Importance of Furniture in Interior Design

Instructor: Ela Poursani

Ela has taught college Architecture, Interior Design, and Culinary Design and has a doctorate degree in architecture.

Furniture is an industrial design product. Furniture matters the most when designing a space. This lesson explains why, how, and when furniture is important in interior design.

Furniture & Interior Design

Furniture matters to interior designers like books to librarians. It's important because interior design is concerned with the design of spaces and what makes the space is furniture. In this lesson, we'll go over the various aspects of this 'making'.

Function & Furniture

Furniture is an industrial or craft-based design to support human activities. Interior designers use existing furniture or new ones in types of ready-made, custom-designed, or built-in. Every furniture is made with user needs and function in mind. Function determines what a furniture should do like sleeping (beds), eating (tables), or seating (chairs).

Function determines what a space should do, too. Analyzing how a space will be used and what activities will take place at that space marks the programming phase of interior design where furniture is involved. Function determines which furniture and furnishings (appliances, fittings, and accessories) are necessary for the usage of space, too.

Naples Airport
Naples Airport

Perhaps furniture matters the most when the design is implemented as furniture brings function to space. A good example for how furniture defines and dictates the space would be airports. How would you know where to sit and wait in an airport? You look around for seating elements, right? Because, furniture clearly states the intended function of the waiting/lounge area.

Space Planning & Furniture

Furniture and functionality work together in the space planning phase of interior design, too. By definition, space planning is the allocation and division of interior space for the client needs and activities. How to place the furniture is an essential part of space planning where maximum usage is considered in the placement and arrangement of furniture.

Also, space planning involves circulation. Circulation means leaving enough space for the human flow. For the best utilization of space, furniture is placed to allow free movement. This makes the space around furniture as important as its arrangement. Thus, furniture works as a functional and circulatory element in interior design.

Equally important, furniture is a major design element. Interior designers use furniture to establish a pleasing sense of order. They engage two- and three-dimensional design to the arrangement of furniture and consider the elements of design such as shape, form, color, and texture.

Oberlin Mudd Library
Oberlin Mudd Library

The principles of design are applied to furniture, too. For instance, pieces are arranged by size, scale, and proportion; rhythm is employed by repeating furniture, unity by harmonizing furniture with other spatial features like fireplace, or emphasis by using a furniture grouping as focal point.

Balance becomes the primary consideration in arranging furniture because, furniture affects the sense of equilibrium/stability in a space. Let's imagine a hotel lobby that all the furniture is placed only on one side of the space. How does this arrangement make you feel? Like standing on a sinking boat, right? But rather, interior designers seek for a well distributed visual weight in a space.

Aqua Hotel
Aqua Hotel, Chicago

Furniture Selection

Like arrangement, selection and specification of furniture and furnishings is an important job duty of interior designers. This is known as FF&E (Furniture, Fixture and Equipment) during which interior designers make furniture selections and provide a detailed written description of the selected items called specification.

In furniture selection, the users and activities are considered first. Interior designers focus on the purpose of the furniture, the need for adjustability, flexibility, finish requirements, durability, and size. They accommodate emotional, social, or cultural values of their clients, too. Because, furniture arrangement is an expression of personal styles as much as function-driven.

Apartment, New York

Also, interior designers select furniture that complements with their design concept. This requires furniture to be fitted in the spatial characteristics of the project. Thus, furniture makes an important part of the concept (mood) board where the design idea is visually presented to the client.

Knowledge of Furniture

In selecting and arranging furniture, interior designers integrate a vast body of knowledge. History is one of their information sources. Throughout history, furniture styles are developed with certain characteristics of form, shape, and ornamentation. For instance, the Chippendale style furniture (18th Century) is featured with the ball-and-claw feet and the contemporary furniture with a clean, sleek look. Identifying furniture styles is critical for interior designers as they design for different client tastes and styles in a variety of contexts and usage.

Hotel Emma, San Antonio
Hotel Emma

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