The Building Blocks of Great Room Furniture
05/22 Design Tips

The Building Blocks of Great Room Furniture

Some of our go-to, great room furniture formulas

If there were a bread and butter of interior design, it might be great room layouts. As one of the focal points of the home, great rooms are not only high-traffic areas but in an open concept floor plan, they set the scene for the rest of the space entirely.

Recently, we talked about why you shouldn't buy the furniture set, and we are big believers that mixed furniture is thoughtful furniture, but choosing layered pieces for a great room can be difficult.

Although there are many ways to design and layout great rooms, there are a few things our design team always takes into consideration. In this post, we're going to take you through the building blocks of some of our go-to, great room formulas.

We love these layouts in particular because they work in so many different spaces of all shapes and sizes, and they’re pretty fool-proof. Something about each of these pieces working together in their right place elevates a space to make it feel intentionally designed, and you can replicate it in many variations.

Here's the breakdown:

Choosing the seating

Typically, seating is the first selection we make when choosing great room furniture. There are times where a client will fall in love with a specific coffee table or rug first, but usually, we start with seating. When it comes to sofas, if we do two pieces, we typically do one with a heavy-weight base and one with a lighter-weight base, meaning one on legs, and one solid piece.

The Two Sofas, Two Chairs Layout

In The McGee Home Great Room, we started with our more modern-shaped Hale Sofa on metal legs and contrasted it with our traditional Reese Curved Sofa with a curved, solid silhouette that brought more weight. Next, we chose our transitional Beckett Chairs that met somewhere in the middle with their upholstered seats and an open, oak detailing on the back and sides to bring more light and airy-ness to the space.

The Building Blocks of a Great Room

From The McGee Home Great Room

The Building Blocks of a Great Room
The Building Blocks of a Great Room

We followed a similar layout in our Modern Lake House with one legged sofa, one solid sofa, and two, back-detailed, legged chairs.

From our Modern Lake House .

From our Modern Lake House.

The Building Blocks of a Great Room
The Building Blocks of a Great Room

In our recent, Rye NY project, because we chose a legged sofa and a legged day-bed, we distributed the seating weight through the two solid heavy-weighted swivel chairs in the middle.

From our Rye NY project.

There are, of course, always exceptions. For example, in our SM Ranch House project, both sofas we used in the great room were heavier-weighted, legless sofas, so we chose two sling-back, metal legged chairs to open up the room a bit more. Then, of course, the open, cross-legged coffee table design doesn't hurt, but we'll get to that later.

Building Blocks of a Great Room
The Building Blocks of a Great Room
From our SM Ranch House .

From our SM Ranch House.

The One Sofa, Two (or three) Chairs Layout

If we do only one sofa, we try to contrast that choice with our accent chair choices. For example, in our Northridge Remodel, we chose a more traditional, solid-based, legless sofa, and then chose accent chairs on legs with lighter silhouettes to balance the distribution of weight.

From our Northridge Remodel.

The Building Blocks of a Great Room

In our recent Pine Brook Home project, we chose a sofa and all three accent chairs with legs. However, because they all had pretty solid, upholstered tops, they held their weight perfectly in this space.

From our Pine Brook Home .

The Building Blocks of a Great Room
The Building Blocks of a Great Room

The fabric of an upholstered piece also plays a role in the distribution of weight. A velvet sofa tends to hold a lot more weight in a room than a linen sofa, and we love to contrast fabrics to create a balance of materials.

For more on upholstery, check out our recent blog post on choosing the right materials for your home and lifestyle.

Adding layers

Adding layers of seating is always a good option for added functionality and added weight distribution. For example, in our Beckham Project, we had two lighter weight, legged seating pieces, so we layered in extra seating that added more weight with two of our boucle Dawson Ottoman Poufs.

From our Beckham Project.

In The McGee Home, we layered our Ackley Leather Ottomans to add an added element of texture and color with their great woven leather material and deep-hued tone.

The Building Blocks of a Great Room

In our Red Ledges Project, we added two leather, cross-legged stools to bring complement our cross-legged accent chairs and side table, adding more interest into the leg shape variety of the room.

The Building Blocks of a Great Room
From our Red Ledges Project .

From our Red Ledges Project.

In a typical "Two Sofas, Two Chairs Layout," we like to place a bench, a pair of matching ottomans or stools in front of the mantle if there is one, or a few inches in front of the coffee table another direction. Layered side seating is one of those design elements that just make a room look finished. Because they are a smaller, less committed piece of furniture, we try to have fun with our choices and use them as an opportunity to add more interest and dimension into the look.

shop ottomans and stools

The Coffee Table

Once we choose our seating, our next selection in the design process is typically the coffee table. The right coffee table can make or break a room, and whether it's making a statement or blending seamlessly with the rest of the space, it's an important decision.

Much like our seating choices, we focus on the distribution of weight when selecting a coffee table. If we have chosen heavy-weighted seating or if the room is smaller, we gravitate towards coffee tables with a lighter, open base. Whereas if we have selected more legged, light-weight seating pieces, we gravitate towards a bulkier, more solid coffee table.

Style is another thing we consider when choosing a coffee table. If we have two more traditional sofas and transitional chairs, we might prefer a modern coffee table to create a more curated look, like the example below from our Cove Remodel.

From our Cove Remodel.

From our Cove Remodel.

In our Cabin On The Lake Project, we had a few streamlined, upholstered pieces, and the Cabin On The Lake Project the cross-legged coffee table we chose added some depth and interest that we wouldn't have otherwise gotten with a solid-based or straight-legged coffee table.

In our SM Ranch House, we chose a wide, metal-legged coffee table with a thin, cross detail underneath the base that not only coordinated with the accent chairs but opened up the room with its airy silhouette.

From our SM Ranch House .

From our SM Ranch House.

shop coffee tables

The Accent Pieces

Once you've chosen your seating pieces and coffee table, it's time to layer in the accent pieces! Side tables and floor lamps all apply similar rules to larger furniture pieces. If we do two side tables in a living room setup, we typically use different, contrasting pieces for more dimension, but in more traditional spaces, intentionally matched side tables can work just as well.

The Building Blocks of Great Room Furniture
From our Beckham Project.

From our Beckham Project.

Like we said, there are so many ways to design and layout a great room, but we hope this look into some elements of our process gave you inspiration for your next home or furniture update!

For more helpful great room resources, check out a few of our most requested posts below.

click images to read

How do you layout your great room furniture?

Show Comments
Studio McGee
  1. Thank you! Love the explanation. How would you typically add chairs/ottomans if you used a sectional for the main seating?

  2. Do you always use outlets in the floor for table lamps in great room? Do you measure out so they are placed just beyond the carpet line?

  3. What is your process for choosing colors/fabrics when you have different pieces of seating? Is three different colors/fabrics too much if you are looking at 2 sofas and accent chairs? Should the chairs and one of the sofas be somewhat in the same family? And is it cheating to have the same fabric but different colors/couch styles when trying to coordinate, but not match sofas?

  4. As I understand it, your style is built on the contrast with the colors, but you still remain in the same tone. This is very curious, I used to do it too, but somehow it turned out that I couldn’t continue it and switched to a plain style. I didn’t like how it all was not suitable for me. And after so many years, I come across a similar style and really see what it looks very good. You taste good, thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading Next Post...