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Technicolour Spaces

Furniture Arrangement & Function I

Vamvakas Anastassis

One of the most important articles for 3d artists who aim to learn how to create an aesthetic and functional interior space. Special thanks to Anastassis who shared all those useful articles with us.

Space planning extends to the placement of furniture and fixtures in an interior scene and is directly linked to function as well as aesthetics. The use of a space can be enhanced and made significant and aesthetically pleasing by arranging furniture according to design principles, circulation parameters, anthropometrics and proxemics. A successful arrangement of furniture will be both functional and pleasing to the senses.


1. Henric Bas Art House rendered by Jeffrey Faranial. Image Source:



The use of an environment and the activities that will take place in it primarily dictate the selection and arrangement of furniture. In a period of time like nowadays, when downsizing is a major tendency, one space is often required to host multiple functions that ideally have a strong relationship to each other. A conversation area in a private residence, for example, might also accommodate informal buffet-style dining, and the way those two activities interface should be considered. Tables should be arranged close enough to seating for easy placement of drinks or plates, and a serving table should be conveniently located near the seating area. Tables used with seating pieces should be approximately the same height as the arm of the seating piece so that food or drink can be reached easily.

2. This master bedroom by Cindy Ray Interiors features multiple functions with a den/home office/sitting area incorporated in the design. 
Image Source:


Open plan living and dining areas are very common in today’s homes or apartments, so creative planning is absolutely necessary, not only to solve the multiple function problem but to create a solution with a great deal of functional and aesthetic appeal. The consideration of function and aesthetics extends to every area of the home. Bedrooms can nowadays be used for dressing, conversation, a studio, a home office, and extend even to a library, an art gallery, a sewing room or computer use. Each requires appropriate placement of the furniture. Multi-functional spaces are a great challenge which can bring out the very essence and importance of interior design if properly tackled.



Furniture arrangement needs to accommodate free movement or circulation from one space to another. Furniture should be placed to enhance the movement by allowing traffic to flow, or by restricting and redirecting it when necessary. The main goal here is to achieve optimal utilization of the space by eliminating unnecessary traffic patterns.

Traffic patterns are natural and intrinsic in every space. These patterns can easily be seen by drawing lines on a floor plan to represent the most logical walking paths that lead from one space to another, in other words the natural traffic patterns. Their complexity and lack of organization usually shows quite clearly the need to control traffic.

3. The natural traffic pattern of this room consumes nearly half of the available space


Traffic flow can be controlled by placing furniture at key locations, so it forces traffic to flow away from areas that should be used for seating and conversation, or other functions where traffic might be disruptive. These locations can be determined by preparing a corrected plan, indicating where the traffic should flow. Laying the corrected plan over the natural traffic plan will show where furniture should be placed to control the flow. Usual problems encountered in many spaces, such as the lack of an actual entry to the home (front doors opening directly into the living or kitchen area) can be corrected by the appropriate placing of furniture, used to divide the seating area from the door area and establish a visual entry that directs traffic behind the seating area instead of through it. Such placements help avoid cutting the room in half with an unnecessary traffic pattern. Thus, a well placed piece of furniture can be a simple deterrent to misdirected traffic.  

4.The arrangement of furniture corrects the problem and makes the flow of traffic more efficient



Anthropometrics, the dimensions of the human form, are to be taken very seriously into consideration in arranging furniture, as human dimensions must be the standard of measure for interior design. Apart form standard dimensions one must also consider people whose needs for circulation are different from the norm. Those who use wheelchairs, crutches or walkers must be considered if they are to be able to move freely in an interior.


Standard Clearances.

A clearance is the amount of space required for comfortable circulation within an environment. Users without physical impairments fall within more or less standard clearances some of which are mentioned below. 

  • Major traffic paths should be 3 feet/ 90 cm or wider.
  • Minimal clearance for traffic is 1 foot 6 inches/45 cm.
  • Seating pieces used with coffee tables need slightly over 1 foot/30cm of clearance between the table and the front of the seat.
  • For a user to be able to extend his/her legs in front of a seating piece, about 3 feet/90cm of space are required, depending on the length and degree of extension.

5.90cm of clearance for extending the legs

  • Desks and pianos require a minimum of 3 feet/90cm clearance for chairs, benches and users.
  • Comfortable dining requires slightly more than 2 feet/60cm of space per user along the perimeter of the table.
  • In order to accommodate a seated diner and space behind for passage and serving, 3 feet/90cm of space should be planned.
  • Getting in and out of a dining chair requires about 1 foot 6 inches/45cm of space.
  • 3 feet/90cm is considered good clearance between a bed and a chest of drawers.
  • Space between two beds should be from 2 feet 6 inches/75cm to 3 feet/90cm.
  • Minimal clearance to facilitate bed making is 1 foot 6 inches/45cm between the bed and the wall.
  • In a bathroom, clearance of 2 feet 6 inches/75cm to 3 feet 6 inches/105cm provides adequate space for most functions.

6. Dining chairs require about 45 cm of egress clearance and about 90cm of space behind. Banquette dining saves on space as one side of the table is a bench fixture, thus requiring no clearance. Christopher Maya Design



A term coined by anthropologist Edward T. Hall, proxemics describes the way people use space and the way that use is related to culture. Proxemic patterns vary in different cultures. The different distances suggested here apply to a big part of the so called western world. Hal’s study identifies four proxemic distances:

  • The space from 1 foot 6 inches/45cm to actual physical contact is considered intimate distance and is reserved for displays of affection, comfort, protection, or physical aggression.
  • Personal distance is equal to the invisible bubble of space with which we separate ourselves from others. Everyone has a different perception of this space, and many are made uncomfortable by those with smaller bubbles who stand too close or violate personal space. Personal distance usually extends from 1 foot 6 inches/45cm to 4 feet/120cm. In many cultures, particularly those of southern Europe, the Middle East andSouth America, the personal-space bubble is a lot smaller; people are customarily seen appropriately touching and even embracing without any threat or discomfort.
    When it comes to furniture use, people are also affected by their perception of personal space. For example, few people choose to sit in the centre of a sofa. Most people sit at one end and most often they prop one arm on the armrest. In this way, a sofa that can comfortably hold three people is often occupied by only two people, since no one particularly desires to sit in the middle. A third person sitting in the middle of an 8-foot/240cm sofa leaves only about 1 foot/30cm between each person, thus coming very close to intimate distance, which is undesirable among friends, acquaintances or strangers.
    Generally, when strangers enter an empty seating space, they tend to take seats at opposite ends, gradually filling the space but leaving a seat between themselves and others. When the only spaces left are next to a stranger some people will choose to stand or will hesitate before taking a seat.

7. This living area is functionally organized on the basis of social distance. Christopher Maya Design

  • Social distance occupies the span from 4 to 12 feet (120 cm to 3 ½ mtrs). At the far end of that scale interaction tends to be more formal and at the close end interaction is characterized by greater involvement and less formality.
  • More than 12 feet is considered public distance. There is not much personal interaction in public distance.

Proxemics must be taken into consideration when planning interiors. For example, furniture groupings for conversation should be planned within the 4- to 12-foot bounds of social distance. Optimal distance for conversation is 8 feet/240cm-it seems to feel neither too close nor too distant.         



  • McGowan, Maryrose and Kruse Kelsey. Interior Graphic Standards.Hoboken,New Jersey: Wiley & Sons, 2004.

  • Nielson, Karla J. and David A Taylor. Interiors, An introduction.NewYork: Mv Graw-Hill, 2002.

  • Neufert, Ernst and Peter. Neufert Architects' Data, Blackwell Publishing, 2000.


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