When it comes to selecting and arranging furniture in your living room, stop and think first about your lifestyle. How do you and your family use the room? Do you have kids and pets? Do you entertain often? Are houseguests common? Is it a formal space or are you OK with people putting their feet up on the coffee table or using the ottoman like a dining room table?

In the Perspective New England Beach House living room, interior designer Kate Jackson worked with a family that included two elementary school age girls, two dogs and frequent get-togethers with friends and family. Her challenge was to create a durable and stylish space with an open feeling that could accommodate a lot of people and maximize the first floor open floor plan by easily connecting with the kitchen area.

First, Kate replaced the large coffee table the family had in the living room with a narrower ottoman. The smaller ottoman opens up the living room, but because it’s upholstered in durable Sunbrella fabric it can stand up to anything this active family throws at it.

She placed two identical sofas perpendicular to the fireplace hearth and two swivel chairs in the space where the living room connects to the kitchen. The sofas provide ample seating, and the swivel chairs can spin around, allowing people to easily talk with others sitting at the kitchen island stools.

When the family hosts a party, guests can hang out in the kitchen or living room without feeling disconnected. And because the furniture is upholstered in durable, stain resistant Sunbrella fabric, they don’t have to worry about guests taking their food and drink into the living room.

See how the living room sofas stood up to a chocolate syrup and ketchup stain challenge with the family’s daughters.

Living room furniture arrangement No. 2: connect to the outside

What if the priority was to connect the beach house living room to the backyard? There’s a beautiful beach just feet away, after all. In this case, Kate recommends moving the swivel chairs to the windows, so people can turn and look out the windows to the ocean view outside.

In this scenario the sofa from in front of the windows would move to the space where the living room and kitchen connect. A console table behind the sofa would prevent people from walking into its back.

This furniture arrangement separates the kitchen and the living room, creating more intimate spaces.

Living room furniture arrangement No. 3: open space

To really open up the space remove the swivel chairs altogether. But, be aware that you’ve sacrificed some seating.

Leaving the space between the kitchen and the living room unimpeded allows guests to mingle more freely. And for everyday use, it opens up the space and transfers the focus of the beach house’s first floor to the kitchen.

Love the look? Learn Kate’s tips for creating a coastal chic nautical design and see how she used kid friendly Sunbrella fabric for a fun and durable children’s room on the beach house third floor.