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Tips for Arranging Furniture

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 at 4:11pm Engel & Völkers

Ever notice how some rooms seem warm and inviting and others feel cold and distant? While many factors such as color and lighting contribute to a room's atmosphere, the way the furniture is arranged can also influence the mood.

Whether you're trying to make a room more comfortable, getting ready to refurnish a room, or simply seeking to make an area more functional, it helps to know how to arrange your furniture so it works best for you. While there are no hard and fast rules on furniture arrangement, here are some guidelines to help you create enjoyable spaces that make guests and family members feel relaxed.

Planning Your Space
Before you unpack any boxes at your new home, try these planning ideas and tips for moving furniture:

  • Good furniture arrangement begins with analyzing your space and the contents of your room. When planning the arrangement of a room, think about how many people use the room, how traffic flows, and how the room is used.
  • Determine the focal point of the room. Find the dramatic element that draws your immediate attention. If your room has an attractive feature, such as a fireplace or picture window, center your furniture arrangement around it.
  • If your room doesn't have a natural focal point, create one with furnishings. Dramatic window treatments, an interesting display of artwork, or a beautifully decorated bed can help define the space.

Graphing a Floor Plan
Want helpful furniture moving tips? One of the best tips is to use templates on graph paper to "arrange" the furniture without actually having to move it around the room. (Your back will thank you for it!) Here's how:

  • Draw a floor plan of your room using graph paper. Use one graph square for every foot of actual space. Be sure to include windows, staircases, doors, fireplaces, and the focal point of your room.
  • Measure major furniture pieces and make a template of each piece.
  • After you have cut out the templates, color each in the hue of the piece it represents; then you can get a good idea how color is mixed throughout the room.
  • Move the templates around to find the best arrangement before moving the first piece of furniture.

Using Placement Guidelines
To ensure that movement in the room is unrestricted and all pieces of furniture are organized, keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Think about Traffic Routes. Your traffic paths need a minimum of 24". Try to keep major traffic paths from interrupting the central furniture grouping in the room.
  • Start with Large Pieces First. The sofa in the living room, the bed in the bedroom, and the desk in the office demand the majority of space available. Arrange these pieces of furniture first.
  • Make Room to Maneuver. Make sure furniture is placed so that people have adequate room to maneuver easily around the room. Here are some guidelines:


    • Allow 14" to 18" between a coffee table and the front of the sofa.
    • Allow sufficient space in front of chests for doors and drawers to be opened easily.
    • In the dining area, allow two feet between the back of the chair and any other piece of furniture or wall. (Remember to measure this distance assuming someone is seated in the chair.)
    • In bedrooms, the minimum clearance between the edge of the bed and the wall should be 24". In addition, allow at least 36" between the edge of the bed and any door that opens into the room. If you place two beds side by side in a room, allow at least 18" between them.
  • Design Conversation Areas. When creating areas for conversation, keep furniture pieces within eight feet of each other to allow people to talk comfortably when seated. Remember to keep these pieces facing each other or at right angles when possible, instead of side by side. You'll probably want to include tables beside seating areas so people will have a place for food and drinks.
  • Place Seating for TV-Viewing. Do you watch television in the room? If so, the distance between the television and the seating should be three times the size of the screen. In other words, to comfortably watch TV on a 30" screen, you should sit 90" away from it.
  • Place Lights for Reading. In seating used for reading, remember to make room for appropriate light whether it's a floor lamp or an end table with a lamp.

Achieving Balance and Visual Interest
Balanced rooms are more pleasing to the eye and make more effective use of the available space. To keep your rooms from looking one-sided or dull, remember these tips for moving and arranging furniture:

  • Make sure all the tall or heavy pieces don't end up in the same area of the room. Mix bigger and smaller pieces throughout the room, but keep in mind the scale of the items you put beside each other. You wouldn't want to place a dainty round table by your oversized, comfy armchair. A large chair will require a larger end table. So how do you achieve a mix of bigger and smaller items? Remember that a grouping of smaller items can balance out a weightier item. Two small armchairs and a table balance a larger sofa.
  • Balance doesn't simply apply to the size and scale of the furniture. Be sure to mix color and pattern throughout the room as well.
  • Avoid leaving pieces of furniture sitting alone in the room. Connect pieces by placing tables or lamps nearby. For example, if the sofa is positioned in the middle of the room facing the fireplace, anchor it by placing a table behind it.
  • Use different heights of furniture and accessories. As someone looks around your room, you want their eyes to move up and down.
  • For added interest, attempt to pull furniture away from the walls. If you have a sofa placed against a wall, consider placing a table behind it and pulling it into the room.
  • Angle furniture when possible to take the rough edges off of a room. A desk or dresser usually looks better angled across a corner than straight against a wall. Angles make the room warmer and present a casual, lived-in style.
  • If your room has a curved mantel or a large bay window, a round or semicircular furniture arrangement may complement it.
  • If your room lacks architectural detail, you may want to add moulding or a French door to create visual interest.
  • Remember that rooms are more inviting if they are not overfilled with furniture. If you have a piece that throws off the room's balance or is seldom used, consider moving it to another room, storing it, or giving it away.

Creating a Multipurpose Space
Many of us need to use an area in our homes for more than one purpose. For example, the living room often acts as an everyday gathering spot for family, a place to entertain guests, a space to watch television, an area for the kids to play, and even a room for guests to sleep in a crunch. Here are some ideas to help you define separate areas within a room:

  • Use furniture, such as tables or upholstered pieces, to outline separate, functional areas of a room. A sofa can separate a reading space from a television viewing space.
  • Open bookcases divide areas, and they also lend an illusion of spaciousness.
  • In the bedroom, instead of anchoring a bed against the wall, try using the headboard as a divider for sleeping and dressing areas.
  • Use area rugs to help define areas within a room. You can mix rugs of different patterns within the same room as long as the colors coordinate. Using two rugs of the same size may tend to divide the room in equal halves, so unless the areas you want to create have equal proportions, select rugs of differing sizes to create more interest and contrast.

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