Some places in a room demand that certain furniture or appliances be put in a certain spot. In a typical New York apartment, the stove can only be put in one place, because that’s where the gas line is. The kitchen table has to go into this other space, because this is the only space in the room that’s big enough for a kitchen table. But even the owner or renter of a small apartment has much leeway as to where they’d like the rest of their furniture to go.
Space and Orientation
One of the first things a homeowner should do is find out how much space they have. No matter how much they’ve fallen in love with that sectional, if the livingroom is too small for it, it’s not going to fit. Even if they have a hard copy of the official layout of their apartment, the homeowner should go around and measure everything with measuring tape, including windows, doors and built in furniture.
Then, the homeowner should determine the orientation of their house or apartment. Do the windows face north, east, south, or west? This is important to know when it comes to what colors or patterns the walls will be and where to put house plants. These will both influence the placement of furniture.
While the layout of a kitchen may not leave the homeowner too much choice, the layout of other rooms can strongly suggest where things go. A picture window might suggest that a sofa go there and that the coffee or tea table go in front of it and that the lamp tables go on each side. However, what seems logical may not be the best choice for the room.
Traffic lanes are routes people create as they walk in and out of and around a room. They’re usually not consciously made, but the homeowner would do well to take note of them. With traffic routes in mind, furniture shouldn’t be placed too close to narrow doorways because it should never be difficult for anyone to enter or leave a room. However, furniture can be arranged next to wide openings like double doors. Whatever the arrangement, space should always be allowed around furniture.
Conversation groups, groups of chairs around a focal point, break up the space but still allow a natural flow of traffic. A large room has space for a few conversation groups. The main conversation group can focus on something like the fireplace. Two other conversation groups can be arranged around a lamp table, or a bank of windows. Even a small room can have more than one conversation group, though it may only have two instead of three.
A Rectangular Room
Most older buildings have a rectangular livingroom. Some of them only have a picture window at one of the short ends, which is unfortunate. A sofa can be put beneath this window, but since people like to walk up to a window and look out, another arrangement can be a lamp table flanked by two chairs. But if the view out of the window is as unfortunate as its placement, a sofa looking into the room might be better.
As for the two long walls, it may be best to put tall pieces of furniture there, like a bookcases, as tall pieces make long walls look proportional. It's also a good idea to keep the central space of a rectangular room as open as possible, so armchairs and tables should be put at the ends of the room or along the walls. If tables need to be brought out, they should be the type that can be folded up and stored.
An L-Shaped Room
The homeowner should avoid bunching their furniture along the walls in an L-shaped room. There’s no conversation group and the room is simply not esthetically pleasing. At least one conversation area should be created, possibly between two windows and one wall should be hidden with bookshelves and entertainment center to make it look less long and more hospitable. This arrangement also allows traffic to flow more naturally through the room, as well.