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How to Create a Stylish Area for Conversation in a Great Room:

Make a Cozy Entertaining Area with Furniture Arrangement, the Right Accessories, and Lighting

© 2010 by Jessica Ackerman all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission.

A comfortable, well-decorated living room, photo courtesy Jessica Ackerman

A great room offers a great place for everyone to enjoy the benefits of family and friends without feeling cramped. At the same time, when you have a large space, it can feel impersonal when there are only a few of you. So how to you create a conversation area that feels cozy without breaking the room into awkward blocks?

The first step to stylish is to create an area that is out of the room’s traffic paths–those short cuts we all use to pass through a room. When you are hanging out with the girls, you don’t want the rest of the world walking though your conversation saying, “Excuse me.”

It’s easy to identify potential traffic paths. Draw imaginary lines between all the openings into the great room. Unless you place a piece of furniture in the way, you are probably looking at a traffic path.

While these paths can be altered somewhat by furniture layout, if your imaginary line goes from a main entrance to the kitchen, you are looking at a primary traffic path that everyone will use.

Your primary goal for a conversation area is to keep everyone close enough to enjoy talking comfortably. Because of its shape, a corner often provides a logical space for creating a conversation area.

But don’t despair if you don’t have a corner available because of traffic patterns. You can create a visual corner with your furniture layout.

You don’t have to place sofas and chairs against walls. If a traffic pattern flows along the wall, pull the furniture away from the wall by about three feet, instead of forcing everyone to walk in front of you.

Match the Size of Your Furniture to the Size of Your Room

The next step to stylish is to select furniture that fits the scale of your great room. While large pieces have been the trend in recent years, they aren’t always the best style choice for a moderately sized room. At the same time, the current retro trend toward less bulky furniture often ends up looking lost in a spacious room.

When you don’t have the money to buy new furniture, this can be a challenge. If you have a set with a large sofa, loveseat, and two chairs, consider retiring either the loveseat or the sofa, depending on how many people you usually entertain. If you really need every seat possible, consider changing where you place pieces.

Here are Some Ideas for Accomplishing Style Through Layout

Let’s imagine you have loveseats. One potential layout is to place the two pieces opposite each other. If the pieces are bulky, don’t place a coffee table in between. Place narrow end tables or table lamps on either side of each loveseat instead. This keeps the conversation space cozier. If your furniture has sleek lines, a coffee table in between the two pieces can tie the look together.

Another layout is to place the loveseats at right angles to each other with an anchoring table or lamp at the corner. Add a round or square coffee table with this arrangement.

Look at some Crate and Barrel tables; they have modern and classic styles to fit any great room. If you have two chairs (in addition to the loveseats), you can place them at the far end of each loveseat.

Then tilt them inward by 45°. This creates some interest in the layout. If your coffee table is rectangular, try placing it on the diagonal between the two loveseats. Or line the table up with one of the loveseats and place any extra chairs opposite that loveseat.

How to Arrange Multiple Pieces

When you have three or four pieces of furniture, it’s easy to sprawl out and lose the conversational feel. Avoid this by allowing arms to touch. Don’t let yourself be locked into right angles. Consider other angles as well. For example, you can create an anchor on a wall with a corner table (round works especially well). Add your love seat at a right angle from the wall.

Then add the sofa so the front of the arm touches the table, but the back of the sofa floats away from the wall by 30° – 45° or so. The resulting space behind the sofa creates the perfect spot to tuck your favorite potted tree; give the plant a boost with a plant stand if it’s hiding behind the back of someone’s head.

Place any arm chairs at angles to the sofa and loveseat. Your goal here is to allow enough space for everyone to enter and leave the conversation area comfortably. Think 3 – 4 feet minimum.

Decorate Creatively with Accesories

The final step to creating a stylish area for conversation is to accessorize. It’s amazing what a decorative screen can do. Consider adding plants to your conversation area if the lighting supports it. Choose quality artificial plants if it doesn’t.

Consider tall accents or accents that hang from the ceiling, if the furniture is bulky and feels crowded. Drawing the eye upward helps create a distinct feeling that this is a special area in the great room.

Lighting fixtures provide the most accessible options but keep an eye out for a sculpture or interesting ceramic piece. Even a garden trellis can be transformed into a vertical accent.

Ultimately, your goal is to create a space that you feel comfortable inviting your friends and family to share with you.

About the author:

Targeting “do it yourselfers,” Jessica Ackerman writes regularly for, offering simple illustrations of metal wall candle sconces and wine kitchen decor.

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Article © 2010 Jessica Ackerman All rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission.