‘DESIGNER FOR A DAY’ Tips for Room Layouts

By Nina Kati - October 2005

Furniture is an investment so buy the best you can afford. As well as making a style statement and complementing your home, furniture should meet your needs and outlast the latest trends.

Start by taking into account a room’s focal point, such as placing seating around a fireplace in winter or facing a set of French windows during the summer months.

To encourage conversation seating should be positioned so that people will face each other and it should be situated close enough so that someone can easily hear what another person is saying. It is considered confrontational to see the back of someone’s head when entering a room and people feel uncomfortable, as though they may be under threat of attack from behind, if they are seated with their back to a door.

To create an informal atmosphere in a room, choose low furniture that is preferably of an oval or round shape to give a more relaxed impression. Natural wood tends to give a scheme a soft, gentle effect. Avoid very tall overwhelming items of furniture that give the impression they could topple forward at any moment.

To create interest and for a softer effect in a room, you can mix different styles of furniture to achieve an eclectic mix, rather than choosing everything to match which gives a contrived effect. Some of the furniture in a scheme should be upholstered to provide comfort and to soften the acoustics in a room.

If the room is small or has little light, choose furniture which takes up less space visually to create a more spacious effect such as furniture which is low, transparent or which allows lots of floor space to be seen underneath it. Leave space in bookshelves for more books, so that shelves don’t become overstuffed and inaccessible, with the result that they look messy and just don’t work any more.

For safety reasons there should be plenty of room for traffic to move between items of furniture and space between furniture tends to give a more relaxed flow to the space.

Furniture should be flexible and adaptable, such as an extendable dining table or a footstool with concealed storage for magazines and newspapers that can double up as extra seating or as a coffee table on which to place a tray.

For practicality it is worth noting that shiny, glossy surfaces are higher maintenance as they attract dust particles easily and show scratches more noticeably than a matt or satin finish. Voiles on a window can help protect furniture from fading by reducing and softening direct sunlight, especially important in south facing rooms.

Don’t forget the finishing touches which can really make a difference to a room. For instance, hang pictures at eye level so they can be properly appreciated and make sure ornaments are cleverly grouped with a common theme bonding them together rather than dotting them around individually which only creates a cluttering effect.

Finally, remember that small details contribute to the overall scheme, such as the style of knobs on a cupboard and the quality of the finish on a cabinet.