These rules will make you rethink your rooms.

December 1, 2022

Furniture arrangement affects our behaviour. Think of seating, for example, and a doctor’s waiting room with it’s hard-backed chairs lined against a wall and you get the picture. A mix of chairs and sofas is good both visually and psychologically with plenty of upright and sprawling options to suit all guests. Here’s 10 tips for nailing your furniture layout:

Image via Elle Decoration UK

1. Function Over Form

The most important factor when arranging any room is to understand, and have the layout reflect, how the space will be used. For example: two sofas facing each other is pleasantly symmetrical but, if your primary activity when sitting on a sofa is watching the TV, it’s not ideal. Think about what you’d like to do in the space, what needs to be within arm’s reach, and how much room you’ll need.

2. Always Allow For Flow

An empty room is the best kind of blank slate for interior design enthusiasts. But once you put furniture in there and start to arrange it, what seemed like a lot of opportunity can suddenly feel oppressive.

Map your traffic routes, remember that less is more, and stick to about one metre of “walking room” between pieces.

3. Balance is Key

Whether you’re into symmetry in design or not, balance is vital in any space. Visually counteract a large piece of furniture with two smaller ones, or a tall floor lamp with a hanging pendant. Also consider colour and pattern – use the same colours, tones and textures for a sense of flow to give the impression of space, and you’ll be feeling relaxed in no time.

Every seat gets a buddy, so two people can sit and chat together and you have somewhere to put a drink.  Image via UK Elle Decoration.

4. Every Seat Gets a Buddy

There’s something lonely about a cosy armchair or small sofa by itself. What is one going to do there? Wherever you have somewhere comfortable to sit, make sure there’s also a surface on which to put a cup of tea, a drink, a light to read by, or at the very least another chair, so two people can sit and chat together.

5. Create Zones

In an open-plan space, you can use your furniture arrangement to create cozy “rooms” and designate areas for specific use.

A rug under a group of chairs makes a conversation zone.

An eye-catching chandelier over a table makes a dining area, and simply turning a sofa with its back to the rest of the room says “this is a living room.”

6. Don’t be a Wallflower

We’ve been writing about this one for years, so it should come as no surprise that there’s no need to push all your furniture up against the walls, except in the smallest rooms. Even giving a sofa 30cm of breathing room can create the illusion of a larger, airier space.

Melissa’s Country House where a range of different furniture (humble to grand), plays with height and scale.

7. Keep the Horizon Clear

To increase the feeling of space, it’s important to keep the eyelines across a room clear. This doesn’t mean using low furniture (which can be very dull); it’s about paying special attention to items placed in front of windows, and directly in front of the traffic path when entering a room. Apart from that, it’s a good idea to play with height.

8. Find a Focus

While we don’t think every room needs a huge pendant lamp, quirky wallpaper or eye-catching piece of art, we do think it’s important to orient your furniture to make the best use of what your home does have. This might mean keeping the view of a fireplace clear or arranging furniture to take advantage of beautiful views from a window.


Melissa’s Country House where a stone fireplace is the focal point of the sitting room.

9. Experiment

One of the best things about arranging a room? It’s just furniture. Many of us get stuck into one layout, and convince ourselves it’s the only way our interior will work.

But often moving a chair, shifting a sofa or re-orienting a bed is enough to give your home a whole new lease on life.

10. Loosen Up (& Remember it’s Your Home)

You can read as many “commandments” as you like, but remember: nobody has to live in your home but you. Every rule can be broken with some creativity and every home can be beautiful and welcoming with a little care. Experiment with your layout; who knows what might happen? Push the furniture out, and see what magic you can create!

related stories


Don’t miss the style set’s fave newsletter

Get Melissa's weekly rundown of where top interior designers source their things and find inspiration - that will instantly transform your pad.

Close and please don't show again