Your house has its own set of bones and, unless you’re making structural changes, you’ve got to work with them. But there are a number of ways to use or visually shape a space to make it work for you. Before you make any decisions about furnishing the rooms in your home, get to know the space. If you plan ahead, even challenging spaces, those that are too small, oddly configured, or even too large, will come together gracefully.
You need the rooms of your home to be functional and aesthetically pleasing. In many cases, that can be a challenge but not impossible to achieve with planning. Begin by making notes about what you think are the best and worst features of the space.
Look at the layout in terms of permanent features, such as doors and doorways, windows, stairs and closets. Are any shapes awkward? Consider adjacent spaces too. Do they present problems concerning noise or privacy? Note the orientation of the windows at various times of the day. Is there a view?
Jot down all of the activities your expect the space to accommodate and whether your budget allows for any structural alterations. Now you’re ready to analyze the existing physical space.
- Step 1: Measure up. Invest in a good steel measuring tape, and take careful, accurate dimensions of the space. If you can, ask another family member or a friend to help; he or she can hold the end of the tape in one corner while you measure the entire length of a wall in a single step. This eliminates the possibility of the cumulative error that often occurs when measuring a wall in increments. If a window or doorway breaks up the space, measure from one corner of the wall to the outer edge of the opening, and then proceed from the outer edge to the next corner.
- Step 2: Draw a floor plan. Make a free-hand sketch of the space and its permanent features, such as doors and windows, noting all dimensions on the plan in the margin. Pencil in electrical switches and outlets, cable input jacks, phone jacks, radiators, heat registers, air ducts and light fixtures as well. Indicate adjoining rooms or areas on the sketch too. You don’t want to block access to any of them. For accuracy, you may want to redraw the layout to scale on 1/4-inch graph paper. Make each square represent one foot. This will be helpful when it’s time to choose and arrange furniture.
Making the Most of It
Let’s face it: unless you can afford to make expensive structural alterations, you’ll have to make the most of what you’ve got. Often, that means being smart about how you furnish the room. This is when your floor plan comes in handy.
If the shape of the space bothers you, there are simple tricks that play on the eye to camouflage the problem visually. For example, if the room is long, divide it into two separate groupings of furniture. Use area rugs to anchor each group. You can also use square shapes, such as a square area rug, to “widen” the space. If the room is narrow, arrange furniture on the diagonal and introduce more squares, tables, rugs or ottomans for example. For a room with a low ceiling, add height with tall furnishings, chests, book cases, tall lamps or curtains that extend above the window frame to the floor. Use vertical lines, even on wall and fabric treatments.
The placement of each piece of furniture depends on the room’s shape. Long, narrow spaces work better when divided into distinct areas for different functions. Square rooms offer the option of grouping furniture in the middle of the room. Think about how you use the room; this will help you with deciding on a layout or floor plan.
Furniture can be used to efficiently divide space. Within a large room, you could create a cozy sitting area in front of a fireplace and position an entertainment center in another area. Or if you need to define separate living and dining areas within one space, a sofa with a low back can act as a divider, as can a decorative screen or a long table. Modular seating pieces are practical if you need your layout to be flexible.
I hope this helps you make the most of your space. As always, comments are encouraged and sharing is appreciated.