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Finding the Optimal Distance Between Furniture and Fixtures for Your Home (Metric & Imperial)

As an interior designer, one of the most crucial aspects of creating a functional and aesthetically pleasing space is space planning. Space planning involves strategically arranging furniture and fixtures to optimize the flow and functionality of a room. Whether you are designing a small apartment or a large commercial space, understanding the principles of space planning is essential.


Understanding the Importance of Spatial Awareness

Spatial awareness is the foundation of effective space planning. It is the ability to perceive and understand the dimensions and proportions of a space. By having a keen sense of spatial awareness, designers can create a harmonious and balanced environment. This involves considering factors such as traffic flow, natural light sources, and the purpose of the space.


urban chic living room

When you have a clear understanding of the spatial dynamics, you can make informed decisions about the placement of furniture and fixtures. By considering the size and scale of each element, you can create a space that not only looks visually appealing but also functions efficiently.


Key Principles of Effective Space Planning

There are several key principles that guide effective space planning. These principles help designers create layouts that maximise the use of space while ensuring comfort and functionality. Here are some essential principles to keep in mind:

  • Proportion and Scale: Maintaining proportion and scale is crucial in space planning. Furniture and fixtures should be appropriately sized to fit the room while leaving enough space for movement. Oversized or undersized elements can disrupt the overall balance of the space.

  • Traffic Flow: Consider how people will move through the room and arrange furniture accordingly. Ensure that there are clear pathways and that furniture placement does not hinder movement. This is especially important in high-traffic areas such as living rooms and kitchens.

  • Functionality: Understand the purpose of the space and design accordingly. For example, in a workspace, consider the need for storage, adequate lighting, and ergonomic furniture. By prioritising functionality, you can create a space that meets the specific needs of its occupants.


kitchen with an open flow

Essential Tips for Floor Planning

Floor planning is a crucial step in space planning as it involves mapping out the placement of furniture and fixtures on a floor plan. Here are some essential tips to help you with floor planning:

  • Measurements: Accurate measurements are essential for successful floor planning. Measure the dimensions of the room and create a scaled floor plan. This will allow you to visualize how different elements will fit within the space.

  • Focal Point: Identify the focal point of the room and arrange furniture around it. This could be a fireplace, a large window, or a statement piece of furniture. By creating a focal point, you draw attention to a specific area and create a sense of balance within the room.

  • Balance and Symmetry: Consider the visual balance and symmetry of the room. Arrange furniture in a way that creates a sense of harmony. For example, if you have a large sofa on one side of the room, balance it out with a group of chairs or an entertainment unit on the other side.


modern Victorian dining room

Optimal Distances Between Furniture and Fixtures in Metric Measurements

When it comes to space planning, understanding the optimal distances between furniture and fixtures is crucial for creating a comfortable and functional environment. Here are some recommended distances in metric measurements (for imperial click here):


  • Seating Area: The ideal distance between a sofa and a coffee table should be approximately 35 to 45 centimetres. This distance is close enough to reach for items like a remote or a drink comfortably, but far enough to allow for legroom and movement. It's worth noting that this distance may need to be adjusted slightly depending on the size of the sofa and the overall dimensions of the room. If you have additional seating, maintain a distance of at least 50 centimetres between chairs or between a chair and a table. Furthermore, it's recommended to leave around 50cm of space between the armrests of the sofa and what’s directly next to it for maximum comfort.

  • Dining Area: For a dining table, leave a minimum of 90 centimetres between the edge of the table and the wall or other furniture. This allows for easy movement around the table and ensures comfortable seating. The minimum space per person at the dining table is somewhere between 50 and 60 centimetres wide, but 75 to 90 centimetres per person is more comfortable.

  • Bedroom: In a bedroom, leave a minimum of 60 centimetres between the edge of the bed and the wall or other furniture. This provides ample space to manoeuvre around the bed and allows for easy access to bedside tables.

  • Walkways: Maintain a minimum walkway width of 90 centimetres to ensure easy movement through the room. This is particularly important in high-traffic areas such as hallways and entrances.

  • Kitchen: Maintain a minimum walkway width of 90 centimetres between an island and a counter. The kitchen triangle, which is the space between the sink, refrigerator, and stove, should be positioned in a triangular fashion for optimum efficiency and comfort.

  • Laundry: While there are no specific measurements for a laundry room, it's crucial to consider the size of your appliances. Ensure there's enough space for doors to open fully and for you to move comfortably. An allowance of about 90-100 centimetres in front of the machines is a good rule of thumb.

  • Bathroom: The recommended space per person is at least 61 centimetres wide, though 76 to 92 centimetres per person is more common and comfortable for bathroom fixtures. Remember to allow sufficient space for the bathroom door to open and close easily. The recommended distance from the centreline of the toilet to any side wall, fixture, or obstruction should not be less than 40 centimetres. In addition, there should be at least 60 centimetres of clear space in front of the toilet for comfortable legroom and easy accessibility. These measurements ensure enough space for most users to sit, stand, and move around comfortably, while also allowing for easy cleaning and maintenance. However, these are just guidelines, and the specific needs and preferences of the user.


These measurements are a starting point and a guide only. There is no definitive right or wrong, sometimes you have to make do with the space you have on hand. However, it's important to consider the specific dimensions of your space and the people using it. Always ensure there's ample space for movement and comfort.


Moving in

Optimal Distances Between Furniture and Fixtures in Imperial Measurements

For those who prefer imperial measurements, here are the recommended distances between furniture and fixtures:


  • Seating Area: The ideal distance between a sofa and a coffee table should be approximately 14 to 18 inches. This distance is close enough to reach for items like a remote or a drink comfortably, but far enough to allow for legroom and movement. It's worth noting that this distance may need to be adjusted slightly depending on the size of the sofa and the overall dimensions of the room. If you have additional seating, maintain a distance of at least 20 inches between chairs or between a chair and a table. Furthermore, it's recommended to leave around 20 inches of space between the armrests of the sofa and what’s directly next to it for maximum comfort.

  • Dining Area: For a dining table, leave a minimum of 35 inches between the edge of the table and the wall or other furniture. This allows for easy movement around the table and ensures comfortable seating. The minimum space per person at the dining table is somewhere between 20 and 24 inches wide, but 30 to 35 inches per person is more comfortable.

  • Bedroom: In a bedroom, leave a minimum of 24 inches between the edge of the bed and the wall or other furniture. This provides ample space to manoeuvre around the bed and allows for easy access to bedside tables.

  • Walkways: Maintain a minimum walkway width of 35 inches to ensure easy movement through the room. This is particularly important in high-traffic areas such as hallways and entrances.

  • Kitchen: Maintain a minimum walkway width of 35 inches between an island and a counter. The kitchen triangle, which is the space between the sink, refrigerator, and stove, should be positioned in a triangular fashion for optimum efficiency and comfort.

  • Laundry: While there are no specific measurements for a laundry room, it's crucial to consider the size of your appliances. Ensure there's enough space for doors to open fully and for you to move comfortably. An allowance of about 35-40 inches in front of the machines is a good rule of thumb.

  • Bathroom: The recommended space per person is at least 24 inches wide, though 30 to 36 inches per person is more common and comfortable for bathroom fixtures. Remember to allow sufficient space for the bathroom door to open and close easily. The recommended distance from the centerline of the toilet to any side wall, fixture, or obstruction should not be less than 16 inches. In addition, there should be at least 24 inches of clear space in front of the toilet for comfortable legroom and easy accessibility. These measurements ensure enough space for most users to sit, stand, and move around comfortably, while also allowing for easy cleaning and maintenance. However, these are just guidelines, and the specific needs and preferences of the user.

As mentioned, these measurements are a starting point and a guide only. There is no definitive right or wrong, sometimes you have to make do with the space you have on hand. However, it's important to consider the specific dimensions of your space and the people using it. Always ensure there's ample space for movement and comfort.


removalists carrying shelving unit

Common Mistakes in Space Planning

Despite its importance, considerate floor planning is often overlooked or underestimated. Many people focus on the aesthetics of interior design, neglecting the functional aspects of the layout. This can lead to common mistakes that can impact the usability and enjoyment of the space.


Creating a floor plan is a crucial step in the design process, and avoiding common mistakes can help ensure your space is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.


While space planning is a skill that can be honed over time, there are common mistakes that even experienced designers can make. Being aware of these mistakes can help you avoid them in your own projects. Here are some common general mistakes in space planning:


  • Overcrowding: One of the most common mistakes is overcrowding a space with too much furniture. This can make the room feel cramped and hinder movement. Be mindful of the size of the room and choose furniture that fits comfortably within the space.

  • Lack of Functionality: Focusing solely on aesthetics without considering functionality can result in a space that looks great but fails to meet the needs of its occupants. Always prioritise functionality and consider how the space will be used.

  • Poor Traffic Flow: Inadequate consideration of traffic flow can lead to awkward and inefficient movement within a room. Ensure that there are clear pathways and that furniture placement does not obstruct movement.

If you like to get a more extensive list of common floor plan mistakes and pitfalls, read: Mastering the Art of Floor Planning: Top Mistakes to Avoid for a Practical and Efficient Layout.


Incorporating Space Planning in Your Interior Design Strategy

Space planning should be an integral part of your overall interior design strategy. By incorporating space planning from the early stages of a project, you can create a well-designed and functional space. Here are some tips on how to incorporate space planning in your interior design strategy:


  • Start with a Plan: Begin by creating a detailed floor plan and consider the dimensions and proportions of the space. This will serve as a blueprint for furniture and fixture placement.

  • Consider the Purpose: Understand the purpose of the space and design accordingly. For example, if you are designing a living room, consider the need for comfortable seating, entertainment options, and storage.

  • Experiment with Layouts: Don't be afraid to try different layout options before finalising your design. Use software or physical templates to test different furniture arrangements and see which one works best for the space.


Living room sketch

Final Words

Space planning involves curating a balanced and practical atmosphere. This requires a thorough assessment of the area's dimensions and proportions to create a visually pleasing and functional room that caters to its occupants' needs.


Don’t underestimate the significance of understanding the space's purpose and its users. Each space is distinct and necessitates a personalised strategy. By acknowledging the lifestyle and preferences of the occupants, a space can be designed that genuinely encapsulates their needs and character.


Space planning is an art that requires a keen understanding of spatial awareness and design principles. By carefully considering the optimal distances between furniture and fixtures and avoiding common mistakes, you can create a space that is both visually pleasing and functional.


Remember, effective space planning should be an integral part of your interior design strategy. By incorporating space planning from the early stages of a project, you can ensure that every inch of your space is utilised to its fullest potential.


So, the next time you embark on an interior design project, take the time to plan and arrange your space thoughtfully.


I offer 30-minute online brainstorming sessions to help with interior design decisions, including floor plan dilemmas. For more information and to book a session, click here.


 

Would you like to learn more about Interior Design? Or perhaps become an interior designer yourself? Follow my footsteps and study Interior Design with The Interior Design Institute where I could be your personal tutor. Click here to read more and receive a discount.


wooden and marble bathroom

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I am Marieke, a Dutch Australian interior designer, business executive, tutor, content creator and social media influencer.

 

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