3-Step Makeover: Arrange a Multiuse Living Room

Living rooms serve many functions in a home, so it's important to find the right arrangement to handle family time and visiting guests. In three stages, we transform this living room from awkward and bland to fully functional by improving traffic flow, highlighting focal points, and adding a splash of color.

Stage 1: Awkward Arrangement

With two entry points into the living room and dueling focal points (the fireplace and a TV), furniture arrangement is a challenge. Here, seating oriented toward the television ignores the room's mantel. Also, the sofa backs to the fireplace, which creates an awkward strip that directs traffic straight into a wall. To reach this room's full potential, a new furniture arrangement and a splash of color is achieved in three stages.

Stage 1: Blah Seating

Next to the fiery red sofa, this beige arm chair lacks oomph. The clean lines and plush seating make it a good spot for reading or watching TV, but it could use a splash of color.

Stage 1: Bare Windows

A wall of windows is great for bringing light into a room, but these miniblind-clad windows aren't serving the living room. The sun streaming into the room creates glare and makes watching TV on sunny days difficult. Also, the lack of window treatments prevents the family from having privacy at night.

Stage 1: Stuffed Media Center

Open storage along one wall provides ample space to store electronic equipment, books, photos, movies, games, and blankets. But having everything on display makes the space look cluttered. To maximize the media center, the homeowners need the option of hiding the clutter without losing display space.

Stage 2: Fresh Possibility

In Stage 2, the living room begins to open up thanks to a simple furniture switch and a small dose of color. When arranging furniture, consider three key design concepts -- flow, function, and focal points. Because the living room is a high-traffic area, instant access to commonly used items is essential. For function, the family should be able to experience both the TV and fireplace (the room's focal points) when needed. Swapping the miniblinds for colorful Roman shades adds color to the room, blocks the sun, and provides privacy. The addition of color to the upper half of the room helps balance the space, while the thin vertical stripes of the curtain panels make the ceiling appear taller.

Stage 2: Furniture Swap

The sofa and beige armchair swap places to fix the awkward pathway in front of the fireplace. A woven basket next to the sofa adds texture to the room and stores blankets and other living room essentials. In a room with traditional furniture pieces, use fabric and pattern to create depth and add color to the space. Pillows embroidered with floral and confetti motifs jump out from the solid-color upholstery.

Stage 2: Fabric Fixes

In Stage 1, the items displayed on the shelves created a cluttered look. Now blue fabric panels conceal items stored here. Iridescent cornflower blue wallpaper affixed to the back of the built-ins transforms them from builder basics to designer goods. The blue coordinates with the window treatments to begin the living room's red-and-aqua palette.

DIY Project: Suspend fabric panels from tension rods to create movable doors and conceal clutter.

Stage 3: Ample Seating

A pretty red-and-aqua color palette, an inviting floor plan, and clever storage solutions turn this living room from ho-hum and awkward to the home's epicenter. In Stage 3, there is a nice flow from each entrance into the room and the TV and fireplace no longer compete for attention. Two sleek armless chairs and a red armchair add plenty of seating options. An upholstered ottoman replaces the coffee table. The ottoman adds color and extra seating when needed, which is ideal for a space that's used for both lounging and entertaining.

Stage 3: Accent with Color

An area rug adds color to the formerly beige room. The perky floral pattern on the ottoman and the modern circles on the area rug add a dose of fun to this kid-friendly living room.

Stage 3: Improved Flow

Above the mantel, a new larger print is a better scale for the space. Smaller accents flank the artwork and create an eye-pleasing scene. Colorful accent pillows on the beige armchair and the sofa liven up the furniture. The armchair placement leaves plenty of floor space for people to walk around the room.

Stage 3: Luxurious Window Treatments

Cheerful azure drapery panels suspended from a high curtain rod soften the window treatments and tie the room's color scheme together. Adding drapery panels to the windows also softens the red hue of the Roman shades. Dual window treatments are a good choice for a large expanse of windows because the fabric softens the room and offers a variety of privacy options.

Stage 3: Tidy Media Center

Replacing the fabric panels from Stage 2 with custom doors adds a polished look to the media center. The doors conceal clutter, but swing open for easy access to the family's entertainment essentials. Open side shelves keep the space casual by allowing the family to display special souvenirs and family photos. A blue lamp sits on top of the media center to provide a soft lighting option for movie nights and parties.

Stage 3: Cozy Seating Area

An oversize floor mirror grouped with the red leather armchair and a contemporary side table fills the empty space from Stage 1. The mirror doubles the sparkle factor of the lamp and helps distribute light more evenly around the room. Colorful throw pillows complete the look.

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