Tips on Arranging Furniture in Small Spaces

Today let’s discuss arranging furniture in small spaces for those like you who have a small space to decorate.

Chances are you might be having some trouble with this.

So, I’d like to give you some tips on how I go about arranging furniture in my small space in hopes that it will help make your decorating experience a lot easier.

Though this decorating strategy often happens naturally, it is still definitely worth mentioning since being aware of it, in the beginning, could save you some time and effort.

Granted this isn’t a decorating rule, just simply a notable way of seeing things.

So let’s begin seeing it in terms of…

Rectangle or Square?

Generally, most small living spaces are shaped either in two ways…

  • as a rectangle
  • or square

Either all four walls are spaced about the same length apart (hence the square). Or there are two walls that are spaced a lot further apart than the other two walls (hence the rectangle).


If you happen to live in a home with a living room that does not consist of these two shapes you may still find this information helpful since certain aspects of this discussion relate to dimensions beyond the rectangle and square shaped living area.

In my experience, it is more common to find a living room to be shaped like a rectangle. Though of course, the smaller the dimensions of a living area the more it will appear to be shaped like a square. Although mathematically, it still may be considered a rectangle.

Noting what shape your small space is is the first step in making the decorating process easier.

After that, next, you have…

The Longest Walls vs. The Shortest Walls

Thinking of your walls in pairs…

If you have a rectangular shaped space, mathematically the two longest walls in your home will be the two walls spaced closest together from one another.


Keep in mind…

The two shortest walls in your home will be spaced further apart from each other and they are what separate the two longest walls from one another.

The two longest walls in your home will be parallel to one another.

So if you were to stand in front of one of the longest walls in your home with your back against it and look straight across the room. The wall that is directly in front of you would be the parallel wall.

Just like me, you may find that one of the longest walls in your home isn’t the longest at all.


Because it is shortened by doors or doorways. If so, don’t worry, you’ve still found the right wall.

The goal is just to find the longest wall in your home and pair it off with its parallel wall, even if the parallel wall is a lot shorter than the wall its paired off with.

If you have a “true” square shaped living area. The strategy of finding the longest two walls in your home will be slightly different.

What will probably work best for you is to find the wall in your home that has the object interference? One of that is the longest when factoring indoors or doorways that may shorten its length. That might mean it’s a bare wall with no interference at all or you may have to pick the lesser of two evils, so to speak.

Once you’ve found it remember to pair it off with its parallel wall which will be the wall straight across the room from it.

Now that that’s settled it’s time for a quick simile…

Big is too Big as Small is to Small

In the previous sections we’ve discussed…

  • the rectangle
  • and the square
  • your longest wall
  • and its parallel wall

All of which we’ve talked about so that we can easily discuss where to place furniture in your home and how to do so.

As easy as it may have been to discover the two longest walls in your home. It is a vital process when it comes to decorating small living spaces.


Because it makes the matchmaking process easy and painless.

Since the process of arranging furniture in small spaces is easiest when you place the big pieces of furniture first then you needed to know small bits of information that help keep it simple.

By knowing that you can now easily place big to big and small to smallwith relative with little effort.

What is big to big and small to small?

You’re gonna love this. It means placing…

  • Big(ger) pieces of furniture against big(ger) walls
  • and small(er) pieces of furniture against small(er) walls.

Now, doesn’t it make it a lot easier when thinking about it terms of big to big and small to small?

I mean when you have to think of it as a whole with no clue where to start the job seems a whole lot harder. Doesn’t it?

And definitely a lot more exhausting. So this makes it a little easier and definitely more fun.

Okay, so now that we have that behind us. Are you ready?



Then let’s do some decorating!

Let’s Go Big!

Pick out your biggest piece of furniture. Or shall I say main piece of furniture. That’s the piece of furniture we’re going to place first. Most likely it will be one of the following…

  • sofa
  • loveseat
  • futon
  • daybed
  • or bed


Of which…

Four out of five of these pieces of furniture are “width” items. Which means that if you were to measure them, their size in width would be greater than their size in length.

The bed is the only “length” item in the list. Which means if it were to be measured its size in length would be greater than its size in width.

So can you guess where you are going to want to place this item?

If you said against the longest wall…

You’re right!

By now you may be wondering why it’s best to place it against the longest wall. One very specific reason is because your biggest piece of furniture usually takes up the most space.

By placing it against the longest wall it leaves you with a lot more “co-operative space” left over.

Let’s use an example to make this a little clearer.

Say you wanted to put your sofa against a small(er) wall. Once you place it against the wall and take a step back and look at it you realize something doesn’t look quite right.

What is it? What’s going on?

You ponder a moment. Then it hits you. Your sofa is swallowing up the entire wall you placed it against. And your living space looks a whole heck of a lot smaller.

Why? Nothing’s changed except where you placed it.

Well the answer is simple. There is an imbalance in positive and negative space.


What is positive and negative space?

A little bit of art class…

Positive space is the space your furniture takes up and negative space is the empty space left over.

The result is that you’ve got too much space on one end of the room and not enough space on the other.

In short, your sofa is taking up the wrong chunk of space in your living area in terms of proportion and dimension. In the end this leaves it looking “off.”

As many of us say it’s an eye sore.

So whenever you place furniture in your home you will also want to…

Keep the Balance

You want to place your furniture in areas in which one piece of furniture does not hog up an entire wall.

Sometimes that is not always achievable. Depending on how big your place is. However, most of the time you will be able to work this out.

To help you out in space preservation, a good way to think of the entire scenario is to imagine your living area to be a seesaw or scale. And each piece of furniture to be a weight that tips the balance of your space in one direction or another.

Your main goal is to keep the scale leveled off so that no part of your home is tipping over with too much furniture and the other with too little.

So to elaborate, generally your largest piece of furniture, such as a sofa, would balance off your living area by being placed in the center of your longest wall.

In that aspect, the scale is leveled off and you are usually left with positive space on both sides of the wall.

However, placing it in the center is not a must do. If you have plenty of wall to work with experiment with it. See what you can get away with.


If you have a bed this is where it gets a little tricky. Your options are a little different.

Since beds are longer than they are wide. The front of a bed typically looks best placed against a short wall. That is the headboard is placed against a short wall while the length of the bed is parallel to the longest wall.

So you have several options if you are decorating your living space with a bed. You can…


  • place the bed in the center of a short wall with space left on both sides of the bed.
  • place the bed against the corner where your longest wall and short wall meet. In this scenario, the headboard and a side of the bed will be against a wall.
  • or place the side of the bed against the center of your longest wall. In this scenario, you will have space left over to the foot of the bed and front of the bed and one side of the bed. However, keep in mind that bed with headboards generally don’t tend to look good with this option. Though platform beds might work well with this scenarion. 

Let’s Go Small!

Once you’ve found a place for your largest piece of furniture it’s time to figure out what to do with your next piece of furniture.

So grab your next main item. Generally, this is something like a…

  • chair
  • desk
  • or dresser

The idea of smaller items is to offset the scale. As we were talking about in the previous section. To keep the balance.

To keep the balance you simply place a big piece of furniture against a big wall and then a smaller piece of furniture against a smaller wall. Big small. Big small.

So the goal is mind is to keep everything leveled off. With a large piece against your longest wall. Your only logical next step would be what?

If you said…

Your smaller piece against your smaller wall.

You’re right!

A smaller piece against your smaller wall will accomplish the following. It will…

  • balance the scale in terms of positive space
  • balance the scale in terms of negative space

As you may remember me saying something like this…

… once you place a piece of furniture you want some space left over. Any wall you put a piece of furniture against should have some space left over. If you can help it, no wall should ever be swallowed up entirely by one piece of furniture.

With every piece of furniture you place in your home the goal is to have some space left on either side of the item and/or the wall.

Think of it like this:

A piece of furniture should take up some space but is should also give back a little.

In that aspect you’ll be giving each piece of furniture room to breathe and keeping the balance between positive and negative space.

This space that’s left over is very important. Not just to keep the balance but remember you will need some place to put your accessories. Accessories such as lamps, tables, etc.

They usually go in the negative space that’s left over after you place your larger items in your home.


You might remember me mentioning above that you do not have to place your largest piece of furniture in the center of your longest wall.

You can experiment with it and see. A good example of doing something different is that sometimes people like to put their large piece of furniture, such as a sofa, closer to the end of a wall and then balance it off by placing a chair of the same style closer to the other end of the wall.

In the type of arrangement you will sometimes even see the chair catty-cornered. So remember nothing’s written in stone. It’s all about balance, saving space, and having fun!

So What About the Parallel Wall?

You’re quick!

Yep, if you remember me speaking about a parallel wall in the beginning. The one directly across from your longest wall.

This wall is of some importance.

Mainly for entertainment purposes.

Because any place you have your main piece of furniture placed, like your sofa, you need a wall parallel to it where you can place your television.

The two closest walls are the best place for those two pieces of furniture because they are so much closer together.

Most people don’t want to look too far across the room to watch television. You may have 20/20 vision but the chance that you’ll want to use binoculars to watch tv is slim to none.

When decorating, televisions generally look best against a wall and not in center or open space or along a wall in which its pertruding outward. Usually when you have to resort to those sorts of methods your home will begin looking smaller than it is.

So at best, if you can, place your tv directly across the room against the wall parallel to your longest wall in order to keep your living space looking as big as possible.

Keeping Things Open

As I mentioned above there is the center space of your home to work with.

As a personal preference I tend to keep the center area of my living space free of furniture. That does not mean you have to do the same thing.

I actually think homes with some furniture in the center look fabulous. Just as long as it’s kept to a minimum in which there is room to walk around.

The main goal is to make sure it adds to the beauty of your home and does not detract from it. As long as your place doesn’t look stuffy then you’re on the right track.

Just remember balance is the key.

Place big to big, small to small. Level off positive and negative space by giving your furniture room to breathe. Sprinkle your accessories in the left over space and throughout your home…

… and voila!

You’ve decorated your small living space beautifully!

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