Too Much Time on Your Hands? Try Rearranging the Furniture

Spend enough time in your home and you may wonder why you decorated it the way you did. Perhaps now that your kitchen island doubles as a home office, you can’t help but scrutinize the position of the dining room table or the height of the pendant lights.

Even if your furniture arrangement has worked for years, it may no longer make sense for your present life, now that you’re stuck inside all day. But here’s the good news: Rethinking your space can offer a sense of control at a time when our lives are in upheaval.

Rearranging the furniture doesn’t cost any money, it doesn’t require leaving the house and — best of all — it may even feel therapeutic.

Some rooms have an obvious element, like a picture window, a fireplace or a brick wall, that can act as a centerpiece to position your furniture around.

In spaces without such features, an accent wall or statement pieces like a striking mirror, artwork or a chandelier could serve as a focal point instead. In a bedroom, for example, the headboard may be what grabs your eye when you enter the room.

But even if you have a dominant architectural feature, said the New York interior designer Miles Redd, you don’t necessarily have to make that your focal point.

“It is OK to ignore the fireplace,” said Mr. Redd, who sometimes puts seating directly in front of it.

To figure out the best use of your space, try moving things around. You may not know what works best until you see it for yourself.

If you regularly watch television and play video games together as a family, a sectional sofa and coffee table across from an entertainment console may be more appropriate than symmetrical club chairs framing the fireplace — even if you prefer a formal living room.

If you have an open floor plan where one room flows into the next, make sure to coordinate colors and materials to keep it cohesive. And consider using furniture to delineate spaces. The back of a sofa, for example, makes a great room divider, and rugs can help define zones within a room.

Start with the biggest piece of furniture — most likely the sofa — and decide where it looks best. Then bring in the smaller pieces.

One common arrangement is to place the sofa facing the TV or fireplace, flanked by side tables, with armchairs on either side, at a right angle or rotated slightly toward the sofa. Another popular layout is to arrange two sofas (or a sofa and a pair of club chairs) facing each other, with the focal point at one end.

How much seating do you need? “The rule of thumb is to have as many seats as you have at the dining table,” said Leta Austin Foster, an interior designer in Palm Beach, Fla.

In the bedroom, the largest piece will almost necessarily be the bed. Once you’ve decided where you want it, you might put small tables on either side or position a dresser or armoire directly across from it.

If your bedroom is particularly small, consider substituting sconces for table lamps and using a floating shelf instead of a side table, or place a dresser on one side and a side table on the other.

If you have the enviable challenge of filling a large room, add an upholstered chair with a table or a desk — or a chaise longue or love seat with a coffee table.

Just be sure you leave enough space to maneuver.

“You don’t want to overcrowd the bed area and make it appear as if you have to pole-vault to get in it,” said Eric Ross, an interior designer in Nashville.

Another piece of advice from Mr. Ross: “A big and easily avoidable no-no is placing two case goods like a dresser and an armoire on the same wall.”

In larger rooms or narrow spaces, rectangular or elongated oval dining tables tend to work best. If you have a table like that in another room, you might want to try it out in your dining area.

If your dining room is small or in a pass-through space that does double duty (like a large foyer), a square or round table is usually the way to go.

In an open layout, where the dining area shares space with the living area or the kitchen (or both), a variety of table shapes will work. But you’ll want to find a way to delineate the dining area — by centering the table in front of a wall or a window, for example, or by hanging a light fixture above it.

To help move your eye through a space and add interest to a room, here’s a pro-tip: Make sure your furnishings aren’t all the same height.

“Have something low and tall in every room,” Mr. Redd advised.

For example? Combine a low coffee table with a “painting that kisses the ceiling,” he suggested.

When it comes to furniture arrangement, there are a few general rules. But most designers consider them guideposts rather than commandments.

In the living room, the goal is to create a space where the furniture is close enough to be conducive to conversation, but far enough apart so people can easily walk around. Side tables should be within arm’s reach of seating. The coffee table should be roughly 14 to 18 inches from the sofa, so you don’t hit your shins when you stand up.

In the dining room, the table should be 36 to 46 inches from the walls and from furniture like sideboards or china cabinets, so that chairs have enough room to slide out. Chandeliers and pendant lamps should hang at least 34 inches above the table.

In the bedroom, there should ideally be at least 24 inches between the bed and the walls, so there’s enough space to comfortably make the bed (unless you have bunk beds, which are typically flush against a wall).

But again, these are just guidelines.

Stick too closely to the rules, and “people get too rigid,” Mr. Redd noted. And that “can destroy a room.”

Ronda Kaysen and Michelle Higgins are the authors of “The New York Times: Right at Home,” published by Black Dog & Leventhal, an imprint of Running Press, a division of Hachette Book Group.

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