Decorating by Numbers

Date: 14 May 2014
By: Seaside Interiors
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For the most part, decorating, like beauty, “is in the eye of the beholder.”  There are no hard and steadfast rules that MUST be obeyed when you are creating the living spaces in your own home.  It really all comes down to personal preference.

Beautifully arranged living room Southern Living Magazine

Having said that, I still find it helpful and comforting to have some guidelines available when pondering such perplexing questions as:  how high or how low?…how close or how far?…how big or how small?  Having a point of reference to follow can help with preventing costly mess-ups and time consuming do-overs.  Expert designers have done the leg work for you by developing go-to “formulas” that can take away the guesswork.  Most likely they devised these formulas after years of experimenting, tweaking and learning from their own mistakes.  Their suggested standards are sprinkled across various websites on the internet, but to make it easier, I have compiled a list of answers to some of the most common decorating computation questions.  First, in this post, we will tackle furniture placement.  

Well-placed furnishings Pinterest pin 220817187954232668

#1 Furniture Placement in Rooms 

According to designer Pamela Cole Harris, you need to look at the space you plan to decorate and ask yourself some questions:  1) Are there entrance doors in the room that will require an allowance of space for them to function?  Do they open in or out?  2) Is the room a “go to” or a “go through” room?  If people need to pass through the room regularly to get to another room, you will need to allow a navigable pathway.  3) Do you want the room to feel cozy and intimate or have an open and spacious feel?  Cozy will mean arranging furniture groupings a bit closer together.  An open layout requires less furniture and more space in between pieces.  4) Do you plan to entertain in the room?  If so, you will need to allow some flexibility to move extra seating into the room if needed.

A few of Pamela’s guidelines for furniture placement:

*Ideally, allow approximately 48-100 inches between a sofa and side chairs when grouped together.

*If using a coffee table, it should be placed 14-18 inches from the sofa so that guests can maneuver easily to and from their seats without bumping their shins.

*For an average sized television, the ideal norm is to place it at a distance 3 times the size of the screen.  This is a helpful guideline to consider when deciding on what size TV screen to select for any room.

*An allowance of three feet is recommended for traffic lanes, and for safety reasons, an extra foot more if you have large family members or a lot of children in your home.

Ideal arrangement for entertaining Southern Living Magazine

My Personal Favorite Tip!

Use butcher paper (cut to size) or a folded sheet (arranged in place) to help determine if the size of a sofa or other piece of furniture will fit well in your space.  Use blue painters tape or masking tape (removable, non-marking) to create outlines of furniture groupings or room layouts in order to better visualize what the finished effect will look like.  I recommend following this method before making any major purchases.  Custom orders, especially upholstered items, are not returnable just because you made a sizing error.  Better to be safe than sorry.

Practical arrangement with adequate pathway space Coastal Living Magazine

Next time…More Decorating by Numbers- Dining Tables, Light Fixtures and Chandeliers

Sandi Wallace

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