Every room needs seating of one form or another. Lounges will often uses sofas or settees but these are space hungry and inflexible items of furniture. In a small room they consume all the space, making it difficult for people to move around behind the sofas. Ironically in a very large room a sofa or even a couple of large settees can look badly out of place, because there is just so much room outside the space enclosed by the sofas.

The solution is the judicious use of occasional chairs. These come in a wide variety of traditional and contemporary styles, and come covered in a myriad of fabrics, suedes and leathers, but all are practical and flexible solutions to seating.

A well designed seating arrangement in a room not only provides comfortable places to sit, but it also encourages conversation, directs the flow of foot traffic and focuses attention on the key focal points of the room.

In a very large room seating can be arranged around more than one focal point, whereas in smaller rooms only one focal point may be practical. Common focal points may be coffee tables or fire places. Today large screen televisions have increasingly been installed in lounges, sadly, often with little thought to the layout of the room as a whole.

What you need:


  • Occasional chairs
  • Coffee table
  • Ottoman or footstools
  • Side tables
  • Table lamps
  • Floor lamps


Step 1: Style

Select occasional chairs that are in a style that complements the existing sofa, or other furniture in the room. Although the accent furniture does not need to be the exact same style, it should be similar. For example, upholstered occasional chairs look better near sofas than straight-back chairs.

Step 2: Fabric

Select fabric for the occasional chair in a colour that is different from the sofa. The accent chairs should look different from the other seating, but should still compliment it at the same time. If you are creating a group of seats there is no need to make each chair identical. A variety of styles and fabrics will emphasise the "occasional" or "accent" nature of this method of furnishing. Compared with a sofa, an occasional chair uses much less fabric, so for a given budget you will have a much wider range of fabrics from which you can select. If you opt for a bespoke occasional chair you will have a truly unique piece of furniture customised purely for you.

Step 3: Location

Decide where the chairs should be located. If the chairs will be used for reading, place them near a window or appropriate lighting. If you will use the chairs as overflow seating in a room with a sofa, place them near to the sofa. In a very large room consider several groups around their own focal points. In a small room you may only have room for one chair. Even a small bedroom will benefit from a stylish occasional chair placed in a corner.

Step 4: Create a focal point

Place a coffee table, ottoman or some other focal point in the center of the accent chairs. Choose a table that is round or oval-shaped to counterbalance the straight lines of the chairs.

Step 5: Positioning

Place the chairs diagonally to each other, with the seats facing a center focal point. Leave a distance of 75cm around the edges of each chair to allow for foot traffic in the room.

Step 6: Practicalities

Place small side tables near the accent chairs to hold drinks and table lamps. Floor lamps also work well next to accent chairs if you do not need a side table. The most practical lighting is provided by lamps powered by under-floor power sockets to avoid trailing wires obstructing the carefully designed circulation space around your seats.


It is worth remembering that because you have chosen occasional chairs, you can easily experiment with different room layouts until you find one that you like and which is practical. If you tire of the layout it is easy to change. In fact occasional chairs are one of the most flexible components of room design. If you purchase high quality chairs they will last many years but you can easily and economically re-upholster them in new fabric if your tastes change over time.