How to craft a space you’ll love
July 20, 2017
Furniture arranging is both art and science. Just looking at your space should make you feel good, but using it has to feel good too. As in, you don’t want to smash your knee on the corner of the coffee table (“%*&#!!”) every time you head for the couch after a long day.
Professional designers have all the finer points worked out already. To help you keep trial and error to a minimum, we scoured the internet for their tips and collected 20 key dos and don’ts.
Having trouble visualizing your room? Check out our favorite online room planning tools and do a digital dry run before you start moving things around.
Think transition. You might not think of your entry as a “room,” especially if it’s not, well, a room. But a buffer zone, or the lack of one, can make a surprisingly big difference in how you experience your home. Define the space, with a rug or art piece for example. And if you don’t have a “real” entry, try to arrange things so you’re not walking directly into a conversation or work area.
The “drop spot.” Place a table or bench within easy reach to keep keys, set down groceries, etc. Besides the pure functionality, it will help define the space. Speaking of functionality, some pieces designed for entries have built-in storage for shoes, hats, and gloves.
Identify your focal point. Fireplace? View? Place furniture accordingly. Which doesn’t necessarily mean facing it. The focal point is the first thing you set eyes on when you walk into the room, so you want to enhance it. For example, if the focal point is the view, don’t block it with high-backed chairs.
Establish the center point. Usually the middle of the room, but not always. Generally, this is the place for the coffee table. If your living room is very large or very long, consider two center points, one larger than the other.
Determine the main function. Put some thought into how you actually spend your time in the room. How can you arrange it to serve and enhance that?
Consider symmetry vs. asymmetry. Symmetrical arrangements tend to look and feel more formal and serious. You might want to go in this direction if you already have a focal point that’s centered, such as a fireplace. Asymmetrical arrangements are more relaxed and playful. They also lend themselves to one-of-a-kind accent pieces.
Enable traffic flow. You want to be walking around, not through, your living areas as you go from room to room. That includes a clear path from the front door to an inviting spot to hang out. It’s amazing how annoying it can be to constantly step around something.
Leave walkways. About 30 or 36 inches between pieces you’ll be walking around works well.
Think conversation. You can’t have an intimate chat from 15 feet away. Professional decorators put the optimal seating distance at 4 to 8 feet, 10 max.
Think tea and cocktails. Make sure there’s a stable surface within easy reach of each seat for setting down a coffee or a cocktail.
Downplay the TV. Or at least think twice about making it your focal point, especially if you have a big flat-screen TV. The black-hole look isn’t very inviting. Yet you don’t want your black hole too far from your favorite seat.
Float your furniture. Depending on your room’s size and shape, think about pulling furniture away from the walls to define the conversation space better. (If you do, consider installing an in-floor electrical outlet or two to avoid the danger of cords across walkways.)
It’s all about the chairs. The important rule here is to leave at least 36 inches between the table and any wall or other furniture. Sliding out a chair and sitting down shouldn’t require a strategy.
Anchor the table. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in the center of the room (and it won’t be anyway if you have an open layout). You can create a “center” by defining the space with a rug or a light fixture.
Remember the leaves. Does your dining table expand for the occasional jumbo gathering? Account for that. You don’t want your guests pinned to the wall, even once a year.
That focal point again. Naturally, the bed is the focal point, which is why most people put it against the wall opposite the door to the room. If you can’t do that, you might have to settle for sheer functionality. Read on.
Bathroom test. Can you stumble from the bed to the bathroom in the middle of the night without hurting yourself or your sleep-mate? Leave enough space on both sides of the bed to get in and out easily, ideally at least 3 feet.
Leave windows clear. Beds and windows generally don’t mix. Open windows can create uncomfortable drafts, and it’s a pain in the neck to climb on the bed every time you want to open or close a window.
Hide your bureau. Large closet? Stow your bureau in there to free up floor space and keep things uncluttered. Good to know: Research has shown that a cluttered room can actually contribute to sleep problems.
Mind the baby. A window next to a crib is no mere inconvenience. It can be dangerous. Keep cribs well away from windows and window blind cords.
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Filed Under: For Homeowners