Remodeling 101: Where to Locate Electrical Outlets, Living Room Edition by

Issue 35 · The Organized Life · September 4, 2014

Remodeling 101: Where to Locate Electrical Outlets, Living Room Edition

Issue 35 · The Organized Life · September 4, 2014

An often overlooked detail during a remodel? Strategically placed electrical outlets, which will enhance any room's functionality and aesthetics. To ensure your house's power is both plentiful and well placed, here's the first in a series of electrical outlet primers.

First up: Outlets in the living room and entryway. 

Floor Outlets Tiinas Living Room, Remodelista

Above: Inset into a polished concrete floor, strategically placed floor outlets keep the cords of freestanding lamps to a minimum in the living room at Tiina Laakkonen's House in the Hamptons. Tour the whole compound in the Remodelista book. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Remodelista.

Know electric code restrictions and rules

Step 1: Educate yourself about the requirements and restrictions defined by the International Residential Code, National Electrical Code (NEC), and any local codes. The good news is that the rules focus on the minimum requirements for outlet placement (by number of feet between outlets and from corners, etc.). Those minimums may be exceeded, so you may generally add outlets when necessary.

Electric Outlet Architect Symbols, Remodelista

Above: Symbols used by architects to denote various types of electrical outlets include duplex (two receptacles), floor, and GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt) outlets, which are used in bathrooms, kitchens, or anywhere water is present. Image via What's on the ARE.

Assess your living room electrical power needs

Make a careful assessment of how you're going to use your living room; convenience is crucial, but aesthetics are also important. To reduce the need for unsightly and hazardous extension cords, outlets should be placed as close to their points of use as possible. Here are key questions to drive your outlet placement decisions. 

1. What is your furniture layout?

This is an important consideration in living rooms. If you plan to anchor your space with a centrally positioned sofa or seating arrangement, strategically placed floor plugs come in very handy. And don't forget bookshelf and storage shelf placement—if you have units that back against a wall, you won't want to block essential outlets.

Francesca Connolly Living Room, Remodelista

Above: When Remodelista cofounder Francesca Connolly remodeled her Brooklyn Heights brownstone, she knew she would need power for lamps on either end of her centrally positioned sofa. "It's best to carefully measure the furniture and placement," she says. "If there is only one obvious place where the sofa will go, it's easier. Just center the outlet so you can position a lamp on either end of the sofa and hide the cord underneath; in our case, there's a small slit in the rug where the cords weave through to the central outlet under the sofa." Photograph by Matthew Williams.

Brass Floor Outlet in Wood Floor, Remodelista

Above: Remodelista contributing editor Izabella Simmons went a step further. "We made cardboard templates of our sofas and placed them on the floor to figure out where to plant the outlets [which are dropped into the floor and stay flush]," she says. "It was as simple as that." See 10 Easy Pieces: Floor Outlets for a range of options. Photograph by Izabella Simmons.

2. Where are your lighting sources? 

Will you have lamps on your end tables? Do you have a favorite floor lamp that will stand next to your reading chair but far from a wall? Plan accordingly. Also make sure you have ample outlets positioned along your baseboards.

Julie Carlson Living Room, Remodelista

Above: Working with architect Jerome Buttrick, Remodelista editor in chief Julie Carlson placed outlets in her living room to allow for multiple floor lamps. Photograph by Matthew Williams

3. How many outlets do you need? What powered items do you use? 

Placement is not just about where but also how many electric outlets are available. It's easy to underestimate your needs. A console table may house not only a lamp but also a speaker, a phone, and other equipment. A duplex receptacle is too small. 

4. Will you have a flat screen or other electronics in your living room? 

While their profiles have grown sleeker, TV screens still come with cumbersome cords. Take into account TV placement and make sure you have ample outlets.

Wall-mount Flat Screen with concealed outlet, Remodelista

Above: Place outlets directly behind where you plan to hang a wall-mounted TV. Recessed outlets are recommended because they sit invisibly behind flush screens, keeping plugs and cords out of sight (for more guidance, go to 7 Secrets for Living with a Flat-Screen TV, Cord-Control Edition). Photograph by Ragnar Ómarsso via Skona Hem.

5. Do you need electric power in your entryway?

Seattle architect Nils Finne, a member of the Remodelista Architect/Design Directory, designs spaces with his clients' personal electronics use in mind. "Thinking about how you come and go, and where you use and recharge your personal devices, is essential," Finne says. Consider outlets for front-entry electric power solutions, including cubbies (outlets can go in the back), credenzas, or outlets inside entry closets. 

J Weiss Architecture Moraga Entry, Remodelista

Above: SF architect Jennifer Weiss created a built-in entry credenza in an East Bay residence; concealed outlets act as convenient charging station for phones. Photograph by Lucas Fladzinski, courtesy of J. Weiss Architecture.

Docking Drawer, Remodelista

Above: In-drawer outlets in entry credenzas are convenient for charging personal electronics. They can be configured by an electrician or are available preconfigured from Docking Drawer.

6. Do you decorate for holidays and special events? 

Decorating for special events might happen only a few times a year, but don't leave it out of your electrical outlet planning. Having outlets near mantels, stair railings, and interior archways, for example, makes it easier to hang sparkly lights and electric-powered decorations.

Holiday String Lights Entryway, Remodelista

Above: String lights add a festive touch, especially when extension cords are not involved. Photograph via Julie's Indoor Holiday Lights Pinterest Collection.

Find outlets unsightly? See Invisible Plugs? Step 1: Recessed Outlets5 Ways to Banish Computer Cords from Your Home Office, and 7 Secrets for Living with a Flat-Screen TV, Cord-Control Edition

For visible solutions to outlet blight, there are attractive options such as An Extension Cord to Have in Plain Sight and 10 Easy Pieces: Switch Plate Covers.

Getting ready to remodel? Peruse all of our Remodeling 101 features.   

Have an opinion? Care to comment? We'd love to hear what you have to say.