Furniture placement for open concept spaces can be quite tricky at times. The smaller the space the more forethought and planning are needed in the initial design process of the floor plan, long before construction begins. We have seen a huge jump in new builds for both condos and apartment blocks over the last number of years. The new trend in construction is for larger more open concept kitchens. This obviously limits where cupboards can be placed as a wall is required to mount cabinetry. What seems to be the trend is to “steel” wall space from your living/dining space, where you would normally place your living room or dining table. This makes for a nicely finished vacant space for prospective buyers/renters to view with large open concept spaces. However, this can be very misleading.
Typical architectural features of a space dictate furniture placement and are fixed (cannot easily be changed). These are things like doors, walkways, light fixture placement, closets, etc. A space is defined by architectural details. You must allow for a door to swing open so you cannot place furniture too close to the door swing as you must allow not only room for the door swing to open but also for a person to stand in front of the door and step back as they open the door. This sounds pretty basic but more and more we are seeing smaller spaces designed that do not allow for this simple basic functional aspect of use of space.
So often we are seeing TV connections part way up the only wall in the open concept space. This is rarely a problem in a large space as there is more than adequate room and often requires us to pull the furniture in to create a more defined cozy sitting space. The problem occurs in a much smaller open concept – where there is simply no room to place furniture.
A room is NOT defined by its walls. A space is defined by walls, AND door swings, AND walkways into and between rooms, AND hanging light fixtures, etc. A dining area often has a hanging light fixture that is designed to have a dining table centered below it. This usually works perfectly, until someone has a brilliant idea to add an overhand counter top and counter seating too close to the dining light fixture. Sure it looks great on paper – but when you actually try to place the bar stools at the counter and the dining room table under the light – the bar stools and chairs bump against each other and the whole space is no longer functional!
You would never place a sofa in the direct path of people walking in through the front door – well it is no different with an open concept design. Although there are no walls in place – we must allow for an “invisible” wall to define the use of spaces. A walkway behind a sofa or to an access door must allow a minimum of 3 feet width and enough space for a door to swing open but also someone to step back when opening the door. Once we allow for the functional use of space for walkways and door swings, we are often left with a much smaller are in which to plan furniture placement. On paper this may appear to be one large space and allow for adequate furniture placement and be quite deceiving. We always find it easier to draw it out to scale to plan the right pieces to make the best of the space available.
Keep in mind the depth of most sofas/loveseats is 3’. Length is anywhere from 5’ for a loveseat to over 9’ depending on the style of sofa. You usually need a minimum of 18” between the sofa and coffee table. The coffee table is typically 24” deep. Then you require a bit of a walkway between the TV console table and your coffee table – so allow for at least 2’6” although 3’ is much more comfortable. Finally allow for a console table that is anywhere between 12-14” deep. You need a total depth of 10’ to comfortably place furniture and a width of a minimum 10’ to allow for a sofa and a small end table. Any space that is smaller than this will give you nightmares in terms of furniture placement and setting up your living space so it works for you.
Keep in mind, as a designer and a stager – I have access to many different sizes of furniture to try to best fit the space. Most renters or first time condo buyers have their own furniture that and must work with that. Make sure you take the measurements of the space – allowing for walkways and doors wings etc. Then measure your own furniture to make sure it will fit comfortably in a small space. Especially if you are buying a condo – if you have difficulty using a tight dysfunctional space, it will look that way and be that much more difficult for you to sell down the road. If you are going to make an investment in your first home – make sure it is something that will work for you and something that you can easily sell down the road.
Developers – please do not be fooled by open spaces on your architectural drawings. Allowing adequate space for furniture is key to the success of your building whether it is a new apartment block or a condo complex. The last thing you want is to invest in a project that people find wasn’t designed with aspects of daily living in mind. Just because a space doesn’t have interior walls – doesn’t mean you don’t have to allow for appropriate division of space and functional use of the space. If ever in doubt – contact a professional designer who works with furniture dimensions and placement. If drawings are to scale – it takes less than 30 minutes to plan a good furniture layout that will best showcase the space and take advantage of the open concept floor plan! I have seen where furniture was shrunk down in scale on professional drawings to make it look like a 6.5’ by 7’ space would fit a full sofa, love, coffee, end tables and console TV table. Reality was I simply have never seen a sofa that was less than 24’ deep! It pays to double check and have a 2nd or third opinion from someone who has no stake in the project. That way you will be assured of an accurate analysis of the space.