Do you ever wonder why some rooms work and some don’t? There could be many reasons why a room doesn’t work, but often times it’s the furniture arrangement. When that is out of balance, nothing you do will seem “right”. Here are a few basic designer secrets to help prevent you from having that issue in your house. These are the “rules” of design, but of course there are always exceptions.
The most important step is to measure the room so you know what you’re working with. Obviously, start with the overall length X width measurements. You will also want to measure the width of the doorways and windows. Finally, make note of where the electrical outlets are located as well as the heating/cooling vents. It helps if you sketch this out while measuring for reference later. I use graph paper, and count each box as 2 inches. Then when I see a piece of furniture I like, I draw that in to get a good idea of how much or how little space it will take up in the room.
I have a really simple way for you to practice arranging furniture with a balance test. Imagine your room divided into four quarters. When planning the furniture placement you will want all four quarters to be equally balanced, or evenly distributed.
Leave natural pathways in the room so you are able to move freely through it. I also consider how I’ll move the vacuum through it. It doesn’t always need to be a straight pathway, just a clutter free one. Unless it’s a hallway, those should be a direct path. Because my kitchen is small, I keep it simple with just a table and chairs. If I tried to add any additional pieces, such as a side cart for storage, it would just be in the way and feel claustrophobic. When in doubt, use less furniture.
Most rooms have a natural focal point, which can also be called the most important element of the room. This is what you will plan the entire room around. A fireplace, a dining table or a bed are examples of focal points of the room. If the room does not have any type of focal point, you should create one. In the living room, the focal point is usually the fireplace or a TV (unless you have an amazing view) so it’s best to group your conversation area around that. There should be a table within reach of each seat to put drinks on. In my family room, below, we created a focal point by adding a fireplace and a TV.
This one is probably the most important. Sometimes you have to live in the space for a while to determine how you’ll use it. Other times, the function of a room may change over time. You may need your living room to double as a playroom or a bedroom to double as an office. In my daughter’s room, I used a desk next to the bed rather than a nightstand so she would have a quiet place to study. A small room may need multi-functional furniture and a very large room may need a few extra pieces to prevent it from feeling too cold.
When planning your space also keep in mind where you will need lighting and where the electrical outlets are.
You want all of the pieces in a room to be a similar scale or size. Some furniture will have a heavier “visual weight” than others. A dark-colored chair will feel more imposing than a light-colored one. Furniture that is glass or that has exposed legs will feel airier than chunkier pieces.
A few more notes as far as room planning goes: I always use graph paper when planning rooms. I also sometimes use it for planning wall decor, especially gallery walls before I go start putting holes in my sheet rock.
Another awesome tool I use is floorplanner.com. This site lets you put in your room measurements and furniture pieces to scale. The best part about it is that it has a 3D view feature. I use this before moving furniture around to save myself the heavy lifting!