Get out the tape measure
The first step in arranging a space is determining its size. Use a tape measure to get the dimensions of a room. Or, a quick tip: Measure your foot and then walk heel to toe across the room. This is an easy way to estimate the basic size. Then, check the dimensions of the hallways, stairs and door widths leading to the space. This is the eternal challenge for a homeowner, being sure the entrance and egress of the room are large enough for potential purchases.
Mix furnishings of various sizes
Every object has a height, depth and width. To add visual interest to any space, incorporate a variety of furniture with different characteristics. If you’re going for a serene, unchallenging area for rest or recovery, keep the furnishing volumes in a room similar. But if you’re looking for an interesting space like the photo above, mix and match styles, colors, and material types. But when doing so, be mindful of the next rule…
Use scale pieces to create unity
The size of pieces relative to one another and the size of the space is their scale. Similarly scaled pieces are more serene when used together, but a nice balance of pieces creates a harmonious atmosphere, utilizing the differing physical qualities of height, depth and width throughout a room. When furnishings are out of scale, you’ll notice that it just won’t feel comfortable or right. The most often miss-scaled pieces of furniture are side tables and lamps.
However, in the last few years we have been seeing a trend of playing with scale–for example: over-sized lighting like what is shown in the photo above.
Form a healthy relationship
The relationship of items to one another to form a pleasing whole is called balance. There are two forms of balance: symmetrical and asymmetrical. Bilateral symmetry is like the human body: There are two of everything.
Asymmetry refers to an imbalance, such as two candles of slightly different sizes next to each other. Symmetry is very restful, while asymmetry is used to add visual motion and excitement.
Use an Artist’s Perspective
Look at your space as a painter looks at a work of art. There are visual tricks that painters use to create the appearance of depth in a space. You can use these tools, too.
The first trick painters use is “triangulation.” In interior design, triangulation is the placement of two end tables on either side of a sofa with a painting above the sofa. If you can imagine this scenario, it is lower on the corners with the apex of the view just above midcenter at the top of the painting.
Create depth in artwork
The second trick painters use is the creation of depth in artwork, which is a two-dimensional medium. Paintings often have a foreground, midground, background and vanishing point. Stand at the threshold of your room. Place a chair, perhaps at an angle, in the foreground closest to you. The cocktail table will provide a mid-ground and the sofa with the wall behind it will serve as the background. A window in the scene will give you your vanishing point. Or, the vanishing point can be within a work of art placed above the sofa.
All furniture arrangements have a certain “totality,” a “form.” Large rectangular spaces can be dealt with by dividing the “form” of the space into another form. A long, narrow living space, for instance, can be split in two by creating zones of function. Say, one half is for the sofa, or the function of conversing, and the other half is for a dining set, or the function of dining. This helps you take the bite out of large rectangular rooms by dividing them into squares according to their function. Humans tend to feel more comfortable and less formal in square furniture arrangements versus rectangular.