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How To Decorate Series: Defining A Room Layout and Function

Have you ever walked into a room and things just felt "off"? Maybe it was the way things were laid out. Or there were problems with the way the room functioned that didn't become apparent until some time had passed and you actually used the room.  In today's instalment of the How To Decorate series, we're talking about some of the earliest but most challenging design decisions that need to be made: defining a room's layout and function.

In the first instalment, I shared How to start decorating and the four things to consider before taking on any decorating, renovating, or remodelling project. Once you've decided which room you'll be tackling, you need to identify what you'll be changing.

The main problem areas you need to assess for any design project are layout and function
  • Layout: is the room plan effective? Are the furnishings and architectural details laid out in a manner that is useful, logical, and aesthetically pleasing?
  • Function: are the basic functions of the room working? Are there damaged, non-working, or non-sensical features that need to be fixed?
Let's take a look at each of these areas in depth, using my latest home project to illustrate these points. Here's our next remodelling project, Chloe's tween bedroom:

how to layout a room, how to arrange furniture, bedroom layout

This is the room when we moved in. There was nothing drastically wrong with it so we moved Chloe's furniture in and didn't really do anything with it over the last few years. But over time, the room has proven to have quite a few problems that need to be addressed. Here's what the room is looking like now:

how to layout a room, how to arrange furniture, bedroom layout
how to layout a room, how to arrange furniture, bedroom layout

Okay, there's a lot going on. We've really just thrown the furniture in here from Chloe's last bedroom and its not quite working. So let's break it down by looking at each problem area.

how to layout a room, how to arrange furniture, bedroom layout


When we first put the furniture in this room, Chloe insisted she wanted the bed tucked up against the wall so that she could have lots of floor space for playing with her toys, tumbling, and doing whatever it is kids do in their rooms. That necessitated putting the desk on the opposite wall. This layout created a few issues:
  • the side table, bed, and bench felt squeezed against one side of the room
  • the desk created an obstacle when coming in the door
  • the open area in the middle of the room felt under-utilized

How do you layout a room?

When considering room layout, identify what pieces of furniture need to be in the room. Start with the biggest piece of furniture and determine the ideal spot for that item first.

Consider sight lines. Your room should have a focal point that draws your attention. Distract from big, clunky features of the room

Ensure there's breathing space and room to move around furnishings. Not everything needs to be pushed up against the walls. Make full use of the space. Think about using vertical wall space as well as floor space.

Also consider if there are architectural changes you can make which would help the flow of the room. In our old master bedroom, building out a bump out in one wall allowed us to change the furniture layout completely and create a much more efficient and attractive room.

The alternatives:

In this case, we have a bed, side table and desk that are necessary. We have the option of putting the bed in other locations: against either of the dark purple walls, or beneath the window. Having the bed beneath the window doesn't leave enough room between the bed and closet so that option isn't viable. Putting the headboard against either of the purple walls could work, so let's consider the other issues before we finalize the layout.

how to layout a room, how to arrange furniture, bedroom layout


From a function standpoint, this bedroom has a few basic needs:
  • the door needs to be unimpeded and open fully
  • you need access to be able to open the window
  • there needs to be adequate lighting
  • the closet needs to be accessible
  • there needs to be room for clothes storage

The only area that seems to not be fully functional is the closet. In the last six months, the closet bifold doors fell off of their tracks repeatedly so we removed them altogether. They'll need to be replaced.

Additionally, the closet storage could be improved. The shelves are fine but could be more efficient with pull-out drawers. The right hand side is unusable for a shorter child and has a lot of wasted space.

Considering the Layout and Function issues together, we have two options. Note: I've used the Room Planner on the Urban Barn website to create these renderings.

Option A - Bed on Left

how to layout a room, how to arrange furniture, bedroom layout

Option B - Bed on Right
how to layout a room, how to arrange furniture, bedroom layout

Which of these plans would you say is the best?

Option A gives ample room around the bed for the entry and closet doors to swing open. But Option B creates a nice focal point, with the bed facing the door as you enter.

We've already moved the furniture around so I'll show you which layout we decided next week. Suffice it to say, it already looks much better!

I hope this post has given you some ideas on how to tackle any layout or function challenges you might have.

Next up, we'll talk about style and design and how to build a cohesive and attractive scheme for any room.

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