When your house needs to get in shape
All homes benefit from having the right size, shape and placement of the furniture. When we live in a home we often forgive layout flaws, awkward shaped rooms or furniture that just doesn't quite fit.
If you are selling your home a confusing layout can often get in the way of a sale. In other posts we have looked at clutter and how to address the amount of additional items in the house (see Selling Houses tab) so we wont mention that here.
Re-styling, or updating pieces of furniture, is a great time to consider how your furniture is currently arranged and how you can make the most of your space (see my top tips at the end of this post).
The living room is often the centre of the family home, and much of the everyday living and entertaining is conducted in this space. Living room size and shape varies depending on the style and period of the home, not to mention any specific architectural nuances!
Lets start with some basic layouts based on how you intend to use the space and your families needs.
Living Room layouts
There are five typical layouts that can be used in most homes, however the size, shape, entry points, and other room architecture needs to be considered.
A Single Focal Point
In a living room there could be a number of focal point from which to design a layout; a television, bookcase, fireplace, artwork or exterior view.
Furniture is orientated to the focal point but may also be flexible so that armchairs or ottomans can be moved into more of a conversation circle format.
Chairs and sofas are grouped together to promote conversation. This layout may be preferable if there are no relevant focal points or if entertaining is the purpose of the room.
The furniture is arranged in a circular fashion so people are facing each other and to encourage others to walk around the conversation area.
When the family expands, the living room needs to accommodate both the needs of adults and the children.
Distinct zones can be set up to divide the area for both adult and kids quite naturally using furniture, such as a sofa or table, or a floor rug.
Consider storage for the kids toys so the room can be cleared at the end of the day or to use it for entertaining.
Creating balance in a room simply means that the objects or furniture in the room is balanced relative to other objects or furniture.
In practice what that means is that if the room has a large item, such as a side board, on one side the room will need a counter-balancing piece on the other side, e.g. a bookcase or display case.
Visual balance can be created with colour and patterns as well. Darker colours or patterns carry more weight than lighter colours for example, a dark blue sofa will offset two large light coloured chairs.
On the whole the room should feel that the furniture is evenly weighted and if you split the room in half all the furniture is not on one side of the room or the other.
Symmetry creates feelings of calmness and order because the furniture in the room is balanced. The difference between having visual balance and creating symmetry is that symmetry creates a mirror image of objects in the room.
A symmetrical room uses pairs of objects, such as chairs or sofas as well as artwork, lamps and decor. Symmetry, in a room, may be a preference for some people or it may be required for a more formal layout.
Asymmetrical layouts create visual balance but will not necessarily use the same or similar objects to achieve the balance.
A quick guide to furniture placement
- 75cm between furniture and wall to walk around
- 15-30cm gap between arm chairs
- 60cm gap between the chairs with a table in-between
- 35-45cm gap between the sofa and the coffee table
- 45-50cm height of the sofa seat
- 38-45cm height of the coffee table
The 'Awkward' Shaped Living Room
Some living room shapes make them very interesting, and sometimes challenging, to style. I have chosen a few of the more obvious 'awkward' rooms to offer some hints on how to best use the space.
- The Big Living room
- The Long Narrow Living room
- The Small Living room
The Big room
Large rooms can be a blessing or a curse, depending on what you have to work with. Here's a few things to consider:
It may be possible to divide the room up into different functional areas, e.g. TV watching, conversation, dining, or a reading nook.
This can be achieved through furniture, floor rugs and floor lights and other objects, i.e. physical changes, or visually through wall decoration (paint or wallpaper).
Anchor the room
Avoid over filling the room with small pieces as it can start to look crowded. A few large pieces of furniture, e.g. a large sectional lounge bookcase or dining table, will 'anchor' the room and allow you to add various accent pieces. If you have high ceilings consider taller pieces of furniture, e.g. high back chairs, floor lamps etc.
Placement of furniture away from the walls not only fills the space but it also creates greater intimacy in the room. Creating a more central space in a room may also improve the traffic flow around and between rooms.
If your furniture feels too small for the area there are a few tricks you can try. In some homes a single coffee table may be more than adequate, in a larger room it may become dwarfed and not as useful. You may wish to add another coffee table, add smaller side tables closer to the seating or add ottomans either side of the table.
A unified style and colours can also tie a room together, for instance using the same pattern in different parts of the room. Colours and fabrics can also be bolder, accessories and art can also be larger.
Large rooms can sometimes lack warmth and intimacy because of the scale of the room. Clever selection of ceiling, floor and table lamps located in the various sections/zones will have the room feeling cosy in no time. Select a few larger decorative lamps and mix in smaller or less obtrusive lamps so as not to clutter the space.
Long Narrow Living Rooms
These types of rooms are quite common in older homes or semi-detached houses. Top tips to get the best out of the room
- Divide the room into smaller more usable areas, using furniture and rugs to delineate the space.
- Tall pieces of furniture, such as a floor lamp or high back chair or artwork, will draw the eye up rather than down a long room.
- Keep walk throughs to one side of the room
- Keep style, colours and decor consistent
- Give the illusion of width using colour, lighting and smaller pieces of furniture side by side.
Small Living rooms
With vertical living more common in the big cities, apartment living will become the 'norm'. Apartment living rooms pose a different challenge to design and decorate.
- Keep colour on the wall the same as the ceiling, add texture to walls not colour
- Scale furniture to fit the room and consider glass tables and discrete floor lamps to add height
- Use ottomans instead of coffee tables for more seating (use side tables)
- Minimise clutter
- Use bookcases or shelving behind the sofa to maximise space (use lose the bottom shelves but overall it creates storage & display space)
Top Five Tips
- Decide on how you want to use the room, on a day-to-day basis
- Measure, measure, measure.
- Use paper cut-outs of furniture to place in the room first
- Purchase your 'big' furniture pieces first to make sure that you are happy with the proposed layout, then plan the rest of the room, i.e. smaller furniture pieces etc.
- Be consistent in style and colour palette
If you are designing or re-styling your home and you need some advice or help with your plans, drop me a line and we can work on it together!