Recently, a friend had me over at her place to take a look at her newly renovated living plus dining room space. She had just started furnishing the space and purchased all brand new furniture which had all turned out to be larger than expected. As a result the sofa ended up partially in a major walkway across the room and a chair was placed awkwardly in a tight corner. I ended up suggesting a few different furniture layout options that would solve the problem but it’s never ideal to have to change your plans unexpectedly.
Furniture that ends up being too large for a space resulting in awkward layouts or less than optimal function and flow are common challenges. Fitting the sofa through the door is not the only thing to worry about! Particularly with tight or awkward spaces it’s important to measure and space plan before making major purchases. Even if you have a large space you don’t want to end up with furniture that looks dinky in the space. There is some consideration for scale and volume but we’ll save that for another post. Here, I wanted to focus on questions to ask and measurements to consider before making any major furniture purchases. These are relevant whether you are furnishing a space from scratch or if you’re considering that new chair you’ve been eyeing.
3 questions to ask when designing a space:
- How are you going to use this space? If it’s a living or dining room you want to make sure you’ve accounted for the right amount of seating or surfaces to place drinks, especially if you plan to entertain a lot. Is the TV really important to you and will you have the right viewing angles around the room? Do you need storage space or furniture? Knowing the primary function of the space will help you determine what type of furniture to buy and how many pieces.
- What kind of lighting do you need? This question follows closely after the first. How you use the space will also determine what type of lighting you need. Do you only need general overhead lighting? Do you need task lighting for reading or other activities? If so, do you have adequate space for floor lamps or the right furniture in the right place for putting table lamps on? If it is a bedroom are your nightstands and lamps tall enough to give you the right amount of light for reading in bed?
- What is the traffic flow of the room? Do you have major walkways that need to be left clear of furnishings and obstacles? Do you have to have access to doors, windows, or storage? Are many people coming and going frequently? Where are the high traffic areas? Identifying traffic patterns will help ensure you don’t end up placing furniture in high traffic areas or end up with furniture that is too large and sticks out in the wrong places or blocks walkways. If you ever find yourself bumping into furniture more often than not, reevaluate your room’s layout.
Next, here are some general guidelines I use for determining how much space I need between and around furnishing which also leads me to what size furniture I have space for. This is just a general rule of thumb and of course it will vary depending on the size of your space, how much furniture you need, type of furniture, traffic patterns, and so on.
- Major walkways – 3 feet minimum but I like to maximize this whenever possible to give a more spacious feeling. Example of a major walkway is the entrance and exit to a room or the main path for crossing a room.
- Minor walkways – 2 feet. Examples of a minor walkway is the path to walk into a furniture grouping such as sofa and chairs or path around a dining table between the backs of chairs and the walls.
- Dining area – Ideally each person has about 2 feet of space at the table and 3 feet from the table to sit or push the chair back from the table.
- Living area – Distance between a sofa and coffee table is minimum 1 foot in order to pass through but maximum 1.5 feet to 2 feet so you can still reach the table to put down your drink.
If all these “rules” seem overwhelming just pull out a measuring tape and measure the space around your existing furniture that already works for you to get a sense of how much space you need for new stuff. Or this is a good part of the process to get a designer to help put together a space plan for you that will optimize your room’s function and appearance.
Following are some images of rooms taken from a bird’s eye view which makes it easier to see the flow of the room, how furniture is spaced relative to each other, and approximate size of furniture that works for these spaces. Happy designing!
(Image source: via Cococozy)
(Image source: House Beautiful Designer: Christopher Maya)
(Image source: Apartment Therapy Designer: Matt Short)