Interior Design Tips for Arranging Furniture & Space Planning
Have you ever walked into a room and felt like something was just off? More often than not, it takes a minute or two to understand exactly what feels wrong with the space – the color, proportion, perspective, the list goes on…
There are so many things to consider to ensure your room is both functionally and aesthetically pleasing, which leads me to the essence of all great design, and that is space planning.
The placement of sofas, chairs, tables, lamps and other furnishings should be planned, rather than haphazardly positioned in a space. Arranging furniture properly can improve the traffic flow and organization of a room, while helping to highlight whatever aspect of the room is most important to you, a focal point if you will. That’s where space planning/drawing your room down to scale comes into play.
Here are a few tips to consider next time you find yourself arranging furniture in your space.
Drawing a Floor Plan
Time to draw your room down to scale. This first step is key to proper planning. Use lined graph paper (or a space planning computer program) to help ensure that your scaled drawing is as accurate as possible (we tend to use a quarter to a half-inch scale per actual foot).
Be sure to include location, heights and widths of doors, windows, heaters, electrical outlets and switches. This info is incredibly important as you begin to place furnishings in the space (drawing).
During this stage of the project you have the ability to experiment with different arrangements. Before we finalize one plan for our clients, we draw at least two furniture arrangements so we have the opportunity to see what placements work best and to provide our clients with a few options to choose from.
Next, measure each piece of furniture you plan to use in the room (if you haven’t selected furnishings just yet, this is a good time to gauge what types of furniture you’ll need and the size and scale your room can hold). Focus your attention on the largest and most important pieces first. Draw a basic outline of each piece on different colors of construction paper/or scale them down in your computer program. Use the same scale as your floor plan, so that you can see how much relative space you have in your room. Label them and cut them out.
The plan below was ultimately our final selection for our client’s space:
The Three “F’s”– Function, Focal Point and Flow Considerations
Function – What kind of room is it? Arranging furniture in a dining room is much different than in a living room, bedroom or office. Does the room need to accommodate a lot of people or just a few?
Focal Point – What do you want to emphasize? If you have a big bay window that looks out over a scenic vista, perhaps you want to highlight the view. Maybe your pride and joy is a majestic decorative fireplace. Orient your furniture to direct attention to the focal point. If viewing a widescreen HD television is important to you, the optimal distance between the TV set and any seating is roughly three times the size of the screen.
Flow – Can people move easily from place to place? Notice at how people enter and exit the room, and how doors open and close. Cluttered pathways can make you feel like you’re in a pinball machine, so avoid placing large pieces of furniture in the natural lane of traffic if at all possible. Allow at least 3 feet of open space for your primary traffic routes (Interior Design Tips).
Round One: When you begin placing the furniture, be sure to place the largest pieces first (preferably facing the rooms focal point). To create a more intimate seating arrangement, place furniture away from the walls and within 8-10 feet from one another.
Angling a few pieces of furniture can give a softer, more casual feel to a room, while geometric alignment conveys a sense of formality and seriousness. Sofas and chaise lounges make great dividers, if you need to separate areas of a room.
Round Two: Next up are all the related items to round one (ie tables, occasional chairs, ect). Place side tables within easy reach of the sofas/chairs and cocktail tables far enough in front of the sofa/chairs to allow for legroom (but not too far away either, about 15-20 inches). You want these accent pieces to compliment the larger furniture elements in the space, providing functionality to each soft good.
Round Three: Lastly it’s time to add lighting and all accessories/accents to your space, complimenting items placed in round two. Lighting is incredibly important, something you should be thinking about as you draw your room down to scale (where the outlets are located, what areas of your room need the most light, ect). Lighting helps with visibility in the space and creates a certain ambiance. Artwork and rugs add a sense of warmth to a space and help to define conversation areas within a room.
The smaller the room, the more concerned you should be about using the available space efficiently. Multifunctional furniture can provide invaluable benefits such as futons for small apartments as they serve two functions – sleeping and seating. Storage ottomans are great for family rooms as they provide hidden storage compartments as well as a place to rest your feet. And let’s not forget about vertical space solutions such as built in shelving. Shelving provides a home for books, photos and other accents, while wall or ceiling-mounted racks can store bikes and save precious floor space.
Wall mirrors (as seen in the image above) can give the illusion of a larger room and alleviate claustrophobic feelings, especially if the mirror reflects a window.
The brighter the room is, either from natural or artificial light, the more open the room will appear.
Styling it Up
This is where your own sense of style and personality can shine. Select furnishings that work with your lifestyle, not the opposite.
Here are a few things to think about as you select furnishings for your space:
Metal, stone and straight edges convey a rigid, but orderly feel, while woods and curves are softer and more casual.
Solid colors tend to complement, while complex patterns draw attention.
It’s okay to mix contemporary furniture with traditional, but look for items that can complement each other through shape, color or texture.
Modular furniture (ie sectional sofas and stackable storage units) allows for an endless array of arrangement possibilities and provides a cohesive look.
Keeping in mind the concepts outlined above should help you avoid major problems and enhance the “feel” of any room.