Have I mentioned lately what a great guy Angelo Surmelis is? He is nothing like what I would expect a celebrity designer to be like (**cough fussy, hard to please cough**), in fact he’s so accommodating and all around awesome he even sends me an occasional celebrity guest post! Read on to check out his post on furniture arrangement (and rearrangement) below.
Moving furniture has been my mantra of sorts.
I started doing it when I was about six, when I realized leaning and pushing on the walls of our small Chicago apartment wasn’t doing anything. Since I couldn’t move walls, I’d move furniture instead. Drag, actually.
The biggest, no money makeover you can do is to re-arrange your furniture. It gives you a great sense of what your space feels like with each new configuration, and it also helps you decide what really is needed in a room and what needs to be edited out.
One of the most common things I encounter in people’s homes is that most of the furniture is placed as if it were in a line-up. There’s wall, there’s a piece of furniture on it. Now, sometimes in very small spaces that may be your only option. If you have the room to think outside wall placement, I say go for it! In a BIG way.
A few key things to think about before placing furniture in an empty room, or rearranging an already furnished room, are:
1) How will I realistically use this room?
2) What is that room’s function?
3) How many people should it be able to accommodate comfortably?
4) How do I want to walk through the space?
5) What’s the natural light (if any) like?
Once you have defined these things, you can start playing with furniture placement.
Start with the big pieces. If you’re dealing with a living or family room, see if there’s an already defined focal point in the room. Something like a great fireplace/mantle, a large window, an architectural element/detail, etc. If there isn’t one, do not worry–this means you have the freedom to create your own focal point. Trust me, this is Gooooood. Seriously!
Now, if you are dealing with an existing focus (i.e. fireplace, etc…) start your furniture placement by using that focal area as a jumping off point to arrange the seating around. Play with the layout. Start by NOT putting the seating up against a wall. I know you want to. I feel your pain, but work with me here. The wall’s not going anywhere. You can always go back to it as your back-up plan. Place the sofa either facing the fireplace with a console/sofa table/desk…etc. behind it. Add a pair of chairs either to the right or left of the sofa, framing the fireplace. If the room is not big enough for two chairs on one side, put a single chair on either side of the sofa. A lot of this depends on how much room you have to play with, as well as where windows and doorways maybe. The key is to look at the room in new ways. Experiment with the placement.
In a living/family room setting you want to create the type of furniture arrangement that invites people in to stay, relax and socialize.
Some of my clients have great living rooms that they never seem to use. When I ask them how their home flows and functions, one of the biggest complaints I get is, “We have this great room, with beautiful furniture and no one uses it. Even when we entertain, everyone winds up in the kitchen.” Yup! I’ve been to that party and I’m sure you have also. Besides the kitchen being the place where all the stuff I love is, (FOOOOD!) it’s also inviting. There’s a casualness to most kitchens. Color, lighting, smells, textures. All good times. Who doesn’t want to be there?
SO, when setting up your living room think about placing your furniture in a way that invites people in to gather. If there’s only one way to place your sofa in the room, and unfortunately the back of the sofa is the first thing you see when you walk in—place something behind it. A piece of furniture that invites you into the room. A great subtle aromatic candle on that piece of furniture–a large one in a simple glass container. Fill the container with sand, rocks or something with some texture to it so it can make the room feel more comfortable and casual. Make sure you have lighting placed and arranged in a way that balances each corner of the room. All the same wattage and glow. Entering the room should feel natural. Noticing a great lamp is one thing, but noticing the actual lighting is another. If you can, add fresh flowers. Even a few leafy branches from your backyard in a great container can instantly make the room feel friendlier and more inviting. If you add a plate of brownies to this room, who needs the kitchen! I’m just sayin’ you had me at brownies.
If you don’t have a focal point to work around, fret not kids! You have SOOOOO much to be thankful for, because you can do anything you want.
Create a focal point to put your seating area around, by incorporating a great set of low antique bookcases on a wall with a gallery art wall above them. OR, Use a blank wall as the perfect place to add your favorite color or wall treatment. Then hang a grouping of inexpensive thrift store/flea market art finds on it. Even the least expensive art can look impressive when it’s all mixed together with other pieces. A grouping makes the difference. Add your seating around that.
Also, go as large as you can in your living room with your coffee table. I have small California Bungalow home in Los Angeles that has a tiny living room. My bedroom is bigger and I often fantasize about making it the new living room just so I can plonk down a big, beautiful reclaimed wood and metal table that has age, hand finishes and feels like it really anchors the room! Placing a large table in the middle of a room can sometimes help you start to understand how to maneuver everything else. The table can act as the center that everything else springs from.
If you’re moving into a new place, before you go ahead and lug everything around–play with scale by measuring your major pieces. Then get some masking tape (painter’s tape works well too) and use it to mark the areas on the floor on where a sofa could live. A chair/coffee table/sideboard/etc. may be placed. If you’re going to be putting a piece of furniture up against a wall, measure the height and width of the piece as well and mark the height and width on the wall with the tape. This obviously won’t feel exactly the way the room will once the actual pieces are in there, but it gives you a great template to play with. Stand back. Take in where things may go and you’ll get a feel for what needs to move and what’s working for you.
And here’s the little secret about why most professionals know what they’re doing just by looking at a room—they’ve done these very things and more over and over again. After moving the furniture more than a few times, you’re going to get a sixth sense about your room. What works, what doesn’t and what’s possible.
Now that I’m older and can actually move walls (with a contractor), I still move the furniture. Weekly! It’s amazing what it not only does for my room, but for my mood. Instant lift.
Go forth and move some furniture!
Can’t get enough Angelo? Visit his home store to keep up to date on new and exciting things he’s working on, and don’t forget to keep up with the angelo:HOME blog for his daily finds, tips and inspirations.
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