Q: My boyfriend and I rent a house from my parents, and we have a couple of roommates. We enjoy having other friends over to hang out, play music, or watch some shows. Among us, there are also several young nieces, nephews, and kid siblings we babysit, so it’s rare that there is an empty house. But what isn’t rare, is people running out of places to sit. We fill up the couch, the ottoman, and even sit on the arms and backs of the furniture. We pull over the dining table chairs and the chairs from the yard. What are some other flexible ideas for nice seating that doesn’t cost too much?
A: For any house, regardless of number of occupants or how formal or casual you all are, available and comfortable seating is one of the best ways to offer an inviting place to entertain. It’s so awkward to enter a room full of lively conversation and not find a naturally appealing place to sit. Sure, your partner or bestie can offer to share their spot or everyone can squeeze a bit more on the sofa, but that isn’t going to last more than a few minutes.
And how wonderful that there are kids in the picture. It’s fun to take inspiration in how they find creative seating and lounging solutions in the furniture you already have. Watch how they’ll stack up the cushions off the sofa and chairs to lounge on or make forts with. Just try keeping them from sitting on whatever they find interesting, including tables, boxes, stacks of books, storage containers, and even the pillows off everybody’s bed.
Search for soft, sturdy, and lightweight items the kids (and everyone else) can move easily and include pieces large enough for adults. Some pieces that come immediately to mind include upholstered seating cubes, floor cushions, stools that double as end tables, vintage chairs, benches, and stackable chairs. Poufs are wonderfully soft round or oval objects that work well as a low chair or footstool.
For upholstered pieces, choose durable covers of leather or indoor/outdoor fabrics or removable, washable covers that can be replaced. Buying used wood furniture means there is already a patina built in, because these pieces will take a beating. Consider floor cushions in various sizes that can stack in a corner, stools that will fit under other tables or furniture, or can move easily indoors and out for year-round flexibility.
Pieces that also incorporate storage are useful, but often are heavier and more difficult to move around. But they can store other cushions, throw pillows, and blankets, and can be used to help anchor the main seating arrangement. An upholstered ottoman works well as a coffee table and seating, though no one wants to sit in the middle of the conversation. Temporarily moved off to the side, however, a sturdy wooden coffee table, bench, or ottoman is more useful as seating.
Sofas and chairs without arms are flexible for seating since a person can face in any direction. And if you want arms on your furniture and are OK with your friends sitting there, look for sturdy, high quality construction that isn’t too hard-edged or uneven under thin padding. Also, placing a chaise or bench behind a sofa can be the start of a secondary seating area or more flexible seating for the main grouping.
Loosely arranged, comfortable, and lightweight but sturdy furniture in a variety of shapes will make it easy for your guests to rearrange. Anchor your room with heavier pieces such as the sofa or a big sectional, the best quality you can afford and fill in the smaller pieces with less expensive, lighter furniture and accents to keep your living room fun and flexible.