Allowing between two to three feet of room for pass-through space in living rooms is a good starting place, more if wheelchairs or other mobility devices are needed. As for comfort, keep yourself and your visitors in mind. Coffee tables can be placed anywhere from 13 inches to 18 inches in front of a sofa, depending on the formality of the room, designer Abbey Koplovitz of AbbeyK, Inc. advises. "For people who like to put their feet up, go towards the 13 inches. For formal areas, where traffic flow is key, shoot for more space." Photo Credit: Eric Roth
Turning the Tables
"A table should accompany each piece of upholstered furniture so that you can set something down," Koplovitz says. "Each chair should have an end table, even if just a 12-inch stool or something small." Photo Credit: Eric Roth
"For kids rooms, it's fine to put a bed in a corner," Koplovitz advises, "but for couples, each sleeper needs his or her own side of the bed with nightstand for lamp, medication, a glass of water or simply a book." No one wants to get in and out via the foot of the bed, so make sure to leave a minimum of 20" walkway along each side of the bed, Koplovitz suggests. Photo Credit: Greg Premru
"Think first about how you use a room when you arrange the furniture," Susan J. Smith of Rooms That Work, LLC advises. In this instance, she explains, "While it would have been preferable to float the furniture away from the walls in this family room full of windows and doorways, it was more important to allow for (play) space for kids." She added an angled area rug, helping to visually minimize the openness of the space in the middle of the room.
"The conversation zone should be contained within an eight-foot diameter," Smith says. Koplovitz advises determining the comfortable arrangement is based on both cultural and personal preferences. "Some people simply feel more comfortable closer than others. The best way to determine what is right for you is to set up folding chairs, move existing furniture around, test it out to see what feels right for you." Photo Credit: Greg Premru
Furniture that Lasts
Koplovitz says a classic seating area of two sofas and a chair and ottoman that are not too large are likely to find a place not only where you are now, but also in your future homes. Bonus: Furniture that lasts and stands the test of time is one of the greenest choices you can make, keeping more items out of landfills. Photo Credit: Eric Roth
The Trick With TVs
Make sure that your TV is the right size for the distance from where you will sit, advises Koplovitz. "Bigger is not always better and there's nothing worse than a TV that overpowers the space or feels so close that you cannot focus on the picture." If, when laying out the space, an unconventional place, such as the mantle above a fireplace, is the only place to put a TV, don't be afraid to do so. Koplovitz says that most people will adjust their sitting position or their eyes to a higher viewing height. Photo Credit: Eric Roth
Rule for Watching TV
Smith says a good rule of thumb for comfortable television viewing is that the distance from the TV to seating should be three times the size of the screen. "For example," Smith says, "to watch TV on a 32" screen comfortably, allow 8' between the TV and the seating area." Design by Gail Drury.
"In an oddly shaped room, one of the best things you can do is to float furniture in the middle," Koplovitz says. "(There’s) no need to place furniture against the walls. Determine how you are going to use the space and then create areas to accommodate." About her living room design shown here: "One sitting area is set up for conversation, another for reading, with ample open space for play and storage to hide things. Don't be afraid to leave some open space. That can create all kinds of opportunities," Koplovitz encourages.
Make it Work Visually
Smith offers her solution for squaring up a small, rectangular kid's room by placing the bed along the shorter wall. Still short on space? Move a dresser into the closet, she says.
Right the Rug
"Dining room and kitchen chair configurations can be one of the biggest challenges for homeowners," Koplovitz points out. "The worst thing is to have a rug that is too small for the table and chairs. Make sure to allow 24" on each side of the table to pull the chair back and still have the chair remain on the rug. No one wants to feel like they fall off the ends of the earth!" Photo Credit: Eric Roth
Says Smith, "Angles are a great way to add interest to an otherwise very square room. Not only does it magically freshen up a room's style, but it can define activity zones in the room."