How to Arrange Your Furniture to Give Your Home the Best Flow

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When it comes to the furniture you put in your house, you want it to create a certain flow through your space. Your furniture placement, whether in your living room, dining room, bedroom, or another space, should enable easy physical movement from one space to the next.

But flow isn’t just about giving you—and your guests—breathing room. “A good flow will also have visual elements that tie them all together,” says Ashley Bowen, lead editorial stylist for Zulily. She adds that it might include elements such as matching materials and colors, and repeating shapes. If you’d like to create better flow, both physically and visually, within your space, here’s what you can do.

Decide on a Focal Point

Before you arrange any furniture, decide what the focal point of the room will be. Some rooms might have a natural focal point, like a big window or a beautiful fireplace. Other rooms might need a created focal point, like a special piece of furniture or a well-placed, prominent artwork. Deciding where and what your focal point will be will help determine where you arrange your furniture.

Tracey Ayton Photography


Don’t Pack Too Much Furniture Into a Single Room

According to interior designer Emily Henderson, too many pieces of furniture in a room or space can cause the layout to feel tight. “For example, if you enter a room and immediately walk into the back of an armchair, it’s going to make the space feel closed off and have a bad flow,” she says. The first step toward a good flow is to “make sure each piece of furniture you place in your home has enough space to breathe,” she says.

Bowen agrees, adding that furniture should never get in the way of natural pathways. “The best flow in and out of a room is as short and straight as possible,” she says. “Avoid creating too many turns, or that will make it difficult to pass through or access the room’s function.” To make sure you’re honoring that natural pathway, Henderson says that—in your living room, for example—you should be able to walk between the sofa and coffee table and between the sofa and accent chair. “Your space will feel much lighter if you follow this rule,” she says.

Create a Smart Layout

It’s easy to design your home around what Henderson calls the fun parts—picking out the furniture and décor, for example—and not a smart layout. And that’s a mistake, she says. To make your layout function better, Bowen suggests first thinking about how you’ll use the space and then centering your furniture around that activity. “For example, in a multi-media room, you’ll want to maximize the number of seats available for optimal viewing of your television,” she says. “Have your main couch parallel to the TV, and if you have space, have some chairs angled in on each end. Add in a coffee table and end tables if you have the space to maximize surface area, and create a space that’s available for drinks and snacks.”

Photo by Sean Litchfield courtesy of Becky Shea Design

Don’t Push All Your Furniture Against a Wall

Unless you’re working with a really small room, resist the urge to arrange furniture against walls. Give your sofas and tables some space to breathe, away from the walls if you can. If you’re working with a larger space, consider floating furniture in the middle of the room to create a conversation zone (of course, only if it doesn’t impede the flow of the room and the house in general).

Consider Style and Texture

One easy way to create a visual flow with your furniture is to vary its weight and style, says Henderson. “For example, if you have a large, chunky sofa, balance it with a delicate coffee table,” she says. “By mixing a variety of styles and weights, your room will feel balanced instead of ‘too light’ or ‘too heavy,’ and will almost always guarantee good flow.”

Bowen adds that repetitive colors and shapes can also tie the look of your space together, which creates a “flow” for the eye to follow. Consider adding pops of the same hue throughout your space or pairing something like a curved sofa with round accent pillows.

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Position Area Rugs Correctly

If you’re going to be placing area rugs in your living room, dining room, or bedroom, make sure that you have the correct size and that they are positioned securely underneath furniture. You want to make sure that the area rug you choose is big enough for all of your furniture to fit on it. If you can’t fit everything, at least make sure the front legs of your sofa are sitting on the rug. The same holds true for putting an area rug under your bed—if it’s large enough, place it perpendicular to the bed so that your feet have something soft to land on when you get out of bed in the morning.

Don’t Forget Functionality

Sometimes, flow simply comes down to functionality, Bowen says. “In a bedroom, it’s best to focus on maximizing comfort and functionality,” she says. “Make sure you have plenty of space to roll out of bed, as well as easy access to get back in after a long day.” And when it comes to where to place your dresser, give it “enough space to fully pull the drawers out and avoid painful middle-of-the-night toe stubs with clear, wide pathways,” Bowen says.

Your dining room is another space where flow equals functionality. “Don’t forget you’ll be carrying food and dishes in and out of this space, so functional design is key,” Bowen says. Here, she suggests placing the table and chairs in the center of the room—with each piece of furniture “sized to give plenty of space to get in and out of each seat,” she says.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the four rules of furniture arrangement?

    If you’re having trouble figuring out the best way to arrange your furniture, remember these tips: start with a focal point; consider the flow of the space; consider the 2/3 rule when deciding on furniture to purchase; and create some sort of balance with your furniture pieces where you can.

  • Why shouldn’t you put your furniture up against walls?

    It seems counterintuitive, but pushing furniture against your walls can actually make a space look smaller. It can also create a lot of negative space in larger rooms that look a bit imbalanced. Of course, if the room you’re working with is too small to float furniture, then you have to place your couches and tables where it makes sense. But if you have enough room, don’t push your furniture against the walls so that you’re not working with a ton of negative space that needs to be filled up in the middle.

  • What’s the first thing to consider when arranging furniture?

    Start with your largest piece of furniture and go from there. It will be easier to envision the finished layout of a space if you have already placed the largest piece within it.

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