Master the 3 F’s of Designing a Room


Looking for an easy way to master the art of room planning? Whether diving into a dramatic home makeover or refreshing your space with a few simple updates, you will enjoy better results if you understand the three F’s of room planning. The elements of function, flow and feeling are the foundation of great home design.

Have you ever seen a pictures in a decorating magazine where the living room chairs and couch are so far apart that conversation would only be impossible through text messages? How about pictures of home offices with no filing cabinets, no storage for office supplies and no visible evidence any work takes place there? These living spaces may look great on camera, but they ignore one of the most important principles of great design. Form follows function.

Function is defined by how well the overall design achieves the intended purpose of the space. A smartly designed kitchen includes food related items arranged for maximum efficiency with dishes stored in cabinets near the sink, spices close to stove and a professional chef on staff to spare you the hassle of preparing a meal that doesn’t involve processed food and a microwave.

The first step in designing a room is deciding on the function of the space. In some rooms the function is obvious. The function of the kitchen is for preparing food, the bedroom is for resting and the bathroom is for singing your favorite songs loudly and off key in the shower. Think about what happens in the space and what furnishings contribute to the intended purpose of the room.

Get creative in changing the function of your furnishings to better suite your needs. If you have room in a drawer in a bedroom nightstand or dresser to store sheets and blankets, this may be more convenient than storing them in a linen closet in a separate room. A stylish ottoman works beautifully as a coffee table when you top it off with a serving tray for beverages and snacks.

Things get more complicated when designing multifunctional spaces like a family den that has turned into a dumping ground for random stuff that has no real home. When designing a multipurpose space, pick a dominant function to be the focus of the design and hide or eliminate items that detract from that primary purpose.

Take our fictional (but all too familiar) family den example. If the intended purpose of the space is entertainment and leisure then miscellaneous paperwork, a pile of items to donate to the thrift store, jackets that never made it into the closet and other odds and ends need to find a new home away from the den. If game night occurs about as often as a solar eclipse, put the games and other rarely used items away in a nearby cabinet, basket or stylish storage chest.

Great design goes with the flow. My personal definition of flow is the ease of movement from one area to another. Good traffic flow means there aren’t any obstructions preventing people from moving easily about the space and around furnishings. For example, a coffee table placed so close to the couch it’s hard to take a seat without bumping into the table is bad flow. But chairs placed close to the couch to enhance flow of conversation is good flow.

While a cluttered and tight furniture layout hurts traffic flow, the opposite extreme, a vast expanse of space, can be just as awkward. If your living room is so long/large you feel like you are admiring your TV from afar it’s time to bring some furnishings away from the wall. Furniture does not have to line the walls like wallpaper. By bringing the TV stand out into the room and placing a decorative screen behind it, it now connects visually to the other furnishings in the room.

Flow is not just about the physical, it’s also visual. A harmonious flow in a space encourages the eye to travel about the space without getting stuck in one area. Repeating a color is an easy way to keep the eye moving smoothly through the space For example, imagine a patterned rug in the living room that features a bold color that is repeated in couch throw pillows on one side of the room and in a painting hung on the opposite wall. Using the same color in different areas ties the design together and draws the eye into and around the space.

A well designed space satisfies your practical needs as well as your emotional needs for comfort, personal expression and simply feels like home the instant you walk through the door. Deciding between 527 shades of white paint to figure out the right one for you is hard. Deciding how you want your space to feel is easy. Explore your home one room at a time and consider how you want the different spaces to feel in a way that supports the way you live in that space.

How do you want to feel in your bedroom? Do you dream of a restful space awash in calming cool colors and soft fabrics? Would you prefer a wake up call of crisp white sheets and colorful home decor accents to make the space feel fresh? Whatever you do, don’t decorate your bedroom like one movie buff on a home makeover show who covered his walls in movie posters from horror flicks. No wonder his partner demanded a bedroom makeover. A poster from a Nightmare on Elm Street is not conducive to sweet dreams! Save the movie posters for the media room. Hobbies and interests are best displayed in places where they will help create the appropriate mood.

A well organized entrance can make a home feel more welcoming. Nothing says welcome home like a well designed entry. It encourages you to take a load off and relax. Simple updates like adding baskets for shoes, a console table with decorative bowl for keys and a well organized hall closet purged of old unused items always has space for everyday essentials. Making room for everyday essentials in a closet prevents your entry from looking like the aftermath of a crazy clearance sale on outerwear with clothing scattered all about. Small touches suggest that the home is prepared for the arrival of people and is welcoming you with open arms.

In a home office/guest room, downplay the office vibe by concealing office supplies inside attractive cabinets that look like they came from a real furniture store, not an office supply store. Buy a desk that complements the rest of the decor in the room. When there is no practical way to hide office related electronic devices such as printers and computers, shift the focus to the overall look of the room. Go classic with traditional furnishings and decor, go modern with sleek pieces or go with your own style to create a specific style for the room. When furniture pieces relate to each other in terms of style, color and materials, the office gear virtually disappears.

Design trends come and go (good riddance shag carpets!) but a space that functions beautifully, flows naturally and feels right never goes out of style. Take your time in improving the function, flow and feeling of your space until you feel right at home.


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