room feels cold, sound echoes or if the vibe is cozy enough, it might not be the size of the room but instead you just might need more layers. Add area rugs (you can even layer two rugs together for even more texture), hang curtains, add baskets for more texture and sound absorption and accessories to help soften the spaces. Softer spaces feel much cozier and inviting so be sure you have plenty of upholstered pieces, too!

10. Repetition.

In a large space there tends to be more furniture and accessories, which can feel a bit haphazard. One way to tie a large room of furniture together and unify your style is through repetition. Repeating fabric patterns or colors on chairs or throw pillows will help carry your eye around the room and feel visually more pleasing.

Let’s talk about your living or family room! I know I have had a really hard time with mine because it is very small but has a high ceiling AND it connected to the entry and dining room. Lots of challenges!

Do you have trouble with your living room styling and furniture arrangements? What are some other good tips?

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Comments

  1. There are NO walls in this old house that don’t have a window, door, fireplace or, sometimes, two out of the three. The living room has on one wall – door to dining room, wood stove, closet; another wall has a door to the hallway, another wall has a butler’s pass to the kitchen and a door to the kitchen and the last wall has a 9×3 window; fortunately, the ceilings are 10 feet.
    Each room in this house is similar, there are no solid walls…anywhere…and in the kitchen we removed one window and still have 4 doors, a window, a fireplace and the butler’s pass through. I’ve given up “decorating”, I just want a place to sit and rest. -LOL-
    Sandra at Thistle Cove Farm recently posted..Another Day of GraceMy Profile

  2. You’re always good for a decorating challenge and your living room success is a good example. (:

  3. I love all your ideas for this. We have a smaller living room but I love thinking of different possible arrangements for it and how to make it pretty and functional for us. My mother in law has a big open living room and she’s often trying different arrangements to make it work the best for them. Having different zones seems to really work well for them.

  4. A lot of this advice is also really great for smaller spaces that are one open area instead of separate rooms (like our small apartment with one living/dining/kitchen space lol). :) The sixth picture is so cozy looking!

  5. Lots of great tips! Thanks.
    Debbie McCarty recently posted..Business TranscriptionMy Profile

  6. Fabulous post! Our great room is large and I am always struggling with it, thank you for the wonderful tips.
    XO
    Kristin

  7. BOY! Do I wish I had this problem! Would love to see a post about smaller living room … okay, tiny. Also, what are some ideas for that “formal” living room? I have one of those, the Christmas Room we call it since we never sit in there except for Christmas morning. My husband has a ton of guitars and I’ve tried to make it a music room but it still seems to go unused. Your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions would be great!

    Thank you!
    Carol Hake
    Lakeside, California
    Carol Hake recently posted..About the ManxMy Profile

    • The link to my small living room tip post is here http://theinspiredroom.net/2013/02/27/small-living-room-ideas/. We used to have one of those formal living rooms that was great at Christmas but not as used other times of the year! I can relate. Some people really like having a formal living room but if it feels like wasted space then it may as well be transformed into something else!

      Had we decided to stay in our old house, I had all sorts of ideas to make our formal large living room more useful to us day to day.

      I guess I would think about what activities you like to do and see if you could turn that room into a more useful space rather than a formal room you don’t use. The guitar idea was great but if he doesn’t go in there to play then perhaps the space might be served better as a craft or sewing room, a game room, a media room, a reading room or library with a comfy place to read.

      I always asked myself why we didn’t use our big formal room much and I decided it was because 1) I prefer smaller rooms, large rooms make me less comfortable 2) it was always cold in there and so we needed a gas fireplace insert to warm it up in the winter 3) we didn’t need another sitting room so we probably could have turned it into a movie room with a big screen and theatre sofas or chairs so our kids would use it with friends or family parties. :-)
      Melissa recently posted..Preparing For Fall {Fall Favorites!}My Profile

  8. Large rooms can be challenging to decorate so you get that cozy feeling. You have a wonderful compilation of tips in this post!
    Stephanie recently posted..The Benefits of Shopping for Furniture OnlineMy Profile

  9. My biggest challenge in my ‘great room’ is that there are two focal points on conflicting walls…fireplace on one and TV on the other. And no I can’t hang the TV over the fireplace, it’s too tall. Soooo I’m constantly trying to come up with ideas to balance that out while having two large leather sofas.

  10. Thank you for this!! Our newly remodeled (by us) home has a large living room. It only have one window and two large openings from other rooms and LOTS of blank wall space — any ideas for decorating??

  11. Beautiful inspiration photos and great tips. Most articles out there focus on how to make the most of a small living room. Thanks for addressing an all too common problem that many are stumped by!
    camille recently posted..DIY: Bath Salts (Like, for your Bath)My Profile

  12. Thanks for this post. Informational and interesting. Loved the pics as well.
    Sarah

  13. I love these ideas!! Never really heard the term wall hugging before but it totally makes a lot of sense. Thanks.
    Tanya recently posted..Three Key Characteristics of a Smart Social Media PolicyMy Profile

  14. Thanks again, Melissa! I have a smaller, more narrow family room that is a very similar shape and set up to yours. I want to get a fireplace put in where yours is and our TV is where yours is. I have been looking on your house tour to find more pictures with different angles of your family room to see how you did the wall facing the couch. Right now we have a big entertainment center there that I want to replace, and add some comfy chairs to create a more friendly conversation circle. If you could somehow include some more pics of your family room in one of your posts that would be great. Thanks!

  15. Mine is small and awkward with an angled fireplace ( takes up the whole wall) and openings to the dining area, hallway and front door. Not sure where the best placement for the sofa is…if I could figure that out, the rest would probably fall into place!
    Cecilia recently posted..Laundry Room Mostly DoneMy Profile

  16. Silvana Lage says:

    Melissa, I loved your blog, I loved this post. Good ideas! Sil Lage – Brasil

  17. Hi Melissa, I too have an awkward living room….3 couches and 4 chairs later….for a really big family…it is all about seating arrangements! Love the pictures you showed…so many useful ideas I can use.
    Blessings,
    Debbie
    Debbie recently posted..Free Farmhouse Rules Printable and a little tourMy Profile

  18. I LOVE that you posted this! I have a crazy livingroom. It isn’t huge, 22×12… on the long walls, smack in the middle one one is a patio door, in the middle of the other is the kitchen entry. Furniture is a nitemare. I copped out and bought an “L” shaped sectional, one piece for one side of the room. The other side we use for an office. I just don’t know what to do… I can’t put a tv on one side and the couch all the way on the other. We have to use the patio door year round, I have a little one that is suppose to go outside and a dog that needs to go out. Also there are no windows, just the patio door.. oh the joys of living in a condo. LOL! I am bookmarking your post so I can study it!

  19. I love all the beautiful photos, and all the great tips for large living rooms.

    Kathy
    Kathy recently posted..Flower ArrangementMy Profile

  20. Great tips. Designating zones and grouping furniture together might solve some of my living room problems. I love filling the walls with huge art — either a really large piece or tons of coordinated pieces.

  21. I need living room help! My living room situation sounds like Kristi’s, 20 ft x. 17 ft. with double height ceiling, and one long wall almost all sliding glass doors to a terrace. Staircase comes down into the LR as well, separating the LR from the kitchen and dining. Looking to get two comfy chairs, and a smaller coffee table–we only have one sofa now. Happy to move everything around. Its been in every different configuration.

    http://img.hometryst.com/images.php?address=3101+NEW+MEXICO+AVE+NW+%23847&url=http://images.prd.mris.com/image/V2/1/3gRCvHvOFO9l253flaK7Xp9NUT90tRQtpnkiUBMNi9Il-XtSo1KvoAWEnzqu1GackfA38q-x-oHGNwONT9MyffkeMhp7uimFEX6kHd5nIOtUi67YkobwYrMTdH1JUqM1qNH59Au83BNp328lzhXThg.jpg

    http://hometryst.com/wp-content/themes/hometryst-theme/images.php?address=3101+NEW+MEXICO+AVE+NW+%23847&url=http://images.prd.mris.com/image/V2/1/P69qbiA6buGALqDc1p1Xj084Jns7g1sbTWNtSMpBBysIh9Er_6Y_nfMyA_cZBO97cOBDew9NfpKhncR2X1Ug5ETY4aCTVfgwrVvvQz0chSeDJv-bX51TdUBXBjOhjq5GOqPRgo2oSHsUKS-FtLGt2w.jpg

  22. Love these ideas! So many things I need to incorporate in my home! I really like the deer head in the 5th picture. Beautiful!

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