We try our best when it comes to decorating, but sometimes, no matter how much thought we give to a room, something still feels off. It's hard to put a finger on the problem that results in an awkward furniture layout when you're not a professional interior designer, which is why a little help from professionals is never a bad idea.
If an interior designer walks into your home, it's likely they'll notice little details about your furniture arrangement that you may not have ever considered: Is the rug too small? Are the furniture pieces too close to each other or too far apart? Is the scale right for the space?
To help shed light on the most common furniture arranging mistakes you might be making in your own space, we asked a group of interior designers to share the furniture arranging mistakes they always notice—and how to fix them.
Using Too Much Furniture
One of the main mistakes Hanna Egan, director of interior design at D'Apostrophe Design, always notices, is too much furniture in a room.
"Keep good circulation around a living room furniture layout," she says. "A space should never feel too cramped, and there's nothing worse than having to do the cha-cha as you try to get up from your sofa, shimmying between the coffee table. To achieve an overall aesthetic that is pure and simple with plenty of space, maintain a comfortable distance from the edge of a sofa or lounge chair seat to the edge of the coffee table."
Christine Stucker, co-founder of Stewart-Schafer, also points this out as being the number one mistake she always notices. "Adding way too many pieces of furniture in a room can make it feel overcrowded and negatively impact the flow of the space," she explains. "We're firm believers in 'less is more.' Start with one incredible piece and build around it. For example, if you have a large sofa, you do not need to have two chairs flanking it. Instead, try adding one chair and a small side table, which will create balance in the room and allow for an uninterrupted sense of flow."
Try to keep a minimum of 18 inches, if possible, between your seating and your coffee table.
Having Awkward Height Clearance
Another common mistake designers always seem to notice is height clearance. "I can't stress enough the importance of proper dining chair arm or task chair arm height versus table or desk height, not to mention leg clearance," Egan says. "I can just hear the screeching and scratching of the furniture. Keep as much clearance as possible from the chair arms to the underside of the table. If there's a narrow pencil drawer, perhaps you even go armless."
Highlyann Krasnow of The Design High points out the importance of sizing your coffee table height to your couch. "Many modern companies' coffee tables are very low, which can not only look off but can also create a dangerous situation where someone could run into the table," she says. "To fix this, we suggest using two modular side tables as coffee tables. This brings an interesting, modern vibe to the room without the common low height tables."
Consider the same when picking a nightstand. Measure your bed with the box spring, mattress, and frame included to assure the nightstand isn't too low or too high.
Picking the Wrong Sized Rug
Most designers agree that bigger is always better when it comes to rug size. "Using too small of a rug in a living room setting can actually make the space feel much smaller," Stucker explains. "We've seen a lot of small-sized patterned rugs being placed underneath the coffee table, which makes the room look small and awkward."
Large, natural fiber rugs, for example, add an element of luxury and sophistication.
Choosing Matching Furniture Sets
Gone are the days of living room sets, but interior designers still notice matching sets in homes they visit.
"One of our pet peeves is when everything in a room matches," Stucker says. "Furniture sets that include a matching sofa, loveseat, and chair end up looking like a showroom and can be very underwhelming. By mixing textures, colors, and even genres, you can create a much more elevated space that looks thoughtfully curated and well designed."
Utilizing Inefficient Navigation
Above all else, it's imperative that your furniture arrangement is conducive to easy navigation, but Garth Oldershaw, the director of interiors at BCV Architecture + Interiors, points out that this is easier said than done.
"I always notice when furniture disrupts the project flow," he says. "We always strive for a clear initial plan that addresses potential complications that arise with an unusual space. Whether the feel is relaxed or refined, we believe the furniture selection and arrangement should reflect it."
Placing Furniture Against the Wall
One of the main critiques of interior designers everywhere is furniture pushed up against the walls. "Don't be afraid to float your couch," Krasnow suggests. "It can be tempting to push all furniture up against the wall, but this can create dead space in the center of the room. Leaving a few inches between your wall and sofa creates a more inviting environment."
Choosing the Wrong Furniture Scale
Krasnow also points out that dimensions are always key. "Scale furniture to the size of the room and search for vendors and furniture pieces accordingly," she says. "For example, Urban Outfitters has great options for a smaller room. In regard to furniture selections, using a loveseat instead of a couch or café table instead of a traditional dining can assure a cohesive look without overwhelming the room with large pieces."