Don’t Crowd My Corners! (One ‘quantifiable’ component of “bad” interior design)

A lot about interior design is subjective. It is often a matter of personal opinion, style preferences, budget constraints and taste level. It is also one of the hardest aspects of being an interior designer- how to separate good design from bad design. I personally appreciate all different taste levels, styles, and budgets (big and little). And I think good design can reside in many, many forms. In fact, I was rather aghast in reading a fellow interior designer say that it is a BIG “No, No” to have fake flowers, poly-fill pillows, and low thread-count linens. And that is just absurd. Although I understand where she must have been coming from… some things are better than others… but they certainly do not separate good design from bad design. It is silly for designers or “decorators” to come up with rules like this. It suggests that interior design is trivial. And I can surely tell you as an interior design major, that design is anything but trivial. If all I had to worry about were thread-counts, then I wasted a lot of money to get a 4 year education on this subject. But enough said about that.

To classify something as “bad” is really, really hard. Because most things that are actually ‘designed’ have had a lot of thought put into them,  and therefore probably are not bad at all. It is the things that are not considered, and where little or no thought has been made, where some of the cardinal rules of design are broken (dun dun dun). So, I guess the best course of action in eradicating “bad design”, is informing people on some of the actual “No, No’s”.

how to measure good design

Scale separates good design from bad design.

Today I am going to address “Crowded Corners” which falls under knowledge of space planningSpace Planning refers to floor plan drawings that create spatial arrangements for interior spaces. These arrangements take into consideration window placement, door placement, architectural and structural details and furniture placement. Often space planning begins when the exterior of a building is being designed in architectural form. Because, where a window is placed on the exterior of the building is also where it is placed on the inside of a room. (A window that is centered/symmetric/thoughtfully placed on the exterior, may just so happen to be in the most awkward position in an interior space).

Now on to those crowded corners. Arranging furniture in a room can be tricky; especially when  the given dimensions, window and door placement, and other obtrusive architectural details (from columns to fireplaces) are prohibiting. And more often than not, homeowners seek symmetry in their furniture arrangements, despite the unsymmetrical room. So, what often ends up happening is crowding furniture, and “overlapping” furniture corners. The following diagrams will illustrate some possible scenarios much better than my words could ever do.

Example 1:

bad 1

Here is a simplified situation. You can see that the chairs are overlapping the corners of the sofa, and if the room were only a foot or so wider, there would be enough room to achieve this very symmetrical furniture layout. But there’s NOT. The overall idea was a good one, leave the area around the entry open, center the entertainment center and furniture for easy viewing. But, the restraints of the room (width) can not be altered. Thus, the best option, is to ditch the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” idea and find a better one.

good 1

Here we have the same room and same furniture (with the addition of a side table and lamp). The layout is no longer considered symmetrical. But it accomplishes the same goal (conversational seating and easy viewing of the tv). What is better about this option, is that the furniture is not being over crowded in the corners. It may not be bothersome to some, but it is in fact a MAJOR space planning faux pas, and easily spotted by the trained eye.

Example 2: Bedrooms

bad 4

Bedrooms are often culprits of crowding corners. Simply because, they often have a need for many pieces of big, bulky furniture- and no space to put it. In the above example, seeking symmetry, the bed and nightstands are along the back wall, and then a dresser is left to overlap one of the bedside tables.

good 4

The Solution in the scenario is to forgo centering the bed on the back wall. Rather, shifting the bed and nightstands to the right, gives enough space for the dresser to now go one the left wall. And in order not to crowd the door, the edge of the dresser aligns with the foot of the bed, creating an uninterrupted path in front of the door and closet.

Example 3: 

bad 3

This is room is illustrated as a nursery, but imagine it as you may, I have seen these situations too many times to count, and it is such a simple fix. Basically, the arrangement above is trying to achieve the crib centered on the back wall, the changing table centered on the left wall and the bookcase centered on the right wall. Centering things is not always the answer! In fact, centering is often the destroyer… of a good space plan.

good 3

These crowded corners, are the easiest fix of all! You can still achieve the “centered” look by keeping the crib centered on the back wall. Drawing the changing table and book cases closer to the door, and aligning with the edge of the rug, makes all the sense in the world!

Example 4: The dual focal point debacle 

bad 5

When your family room has a focal feature, like a bay window or a fireplace, it is often a blessing and a curse. The feature should rightfully be the focal point of the room, but it begs the questions – “where to put the tv?” This example is striving to accommodate both the bay window and the tv area and it is doing a fairly good job. The sectional sofa allows both sides of the room to be viewed, and the chairs set back in the window offer a cozy and conversation worthy spot. But this arrangement falls short in the disconnect between the 2 seating areas (1.the couch, 2.the chairs). The sofa is essentially cutting the chair on the right out of the group. (Have you ever been standing just outside a circle of people talking, not sure if you should wiggle your way back in or just walk away- Awkward.)

good 5

Here the arrangement is essentially the same, but a few minor tweaks make all the difference. The couch was shifted to the right to allow that poor “loner” chair to join the conversation. A slight angling inward of the chairs, and pulling them a little farther into the room, makes it much more inclusive and intimate. Lastly, re-positioning the rug so that all the furniture pieces can slightly overlap it and centering the coffee table among the lot, does the trick!

*No worries that the sofa is “too close” to the windows. A valuable lesson I was taught in school, was that good design draws people into and through the space, rather than suggesting visitors should walk around the edges.

Always consider your “crowded corners” and think out of the box to configure your furniture in the space (and with the restraints) that you have. These examples, are just a small sampling of this very common mistake that is made in even the most stylish of spaces.

Interior design dont do diagram

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