How to Arrange Furniture: No-Fail Tricks

Arranging furniture is one of the most daunting -- yet most important -- design decisions. These common scenarios will teach you the basics.

Everything In This Slideshow

  • Furniture Arranging Made Easy

    No matter if your rooms are big or small, having the right furniture arrangement will make them more enjoyable.

    Check out these layout examples, plus tricks for living rooms, family rooms, bedrooms, and dining rooms.

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  • Living Room Arranging

    Problem: Long room, entry at one end.

    Solution: There’s no need to crowd; leave room for traffic and an entry drop spot. Cozy key seating pieces up to the fireplace facing each other. Use end tables as landing spaces on both ends of the sofa. Pair chairs to balance the visual weight of the sofa and to maximize seating.

  • Living Room Arranging

    Problem: No free walls, centered fireplace.

    Solution: Float seating in the center of a room filled with doors and windows. Face chairs and sofa toward each other to encourage conversation. Anchor the conversation grouping with a rug and large coffee table. Frame the space with additional seating and cabinets for storage, positioned around the perimeter of the room along the walls.

  • Living Room Arranging

    Problem: Small living room.

    Solution: Make room for walkways and skip certain pieces of furniture. Watch and learn how.

  • No-Fail Living Room Arranging Trick

    Face the View

    If your living room doesn't have a fireplace, orient seating so it takes advantage of whatever view your room has to offer, whether it's a TV or a bank of windows. Create your own focal point by hanging a large piece of art on a wall or create a vignette of favorite objects on a console or bookshelf.

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  • No-Fail Living Room Arranging Trick

    Arrange for Conversation

    For face-to-face chats, place seating no more than 8 feet apart. In a large living room, use furniture to create comfortable islands. Face two sofas in the center of a room, and place a group chairs and side tables at one end to create a separate conversation area.

  • No-Fail Living Room Arranging Trick

    Conquer a Small Space

    Whether your living room is long and narrow or boxy, these tricks work especially well in tight quarters. Watch and see how they work their magic.

  • No-Fail Living Room Arranging Trick

    Set Up Traffic Patterns

    Allow 30 inches between pieces in places where you need to be able to walk around furniture and 14 to 18 inches between a coffee table and sofa, so drinks are within reaching distance.

  • No-Fail Living Room Arranging Trick

    Put a Table within Reach of Each Seat

    Use round pedestal tables as side tables between chairs and sofas. The curves of round tables make them easier to navigate around. When space is tight, use nesting tables for flexible use when needed

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    No-Fail Living Room Arranging Trick

    Think About Lighting

    Install in-floor electrical outlets to service floating furniture arrangements.

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    Family Room Arranging

    Problem: Irregular room, one wide traffic lane.

    Solution: Use the perimeter of the room for a computer desk and storage console. Choose chairs with casters so that they are easy to move. Float the furniture to focus on the fireplace and the television. Ensure that the fireplace and television are visible from each seat.

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    No-Fail Family Room Arranging Trick

    Focus on Entertainment

    Place the television and computer so the screens face away from the sunlight. The viewing distance for a standard TV is 8 to 12 feet, and the best viewing angle is not more than 30 degrees. For traffic flow, create paths that flow behind viewers and not between them and the screen.

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    No-Fail Family Room Arranging Trick

    Add Storage

    Consider freestanding pieces in a smaller room and wall-to-wall built-ins in a larger room. Make sure there is some storage near the TV.

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    Bedroom Arranging

    Problem: Long and narrow, one window wall

    Solution: Face the bed to the window to make the most of the view. Include a desk/dressing table, chair, and mirror opposite the doorway. Place a pair of benches at the end of the bed for seating. Flank the bed with nightstands or nestle the bed into a built-in storage unit that includes two cabinet towers and a cabinet that bridges the head of the bed to create an alcove.

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    Bedroom Arranging

    Problem: Square room, two free walls.

    Solution: Place the bed so it’s the focal point and the room feels grounded. Stretch storage up the wall with a freestanding armoire. Pair matching small-scale dressers to use as nightstands. Position the bed on an oversize rug that extends at least 2 feet on either side and at the foot of the bed.

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    Bedroom Arranging: See It In Action

    Watch and see how to lay out the furniture in your bedroom.

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    No-Fail Bedroom Arranging Trick

    Consider All Options

    Don't be afraid to give your bed a slightly unusual placement, such as in front of a window, if it will help you maximize space.

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    No-Fail Bedroom Arranging Trick

    Adjust for Size

    In a small bedroom, use fewer furniture pieces of a slightly larger scale to maximize floor space. Opt for tall pieces, such as this armoire, that add volume in a smaller footprint.

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    No-Fail Bedroom Arranging Trick

    Add Comfort

    Place a bench at the foot of the bed or a small-scale armchair in a corner for bedroom seating. Consider placing a chair next to a bedside table. The chair and bed can share the nightstand. If there isn’t room next to the nightstand, pair the chair with a small garden stool, which will serve as a small table without occupying much space.

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    No-Fail Bedroom Arranging Trick

    Plan Walkways Around Furniture

    Allow at least 2 feet on either side of the bed to allow for space to make the bed. Avoid placing the bed within 3 feet of the door; otherwise the bed becomes a roadblock.

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    No-Fail Bedroom Arranging Trick

    Select the Right Size Bed

    It’s possible to use a larger bed if you don’t need a lot of storage furniture. Also, consider the visual weight of your headboard. If the bed is slightly large for the room, opt for a visually lighter headboard, such as one that features metal scrollwork. A solid headboard consumes more visual space, and taller, heavier headboards work best in bigger bedrooms or bedrooms with tall ceilings.

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    Dining Room Arranging

    Problem: Rectangular space, no free walls.

    Solution: Combine chairs, benches, and settees for an eclectic look. Duplicate the room shape with the table shape to maximize seating (for example, a rectangular table with the same proportions as the dining room will make the most of the space). Include storage, such as cabinets or bookcases, on the perimeter. Define the dining space with a rug that contrasts with the flooring.

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    Dining Room Arranging

    Problem: Oversize space, multiuse space.

    Solution: Opt for a table that preserves open space for other uses (for example, don’t buy a huge table with seating for 20 when you’ll only ever need seating for 12). Add storage that will accommodate all the activities that take place in the room. When choosing chairs, select models that can also easily be brought up to the table for extra dining seating. Anchor the secondary seating areas with lamps and occasional tables.

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    No-Fail Dining Room Arranging Trick

    Maximize a Small Space

    Squeeze more funtion into your dining room with these arranging tricks. 

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    No-Fail Dining Room Arranging Trick

    Consider How You Use the Room

    How do you use your dining room? For family-style meals or buffet-style serving? Make furniture choices that support your needs.

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    No-Fail Dining Room Arranging Trick

    Suit the Space

    Circular tables with pedestal bases let folks see everyone at the table and are suitable for tight dining spaces or square rooms.  Rectangular tables limit seating, but work well in rectangular dining rooms and come in a variety of lengths and widths. Oval tables with added leaves also work well in rectangular dining rooms and offer flexibility by adapting to small gatherings or large.

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    No-Fail Dining Room Arranging Trick

    Buy for Size

    Be sure to allow a minimum of 36 inches from the table to the wall on all sides. Position the table so traffic flows smoothly around it

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    No-Fail Dining Room Arranging Trick

    Know These Measurements

    When determining how many chairs you can fit around your table, allow for a width of 20 to 24 inches and a depth of 15 inches per place setting and leave at least 6 inches between chairs.

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    No-Fail Dining Room Arranging Trick

    Include Functional Storage

    Make the most of square footage with a wall of shelves that provide storage for the dining room’s alternative uses -- office supplies, games, and crafts -- or dining extras such as china, linens, and barware.

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    No-Fail Dining Room Arranging Trick

    Light It Right

    Choose and place lighting that adapts to the room's functions. For example, hang the chandelier with extra cord length so it can be adjusted for homework or dining. Use dimmer switches, lamps, and sconces to set the mood for the occasion.

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    In case you haven't heard, awkward is the new cool. Embrace that small corner, uneven nook, or shallow mantel with these stylish tricks that will make you wish you thought of them sooner.
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