Place your furniture with confidence by starting with a floor plan.

How to Do a Furniture Layout to Scale

by Linda Erlam

A scale furniture plan is the first step in planning a room. If you are downsizing, upsizing, building a new home, moving into a new apartment or just in need of a change with your existing floor plan, it is important to know how furniture fits in the existing space, or what size of new furniture you need for the new space. A furniture plan will also lead you to the right size and shape for your coffee table, area rug, dining room table, chairs, beds and bedside tables. It will save you time, and best of all, it will save you money by helping you avoid mistakes.

Measure the room and record the floor measurements. Don’t measure the walls, measure the floor; the baseboard decreases the actual floor space available for furniture.

Consider that each square on the graph paper represents 4 inches. Draw the overall room shape on the graph paper. For example, if your room measures 144 inches by 120 inches, draw a rectangle 36 squares by 30 squares. Adjust the basic rectangle to represent any closets that protrude into the room, any L-shaped corner nooks or any architectural details that alter the basic rectangular shape, such as a cutoff corner.

Indicate any door openings on the floor plan by erasing the appropriate amount of wall line. Show the direction of the door swing with a semicircle that has a radius equal to the width of the door. Position the middle of the diameter at the door hinge side. Include closet door swings, and indicate the location of sliding closet doors with a double line.

Include window openings by drawing a 4-inch-wide rectangular box over the wall line at the window location. The 4-inch-wide box, on 4-to-1 scale paper, is equal to 1 square wide. To indicate the window, place the box evenly spaced over the wall line; half inside and half outside the wall line.

Note any floor heat or cooling outlets, freestanding registers, fireplace or any permanent architectural element, such as columns or half-walls. Measure the amount of floor space they occupy and draw their location on the floor plan. Don’t forget to include the fireplace hearth. Mark the location of wall electric outlets with a small box positioned just outside the wall line. Mark the location of any chandeliers or ceiling light fixtures with a circle.

Measure the pieces of furniture you have chosen for your room and cut shapes from the graph paper to represent the shape footprint size of each piece. Include the area rug and any carpet runners or bedside rugs. Write the name of the piece and the overall dimensions on the paper cutout. If necessary, indicate the front of the piece, as well. For example, on a highboy with a front edge 20 inches long and a depth of 16 inches, indicate the front along one long edge of the cutout. This would be an easy piece to place with the wrong orientation if you did not indicate the front.

Place the representations on the graph paper in the chosen location for each piece of furniture.

Adjust your furniture needs, or the furniture sizes, if necessary. For example, there should be 12 to 18 inches between the edge of the coffee table and the seat of the sofa in a living room. You can see if your furniture will allow this by counting the number of squares between the pieces. In this instance, you should have 3 to 4 spaces between the coffee table and the sofa.

Items you will need

  • Tape measure
  • Graph paper
  • Pencil
  • Scissors


  • If your room is very large, consider using a scale of 6 inches to 1 square.
  • Use the shape of the space your furniture will occupy as a guide to the shape and size of your coffee table, dining room table and area rugs.
  • There are digital programs available for scale furniture planning. Check the keywords "online furniture planning" to find a listing.

About the Author

Linda Erlam started writing educational manuals in 1979. She also writes a biweekly newspaper column, "Design Dilemmas," in the "Lakeshore News" and has been published in "Design and Drapery Pro" magazine. Erlam is a graduate of the Sheffield School of Interior Design and is a practicing interior decorator and drapery workroom operator.

Photo Credits

  • Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images