Designing Functional Floor Plans


There are a multitude of tools available online to assist with planning functional floor plans. However, there are a number of factors that need to be considered before planning a layout.

Who will be using the space? Is this a family space for members of the family to congregate and/or entertain? How many people will typically be in the room at one time? Do we need to provide seating for all of them? For example, in a great room or main living area we are usually required to provide seating for the members of the family, as well as having adequate seating available for a certain number of guests. This requires anywhere from 6 – 10 easily accessible areas for seating/entertaining in the given space. Whereas in a bedroom, this is typically a private space that may only require seating for 1 or 2 people. Who will be in the space dictates our space planning.

The next important consideration is how will the space be used? Is it an entertainment room, watching TV or movies, visiting with friends, or is it a music room for practicing and studying? Does a larger room require a separate area to have a piano area? Is there a desk required in the bedroom for homework and studying? Quite often we must plan for more than one type of usage in the space. All requirements of how the family uses the space must be taken into consideration when designing the floor plan. 

Natural traffic flow patterns exists within any given space. Particularly if a room has more than one doorway or access to another room – a traffic flow pattern is often created as this frequently acts as a pass thru between other adjoining rooms. The natural traffic flow pattern must be kept open and free of obstacles. This is particularly important if it also acts as a means of egress to an exit in case of fire safety. Designing a furniture plan that keeps a minimum of 3’ width walkway clear of obstacles is not only smart, it is also safe in case of emergency!

Next we need to consider any natural focal points in the room. This could be anything from a large picture window, to a fireplace to a TV. The focal point is often (but not always) tied to the main function of the room. Typically your furniture placement is designed to maximize the use of the focal point in the room. Seating is often planned for TV viewing or seating is planned around the fireplace in a sitting room for visiting with guests or for the home owner to read while enjoying the fireplace. 

Finally we get to the selection of furniture and final placement. Now that we have determined the natural traffic flow patterns and focal point, we can plan the furniture placement in the remainder of the room. We need to determine the actual measurements of the remaining space, so go ahead and get out your tape measure. It is critical to ensure you measure your space before you select furniture. It is always a good idea to draw out the space using the perimeter walls of the room. ¼” = 1’ is standard scale for residential drawings and is consistent with most graph paper. So draw out the space, include where your windows and doors are located. Make sure you draw in your focal points. Then you can see exactly what space you have left to plan any seating arrangements. It is critical to know what space you have available before you shop. This is when you want to begin to designate multiple functions into different areas of the room. For example, if you have a seating area with TV but also need a 6 seating dining table, you will plan a division in your open space using your furniture placement. Just make sure you know what space you have to work with, length by width. Always ensure you leave adequate walkways around furniture for easy access.

Now you are free to shop for furniture. I prefer to shop on-line first. It helps narrow down my selections and gives me the exact dimensions of most furniture pieces. This way I can plan exactly which pieces will fit and which need to be ruled out because they do not fit. Remember, furniture can be too large but can also be too small for a space. There is nothing worse than falling in love with a piece at the store getting it home and finding it just doesn’t look right in the space. That is why space planning for any room is critical. Take some time, get a nice cup of coffee or tea, grab a tape measure and some graph