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Furniture Arranging 101

Arranging a room just right looks easy-as-pie when the pros do it on television. Doing it in your own home, however, often takes longer than a 30-minute segment! But there are shortcuts to success. Interior designer, TV personality and author Libby Langdon offers her suggestions for making everything come together with ease.

Start with the family room. It's the one that sees the most traffic and is usually the most visible to visitors.

Focal Point

Every room needs a focal point — the one area that draws the eye and centers the space. If we're being honest, in most family rooms that focal point is the television. "Just admit it to yourself," says Langdon. "You're arranging a room around a TV."


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And while it might be the focal point, it doesn’t have to look like your local electronics repair shop when it's not in use. To improve the aesthetics, consider the following camouflage options for your big black box.

  • Mount folding shutters on either side of the television, and close them when it's not in use.
     
  • Edge the television in a wide gold or silver picture frame, like it's art. You can go a step further by buying a television with a screen that looks like a mirror when it’s turned off. Others have screens that display a digital picture frame when not in use.
     
  • If you want the television to be completely obscured, mount it inside a console fitted with hydraulic lifts that raise the screen when you turn it on. 

Furnishings

Measure Twice, Arrange Once

Save your back by sketching out your room on paper before you start moving heavy objects. Use one-quarter-inch graph paper, where one-quarter inch equals one foot, and outline the room dimensions. Then measure your furniture (chairs are typically 36 inches by 36 inches; sofas 84 inches by 36 inches) and cut out pieces of graph paper equal in scale. You can then arrange and rearrange to your heart's (and your mover's) delight without lifting an ounce.

Walk This Way

When arranging furniture in a room, don't push everything against the walls. "You'll wind up with an enormous amount of square footage in the middle of the room unused," says Langdon. Keep things towards the center and leave enough room for a walkway around the perimeter. "The rule of thumb is to allow 30 to 36 inches so people can pass easily."

Is This Rug Enough?

Make sure your rug will be large enough for the room it occupies. "If a rug is too small, it chops up the room visually and makes it look smaller," says Langdon. "Your rug should be large enough for the front legs of each piece of upholstered furniture to be on it when the room is arranged."


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Lighting

Langdon suggests homeowners think in terms of lighting each corner of a room. "If you have any square footage in the dark," says Langdon, "the room will feel closed-in and smaller." 

Lamplight the Way

Don't rely on overhead lights to illuminate an entire room. Overhead light can make a room feel cold. Lamplight makes a room feel warm and inviting. "Don't go with small lamps, even in little rooms," says Langdon. "Large lamps add scale and height. They enhance visual space and provide a better spread of light."

Just as you don't want one type of light to dominate a room, you don't want one type of lamp to do so either. "Mix table and floor lamps," says Langdon. "Even if you have recessed lighting above." 

If you feel like your current lamps don't show well or they're out-of-date, you can save money and still update by replacing the shades instead of entire fixtures. Lamp shops, big-box stores, lighting catalogs and online sites all offer individual shades for purchase. "A fresh shade can bring excitement and new life to a tired old lamp," says Langdon.


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Tips provided by Libby Langdon