10 Basic Layout Rules for Furniture Arrangement
For a cohesive, polished look in any room, follow these 10 simple layout rules. They’ll help you figure out where to put things, where not to put things, and how to prioritize your choices.
1. Consider the Function of the Room
To begin, pinpoint the room’s purpose and how many people will generally use it. That will go a long way in telling you what type of furnishings you’ll need and how many seats will be required.
2. Choose a Focal Point
A focal point can be many things — an outdoor view, the television, a fireplace. Identify what your room’s focal point is and then place your furniture accordingly. Keep in mind that if you plan on watching television in the room, the optimal distance between the seating and the TV set is three times the size of the screen. For example, a 40-inch television would require seating be 120 inches away for ideal viewing.
3. Start With Largest Furniture Pieces
As a rule, place the largest piece of furniture first. In a living room this would mean the sofa, and in the bedroom, the bed. In most cases, the largest piece should be oriented toward the room’s focal point. When arranging the room, make sure chairs are no more than 8 feet apart so that conversations can happen. Avoid pushing all your furniture up against the walls, unless your room is especially small.
4. Decide on Symmetry
Should your room make use of symmetry or not? In most cases, the orderly and methodical feel of symmetrical arrangements work best in formal rooms. Asymmetrical arrangements tend to loosen things up and make a room feel more casual.
5. Create a Traffic Flow
When you think about the flow of traffic through a room, it’s generally the pathway between doorways. Try not to block that path with large pieces of furniture. All major traffic routes should be 30 to 48 inches wide, while minor routes should be a minimum of 24 inches. Also, direct traffic around any seating areas, not through them. So, if your room’s traffic cuts through the middle of your space, consider two smaller seating areas instead of one large one.
6. Mix Things Up
Stimulate the eyes as they scan the space by varying the size of furniture pieces throughout the room. For instance, avoid placing two tall pieces next to each other and instead balance a large or tall item by positioning another piece of similar size or height across the room from it. Art could also be used to replicate the scale.
7. Incorporate Contrast
Don’t be afraid to combine straight and curved lines to create contrast. If your furniture is modern and linear, try contrasting it by throwing in a round table. If your furniture is more curvy, add an angular piece to the mix. Along the same lines, pair solid pieces with voids, like pairing a leggy chair with a more solid side table, or a solid chair with a leggy table.
8. Make Ease of Use a Priority
This might go without saying, but try to make your space as comfortable and accommodating as possible. Position a table within reach of every seat and make sure there is an accompanying lamp for every reading chair. Position your coffee tables 14 to 18 inches from a sofa or side chair so that there is sufficient legroom.
9. Leave Room for Circulation
This means leaving adequate room for traffic flow. In a dining room, for instance, be sure to leave at least 48 inches between each edge of the table and any surrounding furniture or walls. If there isn’t traffic on one side of the table, then 36 inches should be okay.
For bedrooms, 24 inches should be left between the side of the bed and a wall, and at least 36 inches between the bed and a door.
10. Put Your Planning Time In
Save yourself a lot of time and energy by testing your design on paper before you move any furniture. Draw up a floor plan on graph paper with the room’s dimensions, noting the location of any doors, windows, heat registers and electrical outlets. Use cutouts to represent your furnishings and test possible arrangements before doing any heavy lifting. There are also digital room planners available that do the same thing on the computer. Either way, planning makes the job less work and much more fun.