How to arrange a room?
October 31, 2005 8:16 AM   Subscribe

How should I arrange my living room?

I'm moving into a new house. One thing I've never been able to do well is arrange furniture in a room -- particularly the den. (Like a lot of people, life/furniture in the living room seems to revolve around the TV.)

Can anyone share any tips/links that can help lay out and decorate a room? What are some of your favorite interior design (and related housing) websites?
posted by jca to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As someone who's also Interior Decorating Challenged, thanks for asking this question.
I've seen people get graph paper and little cut out furniture and play with it when it comes to figuring out how and where to put the furniture.
I'm not above that, that's for sure.
Looking forward to the answers you get.
posted by willmize at 8:30 AM on October 31, 2005

One thing you might consider is a book on Feng Shui. Not because you believe in the flow of energy through a room and all that blather, but because the techniques they use actually create nicely laid out and functional rooms. The mystical justification for it can be a bit hard to take, but the outcome can be quite effective.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:41 AM on October 31, 2005 has some good ideas, although the organization is a bit awkward. The pictures from some of their contests can give some great ideas (particularly the "smallest Coolest Apartment contest", found in the archives)
posted by justkevin at 8:42 AM on October 31, 2005

I've done the paper cutout thing many times - it works pretty well as long as you use a scale that lets you actually get a good idea of how usable it will be, and make sure you follow your scale so you have everything at an appropriate size. The last time I did this it was prior to moving into a new apartment with a new roomate. I did a bunch of measuring, figuring, and arranging, and determined that my bed + my computer table/office desk just wouldn't fit in the smaller of the two bedrooms.

You may also be able to find some cheap software that will do this. Back in the day I used 3D Home Architect; last I knew it was still around but I think it's gotten pretty bloated, and likely expensive. Look for something that will let you do blueprint-type top-down views, with standard sized furniture pieces to drop in; as well as a 3D view that gives you an idea of what the room will look like when you're standing in it.
posted by attercoppe at 8:47 AM on October 31, 2005

I do the graph paper thing too. And yes, the living room revolves around the TV. Anyone got a problem with that?
posted by matildaben at 8:56 AM on October 31, 2005

I use Excel to draw out my floor plan, then move little shapes representing my furniture around until I find something I like, sort of like the graph paper idea, but without the actual paper.

I'm also an interior design/home decorating magazine fiend, so I have a lot of Elle Decor and Dwell and InStyle Home lying around, and I find a LOT of inspiration from those.
posted by mewithoutyou at 9:02 AM on October 31, 2005

Yeah, for a functional living room you generally arrange around the TV (or fireplace if you're uber-classy). I'm a big fan of projectors, as you can just shine them on a white wall, and at least you don't have to look at an ugly TV appliance when it's turned off.

For a "formal" living room, you arrange little conversation areas and then forbid anybody from using it.
posted by LordSludge at 9:19 AM on October 31, 2005

Other non-decorating-specific software solutions my friends have used for areas ranging from dorm rooms to entire (5 BR) houses include CAD programs like Solidworks, Visio, and Photoshop.

Almost anything that will let you have multiple unique objects and a good sense of scale will facilitate this task. CAD programs work very well because they give you a better perspective of how things will fit together in the orientation we normally see them in as well as the bird's eye view.
posted by whatzit at 9:23 AM on October 31, 2005

Resist the urge to shove all furniture up against a wall. People think, "with all my furniture back there, it'll feel like I have more space," when the effect is exactly the opposite. Let the couch or a loveseat stand free in the room, to divide up the space. Or place a desk with one stort end against the wall and facing into the room. Set chairs diagonally to walls or other furniture, to break up right angles. Get a rug smaller than the entire room; it'll create a more spacious feel.
posted by junkbox at 9:24 AM on October 31, 2005

And yes, the living room revolves around the TV. Anyone got a problem with that?

I think it depends on what you want your living room for. I really dislike visiting people's homes where the TV is so obvioulsy the focal point, because I feel like it makes the living room less conducive for conversation--everyone ends up in the kitchen. I also don't like having the TV looming when I read. So I am a fan of hiding it. In my new house, I plan to have it on a cart so it can be wheeled into place when neccessary but not be there most of the time. Then again, I only use the TV for videos, and not much as I mostly watch DVDs on the puter. YMMV, of course.

Anyway, OP, I highly recommend the graph paper/computer business--I use Quark. And go to [insert whatever large chain bookstore] and flip through their interior design books. Even when the book wasn't super helpful, I usually got some good questions to ask myself.
posted by dame at 9:24 AM on October 31, 2005

The original post and LordSludge's comment brings up a good follow-up question that I'd love answers for:

What do you arrange a living room around if you don't have a television or a fireplace?
posted by whatzit at 9:24 AM on October 31, 2005

How should you arrange your house? Alphabetically.

Microsoft makes a product called "Interiors," which they have a free demo of. It's easy to use and fast, and by only getting the free demo, you don't get all of the excess bullshit "functions" which inevitably come with Microsoft products. You just measure, and you can do all of the paper model stuff faster. At least, I can.
posted by klangklangston at 9:53 AM on October 31, 2005

This little applet from HGTV is a neat way to design a room.

I've also used the graph paper idea mentioned above with success.
posted by schnee at 10:11 AM on October 31, 2005

Have a variety of things people can sit on: hardwood chairs, sofas, rocking chairs, futons, beds, etc. The more variety the better.

Organize the chairs and sofas so they create a positive space where you want the social activity of the room to take place.

Organize your lighting so that it is non-uniform and so that the social spaces are well-lit.

Imagine what the room will be like with one, two, several people in it. Where will someone go to sit and quietly read? Where will people sit to chat and sip coffee? Where will they stand and mingle during a party? Organize your sofas, chairs, lights, and tables for these functions.

Have sofas and chairs facing each other to encourage people to interact.

A TV is a just a poor substitute for a fireplace. But if you have one, don't make it the center of the room. Do you want everyone in the room to focus on the TV or on each other?
posted by driveler at 10:12 AM on October 31, 2005 [2 favorites]

As far as decorating, forget about Interior Design and generic modern art from IKEA. Surround yourself with objects that are meaningful to you. A beautiful gift from a friend, an old baseball glove or camera, a wood-carving you got on your honeymoon to Thailand, etc.
posted by driveler at 10:19 AM on October 31, 2005

Read A Pattern Language. Just do it.
posted by rossmeissl at 1:30 PM on October 31, 2005

Heh, rossmeissl, that's where I got all my tips from. It's a great book.
posted by driveler at 1:40 PM on October 31, 2005

I picked up the new issue of Domino Magazine last night, and there's an article about this very subject, showing a living room arranged three different ways (good, better and best), and discussing the pros/cons of each.

Could help!
posted by mewithoutyou at 8:11 AM on November 1, 2005

« Older Auto-play pianos   |   DMCA Hastle Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.