Have you ever felt frustrated with a room and found it hard to get the furniture in the right place? There’s a bit of an art to furniture layout, but we’ve got some basic tips to get you started.
Two of the most important things in a room layout are flow and focal point. So first definitions, and then the tips below!
How you move through the room is flow. Ideally, you would like to flow through the room like water. Water does not have toes to stub. Or shins to bash, and it never ever hurts its feet on lego.
But seriously, flow is what it sounds like. It’s about how easily you move through your space.
Before you can create flow you need to decide what you are going to focus on in that room.
The focal point is what the room is oriented to or around. So, sometimes this is structural, like when there is a built in fireplace. Other times it could be the activity or item that you want to be the main focus when you are in the room.
So, a bed (often the headboard) or a tv could be the focal point of a room based on the activities you do in the room. But a piece of art or a conversational arrangement of furniture could also potentially be the focus.
If you don’t have a structural focal point, then the focus is really up to you!
Why flow and focal point go together
Unless the space is a very transitional one (like a hallway) the focal point is often where people gather. There are also reasons to go to it: it is the desk, the dining table, the bed, the place to watch tv.
If the TV is a focal point, you want to set up the flow so that people aren’t crossing in front of the TV to get through the room. In the dining room you want to be able to set the table; in a bedroom to change the sheets easily or go between bed and bathroom easily.
If you have more than one focal point in a room it can be difficult to layout the furniture with good flow.
For example, if you have a built in fireplace on one wall and a tv on the opposite wall, it becomes a tennis match scenario, with heads bouncing back and forth between the fireplace and the tv.
To make multiple focal points, you can use zones. In a room with multiple focal points, consider flow within and between zones.
10 Tips for creating Focus and Flow
- Identify what the focal point is going to be and where it makes the most sense within the room’s structure.
- Place the largest items in relation to the focal point.
- Use painter’s tape on the floor to preview the layout of large items (especially if you haven’t bought them yet).
- Walk the space. Go to the windows, the storage, walk around the furniture as though you are cleaning. Sit in the different areas of the room and look at how things go together.
- Look at the sight lines from different positions in the room and make sure things are working.
- Consider creating zones.
- Don’t get caught up in how it ought to be. If things aren’t working, reevaluate from the beginning.
- If you think it’s close, live with it for a week.
- Get input from a friend.
- Get help from an interior designer!
Lenore’s Piano: creating a new focus
To illustrate our tips, we thought we’d share the process of Lenore’s rearrangements to fit her new piano. We like to think that these photos show two things: first, that it’s pretty easy and worthwhile to experiment with different arrangements.
Second, that getting the flow and focus right is really the FIRST thing to do. You’ll notice that the bookshelves are messy and the small items haven’t all found their places yet. Because we’re still in the process, there’s no stunning after photo yet, but you’ll see that even without styling, the room starts to come together through placement. (And check back on Thursdays or sign up for our email list if you want to see the future post where we have it all done!)
The first try
A while back, Lenore got an electric piano. They tested a new furniture arrangement with the piano as a focal point under a large piece of art. The couch and tv are on either side of this arrangement, facing each other.
But after a few months of living with it, Lenore and her family were not happy. Using the piano meant crossing through the sight line to the television, and the flow in their open-concept entry-living-dining area was not good. The whole arrangement felt more closed off.
Even worse, people kept moving chairs into circulation areas for various reasons. It just wasn’t working.
Using Zones to Create Multiple Focal Points
They decided to scrap the whole arrangement and start from scratch. They moved the piano to a new wall: the kitchen wall that runs from the entryway to the dining room.
The entryway is to the right and the dining room to the left (and I am sitting on the couch to take this picture). In the new arrangement, the circulation zone is much wider, and so the piano doesn’t interrupt it. And unlike before, you can get to the piano from the main circulation area of the room. You don’t have to cross through any other zones to get there.
Now that Lenore has the zones figured out with the focal points decided and the large objects placed, we can add furniture based on our design analysis.
First we added a chair. Because this wall is so close to the entryway, it is good to have a place to sit for taking shoes on and off.
Next we added a small piece of storage furniture Lenore got from our grandmother’s house. It’s low height and dark colour match the other two pieces and help the space look more balanced and cohesive. Coordinated colour is one of the 4 ways to create a stylish mix-and-match look.
Finally, we added a lamp, which will provide light for playing the piano, and also for the living room.
The living room arrangement is now more focused on conversation with a secondary focus on TV, and the most easily moved pieces are the ones that border the circulation zone:
This arrangement is already so much more pleasing. The sight lines are better for conversation, and flow between the main zones is much easier.
The art is now off-kilter, because we always work from big to little in layout design. But this is part of the process: Lenore is going to live with this arrangement for a while before finalizing the art placement and organizing the bookshelves.
Got layout worries? Stay connected and let us know!
If you’ve got a quick layout question or idea, let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page.
If you want to get some more in-depth help and you’re in Kitchener-Waterloo, you can contact us for a consult. If you’re interested in online services, sign up for our email list to get notified when we launch our online layout consultations!
And if you use this blog to help you rearrange your furniture, let us know. We love to hear your stories and see your pictures!