How Much Space You Need for Traffic Flow
No matter how big or small your home, it’s important to leave enough space in your room designs so that people can move around easily. Use these tips to find out how much space is necessary and how to handle tricky situations where there just isn’t enough room.
Around a Dining Table
You may want to fit the biggest dining table possible into your dining room so that you can accommodate the most guests, but if your table takes up so much room that your guests can’t move around easily, you’ve defeated the purpose.
Ideally, you should leave 42 to 48 inches of open space all the way around the table, and 60 inches of space on any side that is also used as a walkway into and out of the room. Leaving that open space will highly reduce the chance of collisions when someone pulls out a chair as someone walks by.
Don’t have the space? Reconsider the size and shape of the table you use. For example, picking a table that seats fewer guests but allows for more circulation space might work better in the long run. In addition, a round or oval table opens up the corners of a room which reduces the tightness of a walkway to just a short stretch.
Another possible solution is to place the table slightly off-center so that one side is closer to the wall. This leaves the opposite side with a little extra room for circulation. Designate the tighter side for younger, more agile guests, while those who aren’t as mobile can be seated on the more accessible side.
If you feel uncomfortable with a table that isn’t perfectly centered, manipulate other design elements (like lighting and wall art) to make it still feel like it has a logical center line.
Behind a Desk
In a standard office situation, it’s best to aim for at least 48 inches between the desk and the nearest obstacle so that the chair can be pushed in and out without encumbrance. That being said, home offices don’t always require that much room because they’re typically a less formal environment and see less foot traffic. At home, 36 inches will work fine. Any less than that may feel a bit too cramped.
Don’t have the space? Think outside the box and consider transforming a closet into a desk niche so you have that extra 24 to 28 inches of space. The upper part of the closet can still be used for shelf storage, and the doors or a curtain rod can be kept in place so that you can close up your “office” when not in use.
Between a Couch and a Coffee Table
Living rooms have several distances to keep in mind when it comes to the sofa, which can prove tricky. Here are a few to consider:
• Between sofa and coffee table: 16 to 18 inches.
• Between sofa and opposite chairs or sofa: 7 to 9 feet at most.
• Width of walkway through room: 36 inches.
• Between sofa and TV: width of TV times 2.75.
One popular living room setup that allows for people to move freely, sit comfortably and be able to chat easily is placing one central coffee table to serve a few seats and then having a second table serving another seat nearby. Allow just enough space between the two seating areas so that people can access them without issue, but also talk without raising their voices.
Other effective setups use the space in front of the TV to also serve as the 36-inch walkway through the room. While it may feel like a wasted chance to fit in an extra chair, it’s actually a necessity so that the room functions smoothly.
Don’t have the space? Don’t think you have to resign yourself to a lifetime of stubbed toes and bumped shins. Just change your thinking a bit. Try getting rid of the standard coffee table and replacing it with an assortment of smaller, more versatile alternatives. Experiment with nesting tables and small stools that not only free up space, but can be pulled out and used as tabletops or ottomans when needed.
Another solution is to seek out tables with legs rather than solid, blocky versions. The legs free up space for your legs to stretch and your feet to rest. Or, as a last resort, try eliminating the coffee table altogether. Instead, use end tables next to each seat to serve the same purpose without occupying the center of the room.
Between a Kitchen Counter and an Island
The goal in a kitchen is to have the island surface within easy reach of your large appliances, but not so close to the main counters that you can’t turn around without bumping into something. Therefore, a distance of 36 to 42 inches works well for a single-cook kitchen. If you tend to have multiple kitchen helpers, then 48 inches might be better for easing up any possible congestion.
Don’t forget that any drawers, wide doors or large appliances facing the island need adequate space to open easily, so try to err on the larger side of circulation space requirements. Also, treat an island with stools like you would a dining table — 48 inches of free space on that side so that people can sit and walk by without issue.
Don’t have the space? Try adjusting the size and shape of your kitchen island. For example, your island doesn’t have to be as long as your counters. Consider using an island with a more square shape so that the room feels less crammed.
Another solution is to look into cart-style islands that are movable. Not only will they provide some flexibility, they look lighter and more open so that the kitchen will feel roomier even in a tight setup.
Around a Bed
A perfect bedroom setup allows for at least 36 inches of space around the bed for ease of movement. At bare minimum this distance should be 24 inches, which would give you room to make the bed and get in and out without too much of a problem.
If a larger bedside table is desired, you’ll obviously need at least that much width. Nightstands that include storage range from 18 to 48 inches wide, so it pretty much depends on how much storage space you want. Bedside tables flanking the bed don’t necessarily need to be the same width, so it’s possible to use a wider one on one side and a smaller one on the other. Just position the bed closer to one wall to save on room.
Don’t have the space? Eliminate one or more nightstand or use a simple floating shelf in their place to open up the area. Another option is asymmetrical placement — positioning one side of the bed closer to the wall so that only one side is cramped. Lastly, you can always downsize your bed. It may take some getting used to, but the extra space gained might just be worth it.