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How to arrange office furniture

Whether you have your own home office or you’re designing a commercial office space for multiple employees, visual balance, functionality, and ease of movement are key considerations when arranging office furniture. 

At the outset, it’s important to define the goals of the office space before strategizing type and placement of furniture. Start by asking the following questions:

  • Is the space intended to be public-facing or internal to the organization?
  • Will furniture be used for collaboration with other employees or clients?
  • What is the noise level expectation and degree of communication between employees? For example, are there closed-door individual offices, or is it an open floor plan?
  • Building on that, is most of the work of a solo nature, team-based, or a combination?
  • What computer, tech, and other equipment will occupy the space?
  • What is your budget for any new furniture items?
  • What state and federal guidelines or laws need to be followed that govern use of the office space, such as access to fire exits, occupancy requirements, workplace safety rules, and disability accommodations?
Image used with permission by copyright holder

All of these questions should be answered at the outset before expending time and money on furniture for the space. With this information in hand, it’s now time to strategize choice and placement of furniture. 

How to arrange office furniture

Review room layout

It’s easier to look at a room or space when it’s empty and take measurements before choosing and placing furniture. But if the room is currently occupied by furniture that just needs rearranging, that’s fine, too. 

If you’re starting fresh, measure the room dimensions and calculate the number of people who will occupy it. And if you need to work with items that are already there, make a list of current challenges and things that are functioning well. 

Considerations for both scenarios should include the flow of traffic, window placement, space for entry and exit points, number of occupants, any sofas, chairs, tables, or other collaboration seating, the amount and type of equipment (computers, phones), location of lighting fixtures, and so on. 

It may help to print a map of the space or view it online and make notes on it, sketching ideas for placement of items in the next step below. For maximum productivity and comfort, you will want to avoid crowding the space so there is a feeling that you can breathe and move about while working. But for efficiency, cost savings, and productivity, you also probably want to maximize the number of items you can fit into the space. 

Map out people and items

Next, figure the number of people who will sit in the office space. Maybe it’s just you, or perhaps it’s a group. Then, list what furniture and equipment each person needs, presumably, a desk and chair for starters. Use your mouse or pencil to tentatively place each item where you think it should go on the room map, moving things around to ensure people can move between desks and furniture, and easily get in and out of each section of the room and out the door if needed.

You will also want to consider what direction people are facing. Do you want partitions and privacy between desks, or an open setup? That will determine how you set up desks and tables. 

Keep entryways clear

This guidance is for safety as well as visual balance. Keep bulkier items such as desks and bookcases away from the doorway. This will make the office look more spacious and provide more flexibility for movement in and out of the room. Consult fire codes as well to ensure you are creating a safe environment in case of an emergency.

Open office space with desks and chairs
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Create visual balance

Rather than line all items along the walls or all visually heavy items in one area, vary their placement around the room. For example, a large bulletin board or piece of artwork could go on the opposite wall of a big desk. Or put a couple more substantial items in the middle of the room, not just along the periphery. More wall and floor space will balance the whole look and make a room appear larger. 

Consider ergonomics

These days, we have the benefit of more knowledge about how furniture arrangements can support or undermine posture and physical health. Monitor placement, desk height, chair comfort, lighting brightness and position, allowance for standing desks, and flooring that supports the movement of chairs with wheels all facilitate better spinal alignment and less strain on the neck and eyes. 

With clear expectations in mind and a deep understanding of your space, you will have no problem arranging your office furniture in a way that supports comfort, functionality, and visual appeal.

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Jennifer Lindahl
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Jennifer Lindahl is an experienced writer and editor with two decades of experience in journalism, public policy, and B2B…
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