Planning and Enhancing Your Space

Measure the space in your room before you plan where to place your furniture.

How well do you know your room? In order to plan and dress it, you need to know and understand your room. Go to the room you need to organize, rearrange or redecorate and ask yourself these questions:

  • Size and shape: What are the dimensions of your room, and what is its basic shape? Is it square, rectangular, L-shaped?
  • Personality: What is your room's inherent personality? If it were a person, would it be Queen Victoria – voluptuous, majestic, overstuffed? Would it be slim and elegant Audrey Hepburn?
  • Assets: What are your room's assets? Does it have beautiful moldings, a picture window, an elegant fireplace?
  • Weaknesses: What are your room's weaknesses? Does it have a ceiling that's too low? Is it overly long and narrow? Does it lack any distinguishing points? Does it have an off-center focal point?

Using Floor Plans

The best way to understand your room's shape – with all its intractable ins and outs – is to draw a floor plan of the baseline of your walls, using a scale of 1/4 inch = 1 foot.

Create a rough floor plan by drawing around anything that is permanently attached to each wall. Using a l/4" to 1' scale, finalize the plan with a ruler, denoting doors, windows and anything permanently attached to the wall.

Draw around each side of anything that's permanently attached to your wall (a radiator, a pillar, a fireplace surround). Draw behind any moveable piece of furniture – because if you can move it, you may want to when you rearrange your room. Mark the width of the gap forming any doorway, whether it's a major doorway or a doorway to a closet. And even though your windows aren't at the base of your floors, mark where they start and end. That way, when you go to use your floor plan to try out different furniture arrangements, you'll know where not to place that highboy.

Now, using lengths and widths only, make yourself simple cut-outs of your anticipated furniture pieces in the same scale of 1/4 inch = 1 foot. Use the cut-outs, placing and rearranging them on the floor plan until you come up with an arrangement that feels right to you.

Your floor plan can help you visualize where to place furniture, how many furniture pieces will fit into your room and where the traffic paths need to be. But it won't reveal other key details, such as your room's personality and the height of its walls.

Working with a Room’s Personality

The clues to your room's true personality lie in its architecture.

  • Ornate: Do you see thick, ornate Victorian moldings around the top of your walls and windows? Then your furniture should have equally weighty materials and carvings.
  • Curved: Does your room have a curved wall or mantel, or a prominent bow window? Then a round or semicircular piece of furniture, or a round or semicircular furniture arrangement could complement it.
  • Neutral: If your room is a blank slate architecturally, you may want to add visual dimension via paneling, stenciling, a chair rail, a series of French doors or a Dutch door.
Repeat architectural motifs in the styles of your furniture.

Enhancing a Room Asset

If your room has a particularly attractive feature, such as a fireplace or picture window, let it be the focal point by making it the most colorful or elegant feature in the room and/or centering your furniture arrangement around it.

Overcoming Room Weaknesses

Low ceilings: If your room has low ceilings, keep your furniture lines low. Choose sofas and chairs with low backs, unless you're an unusually tall person. For personal comfort, seatback height should be closer to your shoulders than to your waist. Keep cabinetry heights below eye level, or let your cabinetry stretch all the way to the ceiling – you don't want to inadvertently produce an even lower visual height cap for your walls. Avoid using cornices over the windows for the same reason.

You can raise the visual height of your walls by hanging pictures, plates or a shelf of objects over your windows and doors. You can make your walls seem taller by painting the walls and any cornice molding into the ceiling. Use the same color as the ceiling to minimize the wall/ceiling delineation. Use light, satiny, cool colors since they make space recede.

Receding space: Warm, dark, matte colors advance space. Use them if you want to make your room feel smaller and cozier. In a room that's overly long and narrow, you can use warm colors on the shorter walls to pull them forward and make the room feel squarer.

Awkward shape: If your room has an awkward shape, or a lot of built-in obstructions, or an off-center focal point, use your furniture arrangements to visually divide your room into a series of more manageable " minirooms" within the room. Create a clustered seating arrangement in one area of the room, say, around a fireplace -remember, you don't have to place all your furniture against the walls. Create a separate arrangement – a grouping of plants, a chaise, a desk or a piano – in another area of the room to balance it. Use area rugs to enhance definition.