The relationship between residential crowding and psychological health has been the object of much research and interior design can play a major role in mitigating the negative effects of crowding. Stress, abnormal social behaviour, confusion and a sense of confinement are known to arise from inappropriate traffic flow patterns, poor location of entry and exit doors, cluttered furniture groupings and absence of architectural depth. Skilful furniture placement can compensate for the lack of ample square footage, which is primarily responsible for creating architectural depth in an interior space.
Fifty Three Office by Ferian Sonny. Source: Vrayworld.com
Important Considerations in Furniture Placement with regard to Crowding.
- It must always be remembered that crowding is not strictly a function of dimensions. Other factors must be considered as well, such as culture, individual personality and the desire for social interaction dictated by the function of the space itself. A rather cluttered bedroom may feel cosy and sheltered to some, whereas others may find it terribly upsetting. Conversely, a cluttered living or family room, with furniture grouped unsuitably, is very likely to be perceived as inhospitable and distracting by most people.
- Regardless of the square footage available in any given interior, the layout of furniture must provide for meeting spots suitable for social interaction, as well as islands of tranquillity for those who enjoy less involvement, or need to retreat periodically (see Furniture Groupings). The added benefit of such careful programming is that the space becomes more aligned with the design principles of rhythm and variety, thus creating more architectural depth, by allowing the eye to wander more freely within the given confines of the interior space.
Linear arrangements accommodate the maximum number of users.
Industrial loft by Jardkerd Kritsada. Source: Vrayworld.com
Territoriality is an aspect of proxemics (see Part I) which relates to the need of ownership and personalisation of a given space. Many people, for example, select the same classroom seat at the beginning of a school term and cling to it for the whole duration of classes. Most employees personalise an otherwise impersonal office space with photographs and cherished objects, which reflect their taste and assert their personal touch. In a residential environment, territoriality manifests itself in the fixed seating places for every family member at the kitchen table, or in the name tags for towels or toothbrushes in the bathroom.
Personalisation of office spaces is nowadays a major concern for the corporate world.
It is important to understand territoriality when designing a space or producing furniture layouts. Having as a starting point the type of project, the gender, culture and needs of the inhabitants or end users, the designer must be able to provide furniture layouts which can tackle delicate needs, such as the placement of personal belongings, allocate adequate space for each person and design shared areas or amenities that give users the opportunity to personalise and establish territoriality. Decorative styling of a 3D image should also be laid out on the basis of individual taste and territoriality concerns, always bearing in mind the end user, while trying to avoid standardised 3d styling objects at all costs.
Most seating arrangements can be classified into seven basic configurations. All of the arrangements mentioned below can consist of any type of sofa, bench, chair, ottoman, lounge or settee. Each grouping is suitable for different functions and serves specific design criteria.
- Straight-line groupings are obviously formed by placing furniture in continuous lines. Frequently encountered in non-residential interiors, this configuration is famous for its ability to accommodate the largest number of people in a given space. Linear groupings may be placed opposite multiple focal points to complement and balance their impact, such as a line of armchairs strategically placed opposite a row of windows in a hotel. A downside of linear groupings is that they make interaction difficult, as they require leaning forward in order to communicate with anyone apart from the person sitting next to you.
- L-shaped groupings are formed by furniture placed at right angles to each other. The L shape can range from an intimate arrangement of two chairs and a table at a corner, to a sectional sofa, or a group of sofas placed at right angles, in order to seat larger groups of people. L-shaped groupings are more conducive to interaction. The angle of conversation they create is comfortable, as occupants do not face each other directly, but at a slight angle, elbow to elbow.
L-shaped groupings are informal and conducive to interaction.
Noon by Komrska Jakub. Source: Vrayworld.com
- U-shaped groupings are an extension of the L shape and are known to create cozy and welcoming seating areas. Depending on the dimensions of the room, U-shaped layouts can either complement or correct awkward room shapes and create islands of social interaction.
Poliform by Vasiliu Tudor. Source: Vrayworld.com
U-shaped groupings can vary from a combination of pieces (top) to a simple repetition of the same item (bottom).
Bermondsey Warehouse by Guillen Ivan. Source: Vrayworld.com
Box-shaped groupings follow on the principle of the U shape and are created by the addition of furniture to partially close the remaining open side of a U-shaped layout. This is known to be the best possible configuration for optimal interaction amongst the largest possible group of occupants. Care must be taken to ensure easy entrance and exit from the grouping, as well as maintaining a good level of eye contact between occupants, by avoiding tall objects in the middle of the grouping, such as tall decorative vases or candle holders on the centre table.
Box-shaped groupings favour interaction but must be easily accessible on one side.
- Circular groupings like the name implies, are a rounded variation of the box shape. Reinforcing radial balance, (see The Principles of Design part I) circular groupings can be very impressive, especially when the seating revolves around a case piece, such as a beautifully designed table. Circular groupings are also used to create architectural depth, when placed at the foyer or entry of a flat or commercial space (e.g. a hotel lobby).
Circular groupings can function as islands of interaction.
- Parallel groupings are a great solution for oblong rooms and ideal for leading the eye to a focal point. Where no natural focal point exists, the grouping can focus on a case piece or object of interest.
The parallel arrangement of furniture along with the roof beams point directly to the fireplace as a focal point.
- Solo groupings may sound paradoxical, but rest on the assumption that any single piece of furniture placed away from an organised grouping is in need of some form of accompaniment. Armchairs usually need a side table or a lamp in order for the design to feel more complete and purposeful. Solo groupings are frequently crowned by some interesting form of art hung on the walls encompassing the grouping. Like circular configurations, solo groupings can have a powerful design intent and create interesting nooks, which serve as design statements, complement and balance focal points and create depth and meaning in otherwise neglected spots. Nevertheless, it must be noted that in contemporary interiors, individually placed furniture is treated as sculpture with a predominantly aesthetic purpose, which precludes the need for accompaniments such as tables or lamps. The appeal of such designs lies in their clarity and lack of embellishment. Most rooms, however, are designed with a wider range of purpose in mind and are therefore improved by groupings that extend the function of the furniture to accommodate more practical purposes.
T-Kitchen by Duc Tayone. Source: Vrayworld.com
Solo groupings serve as areas of repose but can also make a strong design statement.
Practical Tips For Furniture Arrangement.
- It is advisable to start a furniture layout by considering the room’s focal point. Most of the times, the largest piece should be placed opposite the focal point. However, if the entrance to the room is directly opposite the focal point, it is wiser to place the largest piece perpendicular to it. This way, walking directly into the back of a large piece of furniture is avoided and the furniture grouping maintains its role of welcoming the visitors, both visually and physically.
- Try to be creative with the floor plan of a room and create interesting negative spaces out of the unoccupied areas. It is not to be immediately assumed that furniture should be propped up against the walls.
- Create smart traffic patterns with skilful furniture layouts. Make the corners of a room more meaningful and less awkward by placing an individual piece of furniture diagonally, instead of lining it up with one of the two walls forming the corner.
- In large rooms, create furniture “islands”, bearing in mind the different activities taking place in them and using area rugs to anchor furniture groupings.
A skilfully arranged floor plan creates flow, interesting negative space and comfortable traffic patterns.
- Nielson, Karla J. and David A Taylor. Interiors, An introduction.NewYork: Mv Graw-Hill, 2002
- Lepore, Stephen J. Role of interior design elements in human responses to crowding. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 01/1996