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How to Arrange Furniture Like a Pro

February 27, 2023
Dramatic fireplace in the living room of Savona 2 at Cranstons Riverstone by Brookfield Residential in Calgary

Have you ever sat down in a space and something just felt off? Maybe the coffee table was just out of reach, the sofa felt pushed up against the wall, or you couldn’t squeeze by a dining chair. And even if you knew exactly what didn’t feel right, you weren’t sure how to move things around to improve it?

Creating a space that feels right can feel intimidating if you don’t know where to start, but we’ve put together 10 rules for arranging furniture to make it a breeze!

1. Function Over Form

Living room in Cira Plan 2 at The Landing by Brookfield Residential in Tustin CA

There’s a reason this rule is number one! If you don’t carefully consider how a room will be used, the furniture will never feel right. If you love the formal-but-conversational look of two sofas facing each other, but you primarily use your living area for watching television, your double sofa dream is not the ideal set up.

Think about how the room will be used, how many people will need to comfortably fit, and what needs to be within arm’s reach.

2. Pick a Focal Point

Dining space in Residence 2 at Hyde Park at BLVD by Brookfield Residential in Dublin CA

One of the easiest ways to create your furniture layout is by arranging everything around a focal point. This is the first place a person’s eyes travel to when they enter a room. Depending on the room, it can be the fireplace, the outside view, a television, a dramatic light fixture, or a wall of artwork. Decide what your focal point will be, and the rest will fall into place.

3. Start with “Priority Pieces”

Primary bedroom in Asher at The Orchards by Brookfield Residential in Edmonton AB

There are certain pieces that a room has to have to fulfill its function: a bedroom needs a bed, a dining room needs a table, and a living room needs a sofa. Once you have your room’s focal point, your “priority piece” should face it.

It’ll be easier to add supporting furniture once you know how your priority piece fits in the space. You may find you have more room than you thought for a sideboard, can add an accent chair in your seating arrangement, or need to scale back on your nightstands.

4. Allow for Flow & Circulation

Aerial view of the dining and living room in Weymouth at Waterford Manor by Brookfield Residential

An empty room feels full of design promise, but once you start adding furniture, your feeling of endless possibilities may start to dwindle. A space that feels overcrowded with furniture and has minimal walking space makes the room feel less cozy and inviting.

Always keep traffic flow in mind when arranging your furniture – there needs to be a clear path so everyone can flow from room to room, as well as plenty of space for people to circulate within the area.

Generally, you don’t want to block the path between doorways, you want 30 to 48 inches of width for major traffic routes, a minimum of 24 inches for minor ones, and traffic to flow around a seating group, not through it.

5. Balance is Key

Gray tone living room in Robson at The Orchards by Brookfield Residential in Edmonton AB

Whether you like the formal look of symmetrical furniture arrangements, or the more casual vibe of an asymmetrical layout, it’s important the space feels balanced. Oversized furniture in a small room creates an 'Alice in Wonderland' feel, and small furniture in a big space feels awkward.

Consider both size and placement of your pieces, making sure you don’t group all your large or small items in one area, or to one side of the room. Balance out your colors and patterns, and your room will have a relaxed Zen feeling in no time.

6. Don’t Be a Wallflower

Seating area in the living room of Carmini 3 at Cranstons Riverstone by Brookfield Residential in Calgary

One of the most common misconceptions of furniture arrangement is that seating must be placed against the wall. Quite the contrary! Even giving a sofa 12 inches of breathing room can create the illusion of a larger, airier space.

In an open concept floor plan, floating your furniture can help divide the room and define spaces. By bringing it together to form an intimate grouping, you’ll facilitate conversations and create a welcoming feel throughout.

7. Aim for Variety

Living room in a Brookfield Residential home in Edmonton, AB

A room that is too matchy-matchy is boring. You want to bring visual interest throughout the space. Varying your furniture in size and pattern makes for more dynamic spaces and seating arrangements.

Make sure there’s variety in the shape of your furniture as well. If you’ve got straight-lined seating, consider a round coffee table. If the furniture is curvy, mix in an angular piece. Similarly, balance your blocks with spaces: combine a leggy chair with a solid side table, and a solid chair with a leggy table.

8. Design for Ease of Use

Moody family room in Villa 2 at Barefoot Lakes by Brookfield Residential in Denver CO

The more functional a space feels, the more likely you are to use it. Avoid layouts that force people to move from their seats to set down or retrieve drinks. Every seat should have access to either a side table or a coffee table, and they should be the appropriate height.

Side or end tables should be around the same height as the nearby chair arms (if that’s not possible, lower is better). The coffee table height should be no higher than the chair or sofa seats.

9. Anchor Your Furniture with Rugs

Family room in Plan 3 of Luna at The Landing by Brookfield Residential in Tustin CA

Interior designers love incorporating area rugs under all of the furniture (if you can manage it). They’re a great way to anchor your furniture, enhance your décor, and warm the space. Be sure to use the right-size area rug to help separate and define each area, as well as properly accommodate your furniture arrangement. At the very least, you want the front legs of large pieces to sit on the rug. The back legs can be on the floor, if necessary.

10. Plan Ahead

Residence 7 living area at Chandler in Brentwood by Brookfield Residential NorCal

Arranging furniture is no small task. Have mercy on your back, and plan your design before you start moving things around. Use an online floor planner or go with old-fashioned graph paper, and map it out. Make a note of window locations, doors, vents, and electrical outlets, and play with different arrangements.

If you’re going to be buying any new pieces, take the time to plan out how they will work in the room. Measure out how much space you’ll need to place it, how it’ll work with your other pieces, and make sure you have enough clearance to move around it with ease.

Open concept main level in Cira Plan 1 at The Landing by Brookfield Residential in Tustin CA

One of the best things about arranging a room? It’s just furniture! The placement isn’t permanent. If even after your best efforts to plan, calculate, and lay things out, the room just doesn’t feel quite right – not to worry! You can experiment with a variety of layouts to find the right one.

Need some inspiration? Visit our model homes in person or scroll through the photo galleries of homes we build across North America.

Be sure to follow the Brookfield Residential blog for more design advice, homebuying insights, mortgage tips, and more. Explore where we build and connect with our sales team when you’re ready to learn more. We’ll be expecting you!