Curating the perfect layout is no easy task. Determining how to best utilize/maximize a space requires taking a careful look at its unique configuration, points of entry, windows, purpose(s), structural oddities, etc., which vary drastically from one space to the next. But that said, there is one super simple trick I use when I begin to tackle the layout of any new space… I call it my rounding principle.
The approach was borne out of my love for hosting, and often living in tiny shoebox-sized city apartments. I had the yearning to create warm, inviting, cozy environments for friends and family to enjoy spending time together, and through endless trial and error, this has become my #1 go-to method for analyzing and enhancing every layout I’ve worked on since.
Let’s walk through it conceptually…
Imagine you’re sitting around a campfire with a group of people. You look to your left, look to your right, look straight ahead and all around… the circular/rounded formation of your positioning gives you clear visibility of everyone around you, right? (Yes!) The beauty of this arrangement is you can easily have a conversation with the people on either side of you, or those seated a few feet further away, or the entire group can come together as a whole.
Regardless of who you’re interacting with, a strong feeling of cohesiveness and unity is created purely because of this seating formation. No one is awkwardly shadowed by anyone else, everyone has a spot. All spots are made relatively equal because they each contain good visibility and offer connectedness to the greater group (although some views may be better overall).
Now, let’s apply it…
Since most rooms are square or rectangular, or some combination of linear angles, it may feel odd trying to configure your space with a circle in mind… But the goal is not to create a true circular formation, but rather create a circular flow. Here are a few very simple diagrams to help illustrate how to create a circular flow out of predominantly square and rectangular furnishings.
I often start with the mindset of, “what if 5, 10, 15 people were occupying this space - how would it feel?” I envision how the bodies would move in and out of the space and what the primary purpose of the space is, and then I start to hatch my plan for creating the vibe of a rounded seating area. Even if you never intend to host this many people, it is still a very effective technique to help you think in terms of maximizing all angles of the room.
Depending on the focal point(s) of the room, such as big windows or doors, a fireplace, TV, etc., I always try to situate the furniture in such a way that when a group descends upon the room, a comfortable circular flow of conversation is easily achieved. For those spaces with strong focal points, I tend to group the heaviest pieces of furniture on all three sides facing the focal point, and to close the circle, I opt for benches, floor poufs, or some other small piece(s) of furniture that leave the view to the focal point unobstructed.
Additional considerations to keep in mind, too…
Everyone is instantly more comfortable when they all have a (comfortable) place to sit. Sitting is better than standing, comfortably sitting is the best… but work with what ya got.
If the space is small or crowded already, decide how you can double-up on the role some of your seating pieces play. For example, consider adding a bench with storage capabilities, or opt for a stool to double as a side table.
Entry points & side tables - in a perfect world, everyone has reasonably close access to being able to exit the space without inconveniencing everyone else, and they have access to a place to put a glass, dish, cell phone, etc. But again, work with what ya got.
Test each spot by sitting in it - take in the view, look all around you, imagine you’re having a conversation with someone to your left, right and all around.
Play around with positioning your furniture at different angles - for example, tilt two chairs inward.
I love huge oversized sectionals and L-shaped couches, I really do. But, with the rise in popularity of these sofas, there came a thinking that the sofa could operate as its own standalone piece of furniture in a living room since it can clearly accommodate many people. This is no bueno!! Always accompany a sectional with a few alternative seating options directly across from or next to the large piece.
Additional accent seating can include benches, floor poufs, chaise lounges, accent chairs, trunks, rockers, stumps, stools, and more.
Good luck & until next time,
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