You'll never stub your toe again.
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

When it comes to the furniture you put in your house, you want it to create a certain flow through your space. As Ashley Bowen, lead editorial stylist for Zulily, describes it, your furniture should enable "visual and physical movement within a space, and from one room to the next. It should feel fluid and easy to physically move in and out."

But flow isn't just about giving you—and your guests—breathing room, says Bowen. "A good flow will also have visual elements that tie them all together," she explains, and adds that it might include elements such as matching materials and colors, and repeating shapes. If you'd like to create better flow, both physically and visually, within your space, here's what you can do.

Modern living room with gray sofa
Credit: CreativaStudio / Getty Images

Don't pack too much furniture into a single room.

According to Emily Henderson, interior designer and Target home style expert, too many pieces of furniture in a room or space can cause the layout to feel tight. "For example, if you enter a room and immediately walk into the back of an arm chair, it's going to make the space feel closed off and have a bad flow," she says. According to Henderson, the first step toward a good flow is to "make sure each piece of furniture you place in your home has enough space to breathe."

Bowen agrees, adding that furniture should never get in the way of natural pathways. "The best flow in and out of a room is as short and straight as possible," she says. "Avoid creating too many turns or that will make it difficult to pass through or access the room's function." To make sure you're honoring that natural pathway, Henderson says that—in your living room, for example—you should be able to walk between the sofa and coffee table, and sofa and accent chair. “Your space will feel much lighter if you follow this rule,” she promises.

Create a smart layout.

It's easy to design your home around what Henderson calls the fun parts—picking out the furniture and décor, for example—and not a smart layout. And that's a mistake, she says. To make your layout function better, Bowen suggests first thinking about how you'll use the space, then centering your furniture around that activity. "For example, in a multi-media room, you'll want to maximize the number of seats available for optimal viewing of your television," she says. "Have your main couch parallel to the TV and if you have space, have some chairs angled in on each end. Add in a coffee table and end tables if you have the space to maximize surface area, and create a space that's available for drinks and snacks."

Consider style and texture.

One easy way to create visual flow with your furniture is to vary its weight and style, says Henderson. "For example, if you have a large, chunky sofa, balance it with a delicate coffee table," she says. "By mixing a variety of styles and weights, your room will feel balanced instead of 'too light' or 'too heavy,' and will almost always guarantee good flow." Bowen adds that repetitive colors and shapes can also tie the look of your space together, which creates a "flow" for the eye to follow. Consider adding pops of the same hue throughout your space, or pairing something like a curved sofa with round accent pillows.

Don't forget functionality.

Sometimes, flow simply comes down to functionality, Bowen says. "In a bedroom, it's best to focus on maximizing comfort and functionality," she says. "Make sure you have plenty of space to roll out of bed, as well as easy access to get back in after a long day." And when it comes to where to place your dresser, give it "enough space to fully pull the drawers out and avoid painful middle-of-the-night toe stubs with clear, wide pathways," Bowen says.

Your dining room is another space where flow equals functionality. "Don't forget you'll be carrying food and dishes in and out of this space, so functional design is key," Bowen says. Here, she suggests placing the table and chairs in the center of the room—with each piece of furniture "sized to give plenty of space to get in and out of each seat," she says.

Comments (3)

Martha Stewart Member
February 9, 2020
I have noticed over time that the most successful furniture arrangements always include a light source and a place for one’s book/drink/glasses etc. right next to a comfortable arm chair. This is a matter of your own comfort and courtesy for your guest. The place to put your teacup or martini glass should not be the floor!
Martha Stewart Member
December 19, 2019
This article is very timely since I am trying to figure out the best way to arrange my living room furniture in another room. I'm wondering if there are furniture arranging sites that allow furniture arranging so one can see what might or might not work? Thank you.
Martha Stewart Member
November 20, 2019
Photos would be helpful.