Do you have a favourite spot in your house? A least favourite spot? Perhaps your guests tend to gravitate to one area, maybe despite your efforts to create a gathering zone somewhere else.
In our last post, we talked about focus and flow. These are the starting points of good layout. But sometimes you set up a great flow and focal point, but people just seem to want to be somewhere else.
When this happens, we look at the next level up in room layouts: protection and prospect.
Creating Comfort in Room Layouts
We all have moments where we feel uncomfortable in a particular spot. If you think back to those moments, you might find that the spot didn’t provide either protection or prospect.
In our spaces, a sense of protection usually comes from knowing what is behind you. Seating that backs on a wall or corner is often preferred over seating against a window, facing a door, or whose back is open to another zone.
A sense of prospect comes from being able to see what’s going on in the room, to see entrances and exits, and to be able to look out windows. This can be achieved by paying attention to sight-lines, creating good flow, and through both placement and type of furniture.
Putting protection and prospect together
Most people don’t like having their backs to windows, when possible desks usually face the door, and preferred bed placements generally allow you to see the door from your sleeping position. How important any of these things are changes from person to person, though. You may find that different members of the household have different needs when it comes to protection or prospect, and many people are more sensitive to one than the other.
Now this doesn’t mean your furniture should always be pushed against the wall. Far from it! But it does mean that if there is a spot where people avoid, you should look at whether it creates a sense of anxiety. What are the sight lines? Is there an activity that commonly happens behind that spot? Do people feel blocked in?
You may be able to make some easy adjustments.
For example, if you have an open concept living/dining room, you could put the floating seating with the back facing the dining zone. That way, people can more easily shift it to a comfortable arrangement for whatever the current activity is.
If you are choosing furniture for this sort of space, you could consider backless or swivel seating that would allow people to rotate towards the action. If the couch must have it’s back to the dining area, you can put a console table behind it with some decorative items that create a small barrier.
Desks at home are often fit into cubbies, nooks, and corners. While this may be the best for flow, if your back is to the room and face to the wall, it could affect your ability to work. This goes for kids’ homework spaces as well.
If possible, place the desk so it has a full or partial view of the doorway. A good option if there’s space is to have the desk floating in the middle of the room with the person sitting at it having their back to the wall.
Another option is to put the desk in front of the window. While this won’t necessarily help with protection, it can give a sense of prospect.
In my (Carmen’s) home, none of these placements work (so frustrating!). But my experience with a standing desk has been a game changer. This is one way that you can use height and mobility, rather than placement, to increase the sense of protection and prospect.
If you or a family member has sleep issues, protection and prospect are good things to consider. Particularly for little kids, whose rooms can feel overly large at night, creating a tighter space around the bed can be useful. Being able to see the door (and have a clear path there at night) can really help as well. Height can be very helpful when placement is difficult, so a higher bed (or adding a box spring) could be something to try.
Creating Family Harmony
Making sure that everyone in the family has places in the home where they feel safe and secure can greatly reduce anxiety, stress, and conflict. And this doesn’t just go for human family members!
If you have a dog bed that your dog won’t go near, a cat who won’t go in their litter, consider the protection and prospect offered in those spots. While there might be other reasons, making sure they can survey the space while feeling protected when using their litter, food, and sleeping spaces will help.
With pets, especially, height can help. If your dog prefers the bed or couch to the dog bed, try lifting it up to your level (of course, the dog might just prefer you, in which case this may not make a difference!).
Cats definitely prefer high places, which is why “cat towers” exist. But even if you don’t want a cat tower, you may still be able to create a high space for your cat that keeps her off your counters, or dishes as the case may be!
Designers look at all household members, even the furriest ones. There have been several times we have designed a room or closet around the needs of a four footed friend. Finding the right place for their spots can be difficult, but if you think about what makes you most comfortable then it is easily translated.
Got a layout question? Let us know!
Sometimes once you put something into words, the solution presents itself. Other times, a tricky space or conflicting family needs require a little outside help. If you find yourself in the second situation, leave us a comment below, or contact us! And if you’d like to know when we have new posts, services, and more, sign up for our email list.