Many people initially arrange their living room furniture the day they move to their new home or apartment. Since there are so many other things to consider in a move, the furniture ends up where it ends up, with little thought about how it should be arranged.
Unfortunately, it may just never feel right, even months later. But before you decide to start all over again, it’s a good idea to have a game plan, one that is born out of solid design principles rather than the need to get everything out of the moving truck.
It’s best to start with measurements. You want to measure the entire room, including the dimensions of the floor, the space between windows and doors and any feature that is going to be a natural focal point, such as a fireplace.
Next you’ll want to measure all your furniture. Once you have all the dimensions in hand, you can draw the room out on a piece of graph paper or use a 3-D floor plan tool available online.
Designing virtually allows you to play with different layouts without ever having to lift a stick of heavy furniture. Try different layouts, keeping in mind some basic design strategies:
• Create comfortable conversation. You don’t want people to have to shout or twist constantly to talk. Create intimate groupings of seating whenever possible.
• Every room has a focal point, whether it’s a fireplace, big screen TV or picture window with breathtaking view. Your seating should be arranged so it can always be in sight.
• Watch traffic patterns. You want people to easily move through the room without it feeling cramped. There should be a clear main path from the entry point of the room.
• Leave plenty of space between pieces. For example, there should be at least 18″ between the sofa and a coffee table. Don’t make people feel cramped.
• Everything doesn’t have to be jammed up against a wall. Unless you have a bunch of fiberboard cabinets, it’s O.K. for people see the back of a piece of furniture.
• If the room is large, consider breaking it up into different niches.
If your room doesn’t have a primary focal point, your sofa grouping can do the trick. This is especially true if you have a lovely matched set, consisting of a sofa, loveseat and chairs or a large sectional. It can define the room and you can build around it instead of a fireplace or view.
If you want to add a rug to a tile or wood floor, make sure it’s big enough. All the furniture placed on a rug should fit within its confines. That said, be sure you leave bare floor around your rug. Six to 12 inches should be fine. Area rugs need breathing room.
Scale is an important design consideration. For example, a coffee table or end tables shouldn’t overwhelm the sofa, sectional or chairs you have. They should complement rather than dominate. Ideally, a coffee table is one half to two thirds the size of the sofa and the end tables should be the same height as the arms. Lower is O.K., but never higher.
Once the layout is working for you, then you can add lighting. Remember that the room should be evenly lit. There should be no dark spots if all the lights were turned on at once. Obviously, you can use different lights to set the mood of the room. A combination of table lamps, floor lamps and ceiling fixtures should work in harmony to create drama and set the tone of the room. Dimmer switches are ideal for this.
Lastly, it’s time to add art. Choose pieces that fit the walls they are put on. In other words, don’t put a small piece of art on a large wall or try to cram a large piece onto a small wall. Paintings, illustrations and photos should capture the attention of visitors for their beauty and artistry, not because they were placed in an odd location.
Remember that the room should reflect your unique personality. While you want the room to feel comfortable and in harmony to visitors, you’re the one who is living in the space day in and day out. It should ultimately fit your needs, not those of your visitors.