WV Design Team: Plan space for how you live

By By Mimi Wells
WV Design Team
Given the large entryways in and out of adjoining rooms, the challenge for Wells interior designer Paula Gaal in designing this space was to keep it open.
Holly Alford, a design consultant at Wells, had an especially challenging room to work on when her client wanted to accommodate family gatherings in a long, narrow room. The challenge was not only the number of seats required but the traffic flow and how best to highlight the piano as a focal point.
The focal point for this family’s living room was the fireplace with the TV mounted over the mantel.
Catherine Pfost designed a multipurpose room and chose the furnishings that allowed her client’s family to be together in one room while doing different activities.
Mimi Wells, of Wells Home Furnishings, is a WV Design Team contributor.

We get comfortable in our own homes and overlook the arrangement of our stuff.

Oftentimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to help us see how a new or different way of arranging the items in our space can greatly affect how we use the rooms we live in.

Over the last several decades, American families have begun to repurpose the spaces in their homes to support the way they want their rooms to function.

For example, formal living rooms, often rarely used, can be designed to support multiple family activities.

Formal dining rooms, used primarily for holiday gatherings, have become more common areas for gatherings and casual dining.

Putting your space on a “room planner,” whether it be a computer-designed one, or simply a pencil drawing on graph paper should be the first step in your space planning project.

Indicating and paying close attention to doorways, windows, doors, electrical outlets, cable hookups and heating and air conditioning vents can all affect the room’s layout and furnishings and is an integral part of the plan.

Once a careful diagram of your room, with accurate measurements, is made, there are a few things to consider when planning your space.

Purpose or function of room

Catherine Pfost, interior designer at Wells Home Furnishings, spends time with her clients getting a clear understanding of their needs and activities.

With a clear understanding of the room’s function, Catherine can better begin the design of the space.

She talks with her clients extensively about what they intend to keep in their space and what they plan to remove from it.

The measurements of the room along with the pieces that will stay will be crucial as she begins helping the clients select the pieces they want to add and then discovering how the use and traffic flow of the room will be determined.

Number of seats

Seating in a leisure room in groups of five to six people, when possible, is ideal. This number makes for a comfortable conversation area in terms of spacing and individual comfort zones.

More seating can be added easily with access to ottomans, benches or chairs that can be easily pulled into the area.

Seating in groups larger than six tends to splinter in smaller conversation groups, leaving some people isolated. Therefore, for larger spaces, two or more conversation areas or areas for different activities can be arranged.

The size and configuration of the furnishings will determine the spacing of the furniture, but spacing is extremely important.

Typically, a conversation area will be no more than 12 to 13 feet in diameter to support conversation. Furniture spacing within the conversation area should be placed anywhere between 4 and 10 feet apart.

Accent pieces should be placed relative to the furniture depending on form or function and without interfering with traffic flow.

Focal points

Most homes today are designed with a focal point such as a fireplace, or other architectural elements, such as lighted display cabinetry or artwork. This focal point is usually also the focal room of the home, the room most prominent, such as the great room where the residents of the home primarily gather and entertain.

The focal point is designed to heighten the experience of the home. The focal point may be created with the use of higher ceilings or textural elements such as stone.

Regardless, the furniture should be arranged with the focal point in mind. More and more often today, the focal point of the room is the TV.

Traffic flow

Planning spaces requires consideration of providing comfortable entrances and exits in the room as well as adequate and comfortable space for people to carry out their activity while in the room.

The size of the room and the function of the room will definitely limit the options for laying out the space.

For example, a small dining room where the dining table is usually centrally located offers fewer options for layout than a large great room where seating can be arranged into multiple conversation areas.

The location of doorways influences the flow of traffic, as does furniture placement. Therefore, careful planning for furniture placement is vital, taking into consideration the relationship of furniture to windows, other architectural elements, focal points and conversation areas.

Dining rooms can be challenging in terms of traffic flow because there are typically multiple entrances into a dining area.

Bedrooms can be difficult because of the location of the bed and the amount of space it takes up. Adding all the furniture pieces that most people require, such as nightstands and dressers, can be challenging. And TVs are now common in the bedroom, resulting in the additional entertainment unit. Under-the-bed storage has also become common, a great feature in smaller bedrooms.

Organizational flow, especially in kitchens, laundry rooms and home offices, takes special planning in terms of working efficiently in a space. Design guidelines for ergonomics and clearances are especially relevant for achieving a comfortable work area.

Interior designers are often thought of as working with their clients in terms of furniture styles and materials, fabrics, colors, patterns and textures.

However, the basics of interior design, environmental design — however you term it — are to design the spaces in your home to support how you want you and your family to function in that space.

Whether you chose to plan your own space or seek the help of a professional, space planning can definitely enhance your lifestyle and help you avoid making costly mistakes.

To begin your own floor planning experience, visit wellshome.com and click on “design & create.” For more information, call the store at 304-343-3600. Follow Wells Home Furnishings on Facebook and on Twitter at @WellsHomeFurn. Email questions or comments to Mimi Wells at mimi@wellshome.com.

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