Design Mistakes – Furniture Against a Wall

I started my Design Mistakes series many years ago. It began as a way to showcase some of the mistakes I made around my own home while helping others to learn the dos and don’ts when it comes to home design. Well, it quickly turned into my most popular series here on the blog!

Here are the top five posts from the series. Or you can peruse them all right here.

Design Mistake – Furniture Against a Wall

Living room area with white built-ins
Our Old Condo

Furniture arranging is a tough part of the design process, especially when it comes to the living room. Where should you put the couch, the chairs, and your coffee table? It can be tough to nail the perfect living room layout and I often see people shoving all of their furniture against the perimeter of the room. I’m not a huge fan of this look, BUT this design mistake comes with a lot of gray area that I want to review here today.

The Gray Area

Should you place your furniture against a wall?
My Brother’s Home Tour

When figuring out where to place your couch or sectional, sometimes you don’t have any other choice but to place it against the wall. If you have a small room, that may be the only option to get the seating that you want to fit in the space. And I totally get that!

putting furniture against your walls
DON’T – Furniture against all of the walls

However, if you have a large room or a huge open concept space, you likely don’t want to place all of your furniture against a wall. Instead, you’ll want to bring them closer to the center to make things more intimate and use up the valuable real estate in the center of the room.

do - bring your furniture closer
DO – A cozy space in the middle

Today, I thought it might be helpful to showcase various examples of furniture layouts and discuss why they work. Hopefully, these visuals will help you figure out the best layout for your own home.

Don’t Be Afraid to Float Your Couch

Before photos of our finn Fixer upper
Our Living Room – 2019

When we purchased our home, we ended up removing a wall to make a much larger living room. Once that wall was out, I struggled to figure out the best layout for the space. Where the heck was I going to put the couch?

Living room couch
Our Couch

In the end, I decided to float the couch in the middle of the room and ground it with a rug. This left a walkway, behind, from the front door to the rest of the house. It also left enough room in front of the couch to create a cozy seating area with a chair opposite it.

The back of our couch in the living room

I think people can get a little nervous floating a couch, but sometimes it’s the right call for a room. Because our couch is white and there’s a walkway right behind it, I was a little nervous that it might get dirty on the back.

Add a blanket to the back of your couch

I found this gorgeous throw and I have it folded neatly on the back of our couch. This adds some interest and keeps the back of our upholstered couch looking nice.

Create Zones

this is a great example showing that you don't need to put your furniture against a wall
Reader OMG! – Vanessa’s Cabin

The furniture layout in a large open space can also be used to create zones with various functions. For example, the sectional, from this reader home tour, floats in the middle of this living room, creating a cozy area around the fireplace.

Large a-frame cabin

It also separates the space from the dining area that is in the same room. If the sectional was flipped around and faced the dining table, there would be a lot of dead space in the middle of the room.

Here’s another example…

Don't put furniture against a wall in your living room
Jan’s Condo – Before

Here’s Jan’s condo when she moved in and put her old furniture in while she waited to find some new items. She has the sectional pushed up against the wall and open to the kitchen. Here’s what we did instead…

Open living room space in the city

We found a new sectional and flipped it so it opens the other way. Across from it, we have two chairs for additional seating. This creates the perfect cozy living room zone for intimate conversation instead of a large room with dead space in the middle.

Use a Console Table

Bright family room in this feminine home tour
Console Table (similar)

Another thing we added to Jan’s living room was a console table behind her sectional. This helps divide the room and gives her another spot to store and display items. I love this idea to hide the back of your couch if it is floating in the room.

Add a console behind your couch
Image via Yellow Brick Home

If you are putting your couch against a wall, a behind-the-couch table or shelf is also a good idea. My friends, Kim and Scott, built a shelf for their living room and it’s so genius. It’s the perfect little spot to rest a drink or phone and their upholstered couch isn’t right up against the wall.

Don’t Forget a Large Area Rug

My search for a new side table
Our 9×12 Rug

When you are creating these zones of seating, the best way to make them feel cohesive is with a large area rug. One of my biggest pet peeves is a too-small rug in a big space. Most living rooms will need at least an 8×10 or 9×12. We have a 9×12 rug in our living room space and it makes it cozy and grounds the room. You can read more about finding the perfect rug over in this blog post.

Leave Room for Walkways

When figuring out your furniture arrangement, you’ll definitely want to account for walkways. I recommend at least 16 to 18 inches between the sofa and coffee table. Then, be sure to keep a clear walkway behind your sofa or seating if you are floating it in a room.

condo living room open concept
Reader OMG! – Andrea’s City Condo

For example, in this reader’s home tour, she floats her gorgeous sofa away from their glass doors so they have room to walk behind the couch and get to the outside area. Plus, there is even space for a console table. This works wonderfully.

Should You Put Your Furniture Against a Wall?

Jon & Christina's modern home tour
Reader OMG! – Jon & Christina’s Modern Home

So what’s my answer to this question? I would say, if possible, try not to put all of your furniture on the perimeter of the room. Even bringing your couch or sectional a foot or so off the wall will help create some breathing room. But, if your space doesn’t allow for this, don’t sweat it! You can still create a gorgeous living room space!

Need more living room decorating tips? This blog post breaks down all of my dos and don’ts when it comes to the living room.


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.