Placing Furniture, Part II

In my last column, we talked about the principles in placing furniture to make your home more comfortable.  This time we’ll tackle a few particular rooms.

Living Rooms

You’ll probably want a space where 5 to 6 people can sit comfortably, able to converse without shouting at each other.  The shouting will come after the conversation turns to politics and religion. Think of a circle 8 feet across and place your furniture in a U or even a square within this space.

As we talked about before, you may want to orient the U towards the dominant visual feature of the room, like the fireplace or a window.  Usually the sofa, being the biggest piece, is directly opposite this feature and facing it (the bottom of the U). As an alternative, you can place the furniture in a V, with the bottom of the V being across from the focal point (and a sofa on one leg of the V with a couple of chairs and an end table between them on the other leg).

A coffee table is the traditional center of the U but because nobody likes barked shins, place it 14 to 18 inches away from the sofa.  Table lamps next to the sofa or chairs will add a sense of intimacy to the room.  Remember to keep everything in scale, both with the other pieces in the room but also to the size of the room itself.

Dining Room

Mostly a place to put the table, eh?  Usually the visual focus of the room is not the table but a sideboard, hutch or china cabinet.  You can give the room balance and elegance with a runner on the dining table and an urn, glassware or floral arrangement on the table.  The centerpiece can always be removed when dinner is served.  It is customary for the dining room to be more glamorous than the other rooms, so here’s your opportunity to add some extra embellishments.


Not surprisingly, the bed is the focal point, so you’ll want to put it on the dominant, or largest, wall.  Generally, it’s the wall you see when you first enter the room.  There’s lots of things you can do to dress the bed up, from a fancy headboard (consider covering an ugly one with fabric that you can easily change out), pillows, or an ersatz canopy by suspending fabric from the wall using curtain rings.

Now with the bed in place, bring the next largest piece of furniture in, usually an armoire, a dresser or a desk.  If there’s room, you can create a sense of balance by putting it opposite the bed.  Remember scale, a big bed needs big case goods.

Now you can add the nightstands and table lamps for them.  The nightstands don’t have to match as long as they’re the same size and scale.  Consider an ottoman or a bench at the end of the bed, whether to store extra blankets or just a place to sit to put your socks on.

Multi Purpose rooms

Function is first and even if the room is large, you don’t want to overfill it with furniture.  You may do better to move the pieces out away from the walls and angle them.  A screen or even the sofa and chairs can be used to delineate smaller spaces in the room.  Think of the traffic flow and how people (or a small party) can move easily around the room.  Dark colors will look heavier and give the room more weight, bright and light colors will give the room and airier look.

Hope this helps and gives you a few new ideas.  Remember, as my wife told me, it ain’t what you got, it’s what you do with it.  I THINK she was talking about the furniture.