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Arrange Furniture Like a Pro

furniture arranging

Are you one of those people who forever arranges furniture? It's great to get a fresh look without spending a penny, but it can be frustrating, too. Let's face it, our arrangements don't always look like they've leapt from the pages of a home design magazine. Fortunately, that can all change when you keep the following tips in mind.

First Things First
According to Designer Derek Groves of YelloToad Interiors Inc. in Salt Lake City, Utah, the first thing to consider is what you do in the room – what is the focus? Contrary to popular belief, the TV should not be the room's focal point. "Don't have the TV be the first thing you see when you walk into the room," Groves says.

Why not? According to Groves the main purpose of arranging furniture is to inspire conversation and human interaction in the room. While the television can play into that, it can also hamper interaction. More appropriate focal points include fireplaces, picture windows, impressive pieces of furniture, artwork, etc.

You don't have to eliminate the TV from the room. Instead, Groves encourages his clients to consider hiding the TV inside an armoire. He also advocates purchasing a flat screen TV. The low profile provides for easy insertion into corners and other obscure locations of the room.

Shape Shifting
As for where to place your furniture, the choices are fairly limited. "L-shape and U-shape are the most popular arrangements," Groves says. L-shape creates a 90-degree angle using any of the following combinations (and more):

  • Two sofas
  • Sofa and loveseat
  • Sofa and chaise lounge

According to Groves, the L-shape arrangement usually has an end table or other piece of furniture that anchors the angle. Think sofa next to an end table and a loveseat extending perpendicular to the end table.

U-shape rooms have one large piece of furniture (usually a sofa) in the center, facing the focal point, and two smaller pieces (loveseat, arm chair, two club chairs) extending perpendicular to either side of the sofa. As with the L-shape arrangement, the angles should be anchored with end tables. According to Groves, the U-shape is more intimate than the L-shape and works very well against a wall.

A third type of arrangement would be a parallel seating arrangement. Here, you place furniture pieces facing each other and perhaps flanking (perpendicular to) a focal point like a fireplace.

Location, Location
Where to set up your chosen arrangement is the next step. Before unusual angles and an abundance of doorways get in the way, heed Groves' advice: "Unusual angels and doorways? Ignore them!" That's right; Groves says you can walk into a room and set up shop, regardless of the architectural limitations. "Float your furniture in the standard arrangement," he says. Floating involves pulling the arrangement inward, away from the walls, leaving walkways about three feet wide.

When Carly Minnell of Provo, Utah, moved into her new home, she encountered a large fireplace, two sets of French doors, a large picture window and a grand staircase. This added up to no wall space for a primary seating arrangement. "I was really at a loss," she says. "Nothing looked right until I took my designer's advice and forgot about the walls. I set up the arrangement in the middle of the room and left a few feet of walking space around it."

Minnell admits that arranging furniture like this seems to limit the space being used. "I thought it was odd to have all the furniture crammed into the middle of the room," she says. "But it really looked good – much better than what I had before."

Unlike Minnell, your primary seating arrangement may leave excess, empty space at the ends of the room. This is particularly true with long, narrow spaces. In this case, Groves suggests a secondary seating arrangement, such as:

  • Two club chairs and a round table
  • A music area
  • A game table
  • Built-ins, bookshelves

Pillow Talk
Arranging the bedroom isn't all that unique from arranging other rooms of the house. The big difference is what to do with the bed. "Every bedroom has one bed wall," Groves says. A bed wall is a wall that is solid, concrete – without windows. In other words, choose the location where there is solid wall behind the bed and enough space on either side for a nightstand. Complete the bed arrangement with a piece of art above the headboard.

As for dressers and additional furniture, stick with this rule of thumb: "Consider arrangements," Groves says. Don't just put a dresser on the opposite wall. Instead, the dresser should be part of an arrangement, perhaps with ottomans on either side, a lamp on top and a piece of art hanging above. And the TV? Once again, Groves says to hide it inside an armoire.

Furniture arranging doesn't need to be rocket science. As long as you have a few ideas in your head, it's pretty straightforward. Groves says that one of the biggest problems facing the home decorator is furniture showrooms, especially those that sell furniture in mass groupings. The problem: Buying furniture in a group without taking into consideration your space and limitations for arranging often leads to frustration when the items can't be set up at home the same way they are arranged on the sales floor. To avoid this, have a basic furniture arrangement in mind the next time you go furniture shopping and buy piece by piece in order to fit the space. You'll be much happier with the end result.

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