How to Arrange Furniture: No-Fail Tricks

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

No matter if your rooms are big or small, having the right furniture arrangement will make them more enjoyable. Check out our layout examples, plus tricks for living rooms, family rooms, bedrooms, and dining rooms.

Living Room Furniture Arranging: Long and Lean

When arranging living room furniture, 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 Furniture Arranging: Front and Center

If you have no free walls and a centered fireplace, 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 Furniture Arranging: Face the View

If you're not sure how to arrange furniture in a living room, 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.

Living Room Furniture Arranging: Fireside Chats

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.

Make the most of a small living room with a furniture arrangement that suits the design of your space and your needs. Use these tips for furniture arranging success.

Living Room Furniture Arranging: Small Spaces

Arranging any living room furniture is challenging, but it can be even harder to learn how to arrange living room furniture in a rectangular room. 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.

Living Room Furniture Arranging: Room to Move

One of the secrets to learning how to arrange furniture is making sure you leave enough space between pieces. Allow 30 inches between furniture you need to be able to walk around and 14 to 18 inches between a coffee table and sofa, so drinks are within reaching distance.

Living Room Furniture Arranging: Proper Placement

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.

Living Room Furniture Arranging: Think About Lighting

Lighting is a key factor in the overall mood of your room. Windows let in ample natural light, while chandeliers, sconces, and lamps keep the room bright at night. Install in-floor electrical outlets to service floating furniture arrangements.

Family Room Furniture Arranging: Irregular Design

In an irregular room with one wide traffic lane, 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.

Family Room Furniture Arranging: TV Room

The number one tip when learning how to arrange living room furniture with a TV? Place the television so the screen faces 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.

Family Room Furniture Arranging: Add Storage

Family rooms are oftentimes storage hubs. 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 for media items.

Bedroom Furniture Arranging: Window Wall

When arranging bedroom furniture in a long and narrow space, 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.

Bedroom Furniture Arranging: So Square

In a square bedroom, 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.

Bedroom Furniture Arranging: 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. Every space is a little bit different, so it's important to play around with arranging bedroom furniture until you find the optimal layout. 

Bedroom Furniture Arranging: 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.

Bedroom Furniture Arranging: Add Comfort

For an extra cozy space, 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.

Bedroom Furniture Arranging: Plan Walkways

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.

Bedroom Furniture Arranging: Select the Right Size

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.

Dining Room Furniture Arranging: No Free Walls

In a rectangular dining space with no free walls, 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.

Dining Room Furniture Arranging: Oversize Space

In an oversized space, 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.

Dining Room Furniture Arranging: Consider Use

How do you use your dining room? For family-style meals or buffet-style serving? Make furniture choices that support your needs. Then, arrange furniture in a room-appropriate layout.  

Dining Room Furniture Arranging: 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.

Dining Room Furniture Arranging: Buy for Size

For optimal dining room arrangement, 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 and chairs have plenty of space to slide out.

Dining Room Furniture Arranging: Measure Up

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. This furniture design will keep guests comfortable, not too close. 

Dining Room Furniture Arranging: Stay Functional

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.

Dining Room Furniture Arranging: 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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