When it comes to furniture layout, most of us follow a tried-and-true formula: Line up everything against the wall and hope it looks okay. To be honest, this isn’t a half-bad solution, plus it’s easy as pie to pull off.
But it’s also bo-oring.
If you’re itching to flex your design muscles and create a truly special room, consider pulling some pieces away from the wall. Also known as “floating,” this arrangement has tons of perks: It’s a clever way to make a cavernous room feel cozy, create intimate conversation nooks, and maximize every single square inch of space. But it’s not just a matter of dragging the sofa out a few inches — a harmonious room requires some planning, lots of trial and error, and following a few rules of the road. Here’s everything you need to know about floating like the pros.
Determine whether your room needs it. Since a major point of floating is to nurture conversation, it should be employed only where it makes sense, says Paula Grace Halewski, president and principal designer of Paula Grace Designs, Inc. If you have a room where pieces line the walls but everyone can speak easily to each other, leave well enough alone.
Plan an arrangement that works with the space. Before you start moving things around, take into account the room’s focal point and traffic flow. Halewski recommends arranging furniture so the focal point can be easily viewed and traffic is guided naturally from point A to point B.
Choose which pieces to float. “Think of groupings for conversational areas — sofa, cocktail table, two chairs, or two loveseats facing each other — in close proximity for easy talking,” she suggests. “Or a focal point in other rooms, such as a center table in a large foyer.”
Consider rugs and lighting. What’s on the floor and ceiling can make or break your design, says Halewski. Choose an area rug large enough for all the furniture, or at the very least the front legs of all the upholstered pieces, she advises. And for a timeless touch, try centering a pretty chandelier with a dimmer over the grouping. If you can swing it, place outlets in the floor so task and floor lamps can be positioned nearby. “Even if you need to patch a few holes in your finished basement ceiling, I’d say it’s worth it,” she says.
Avoid rookie mistakes. Two biggies Halewski sees? Not placing the furniture close enough together and failing to create a grouping that looks good from all angles. “I always like to place a console behind a floated sofa with pictures and/or accessories, so you’re looking at beautiful objects versus the back side of a sofa,” she says. No room for a console? Try draping a patterned throw, like this houndstooth one, over the piece for a little extra pizzazz.
Don’t be afraid to float in a small room. In tinier spaces, Halewski suggests conversational groupings, like floating two chairs facing a sofa that’s backed up against the wall or floating four chairs with a round table or ottoman in the middle. That arrangement works especially well in small, square-ish rooms, she says.
Get inspired by the best. Check out professionally decorated spaces with floating furniture to get ideas for your own home. “You’ll see proper proportions and spacing, plus those very important tables and lighting,” she says. “No need to take on the task alone — learn from the people who do it all the time.”