Furniture is an industrial or craft-based design used to support human activities. Interior designers use existing or new, built-in, custom designed, or ready-made furniture. Every piece of furniture is made the with user’s needs in mind. Function determines what a piece of 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 in that space marks the programming phase of interior design where furniture is involved. Function determines which furniture and furnishings (like appliances, fittings, and accessories) are necessary for the usage of space.
Furniture matters the most when a design is implemented as furniture brings function to a space. A good example of how furniture defines and dictates a space would be airports. How would you know where to sit and wait in an airport? You’d look around for seating elements, right? This is because furniture clearly states the intended function of the lounge area.
Furniture and functionality work together in the space planning phase of interior design. By definition, space planning is the allocation and division of interior space for a client’s needs and activities. How to place the furniture is an essential part of space planning, where maximum usage is considered in the arrangement of furniture.
Space planning also involves circulation. Circulation refers to leaving enough space for 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.
Interior designers use furniture to establish a pleasing sense of order. They consider two-dimensional and three-dimensional design in the arrangement of furniture along with the elements of design such as shape, form, color, and texture.
The principles of design can be 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 a 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 and stability in a space. Let’s imagine a hotel lobby where all the furniture is placed on one side of the space only. How does this arrangement make you feel? Like standing on a sinking boat, right? Instead, interior designers aim for a well-distributed visual weight in a space.
Like arrangement, the 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), the stage of the process where interior designers make furniture selections and provide a detailed written description of the selected items called a 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. This is because furniture arrangement is as much an expression of personal styles as it’s an expression of function.
Additionally, interior designers select furniture that complements their design concepts, which requires that the furniture be aligned with the spatial characteristics of the project. Thus, furniture is an important part of the concept (or mood) board where the design idea is visually presented to the client.