How to Arrange Furniture When Moving to a New Home

Blue couch next to moving boxes, houseplants and hardware

The Spruce / Valerie de León

Planning the arrangement of furniture is hard enough when you are buying new furniture to fill a house for the first time. It becomes even more challenging when you are moving a houseful of furniture from an existing home into a new space. It may take a while to get a feel for the new space and figure out how to make the rooms both comfortable and functional. And you need to be ready to rearrange, get rid of pieces that don't fit, and perhaps purchase new items that might work a little better than your old pieces.

If possible, give careful consideration to the arrangement of furniture in the new space well before you move. This advance planning can make the arrangement go much smoother when moving day comes, and it might even prevent you from moving furniture that is not going to work in the new space, anyway. If a couch is destined to be given or thrown away, why go through the labor and expense of moving it from the old house to the new?

Assess the Space

A first crucial step in planning the arrangement of furniture in the new house is to carefully evaluate the available space:

  • Clear the space. If possible, remove everything from the room before you start planning. boxes, scattered furniture, and any other objects will only hinder a true view of the area within which you'll be working. It can be very helpful to do this evaluation before the move begins if you can arrange to have a few hours in the empty house.
  • Determine how each room will be used. It's important to think about how each space will be actually be used, rather than your dreams for it. Remember, the room should be functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. If you're arranging the living room, for instance, will the area be used only for formal entertaining? As a family recreation room? To temporarily serve overnight guests? Each type of use calls for a different type of furniture and different arrangement scheme.
  • Focus on dual-purpose rooms. For rooms that will serve more than one purpose, furniture, rugs, bookshelves and room dividers can be used to separate areas. For example, the back of a couch along with a sofa table can make a great room divider, as it creates a strong separation without blocking the room's flow.
  • Look at traffic patterns and focal points. Where are the doors, windows, and awkward areas? What will be the focal point? If you have a fireplace or a large picture window, you have a natural focal point from which to center the arrangement of items in the room. If you don't have a natural focal point, you can create your own using dramatic drapes, large-scale artwork, or a substantial piece of furniture—anything that grounds the space and provides a center around which other pieces can be arranged.

Use Furniture Placement Tools

With careful measurements of each room's dimensions, you can plan the room layout at your leisure in the weeks or months before a move. If you have access to the new home, you can actively experiment with furniture layout in the actual space.

  • Use free online tools. There are several great free online tools that will help you arrange furniture within the new space. These tools allow you to create models of your new space, including the position of essential elements such as doors and windows, then try out the positioning of your existing furniture, accessories, and lighting fixtures. You can also experiment with adding new furniture pieces to the room layouts.
  • Create paper replicas. If you're ambitious or have a difficult space to work with, it's a good idea to experiment in the actual space using paper replicas of the furniture pieces that you want in the room. You can do this with plain brown paper available at office supply stores. You'll need measurements of each piece of furniture, which you can then trace onto the paper and cut out. Label each paper template, clear the space, then start arranging. While this method takes a little more time and energy, it allows you to gain a true sense of the space—which pieces fit and which don't, where the traffic patterns are, and how the room will function.

Tips for Creating a Balanced Room Layout

Home decor experts suggest these tips for achieving a practical, balanced room layout:

  • Balance heavy furniture pieces with other large objects or groupings of smaller items.
  • Don't place all furniture against walls; use the middle of the space to create depth and interest and to create functional areas, such as conversation spaces or workspaces.
  • Look at the height of furniture pieces and try to create multi-levels within the space. If you have a shorter piece and need to add height, hang a larger print on the wall above it to elongate the space. Hanging a larger print will encourage the eye to travel up, making the room feel taller.
  • Use color and patterns to your advantage. Eye-popping colors can make a room come alive. Just remember not to overuse one particular color or pattern and to spread each one throughout the space. Throw pillows, curtains, picture frames, and decorative art can all add punches of color and distinctive patterns against a neutral base.
  • A variety of textures also adds depth and interest. Pillows, rugs, drapes, and throws are common ways to add texture. Mixing materials will also create interest: Marble, wood, and metal can "ground" a space, while glass, breezy fabrics, and wicker create a breezy feel.

Before You Begin

As you begin the active arrangement of furniture and accessories in a room, keep these ideas in mind:

  • Remember traffic flow; most traffic areas require at least two feet of open space.
  • Arrange furniture first before hanging pictures or mirrors.
  • Arrange major pieces of furniture first, then smaller items such as end tables, chairs, and plant stands.
  • Leave enough room for doors and drawers to be opened.
  • Think about lighting and how light will work in the room; lamps are easy to move. However, this should be done before hanging mirrors and pictures.
  • If placing a TV in a room, remember the distance required between the screen and the viewer. Most sofas or beds should be at least eight feet away from a standard television screen.