On Rearranging

Author | Nicole Hostetter

I was drinking coffee the other morning and watching the kids roll around on the living room floor, playing happily, but always on the verge of some small catastrophe that would, inevitably, devolve into tantrums.

Still, it was peaceful for the moment. And the room just looked so good.

“I like the furniture this way,” I said to my husband. “It feels perfect.”

“... For now,” he replied, a teasing smile on his face.

What he meant was: Yes it does feel good in here, and I also know that a few weeks from now you’ll be moving everything around again!

And he was right to think that, of course — moving around the contents of our home into a new pleasing arrangement every few weeks is as much as part of me as the need to breathe, or drink water. Not to mention since Covid began, there hasn’t been a whole lot else to do.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve taken great joy in rearranging the spaces I occupy, whether at home or at work. I look back at 9-year-old Nicole, who relaxed by organizing her bedroom into neat lines and harmonious arrangements with everything just so, knowing now that it helped me create a little control over my space. A counterbalance to what was sometimes a chaotic and messy life outside my bedroom door. A life that was, in hindsight, too much for a small person to process.

Nowadays, life is calmer and happier. And yet, I still enjoy a good move-around of a room but less as a form of control, and more as an exercise in creativity: How will this space look if the couch moves over there? Is this the most pleasing way these things can be put in this space? What does it feel like if the tall plant goes in that corner instead?

Often when we move into a space, we put our furniture in place and leave it there for eternity. But new items come in over the years: Artwork, shelves, a new table, or chair, or rug. Kids are born. Kids move out. We take on a new hobby. We do a major purge of “stuff” and become minimalists. Or we move up in the world and choose maximalism. All of these are great reasons to reevaluate your space and play around with the setup you’ve come to depend on.

Additionally, the changing seasons offer a great opportunity for this activity because many of us are already in cleaning mode.

In fall, as we prepare for the cold months ahead, we’re sorting through clothes and putting away all the “summer” items for the next few months. And while we’ve got that energy going, it’s great to channel it into the foundations of our space by way of considering where our furniture sits in our home, and how else we might be able to place it.

When we first moved into our home, we bought a sectional couch that we set in one corner of the basement by the fireplace. It was a great spot for it, and the “L” shape of the couch created a nice designated area for our family to cuddle up and ride out the winter. But that side of the basement also had only one small window up high in the wall, and little natural light to brighten up the corner.

When spring arrived, I looked over the basement room and realized that the couch might actually be better by the big floor-to-ceiling windows at the front of the house. This way, when we sat to watch TV or play, we’d also have natural light coming in, and the option to open the windows and have fresh air circulating nearby. Just because we’re in the basement, doesn’t mean we need to feel like we’re in a basement, I realized.

Doing that one simple act of moving the couch meant I also had to move the kids play area, and my sewing space. Lots of bulky furniture needed to move around. But in the end, it was a great workout, and completely worth it: The new setup feels much more open and inviting than before!

Evolution of the living room

Our living room is a challenging space, with really only one usable wall, thanks to an open-concept floor plan, high ceilings, and built-in bookcases on two sides that don’t allow for anything to go against them. I’ve managed to come up with about 3 setups that work well in the room and change things around when it’s time for our Christmas tree to go up and I want it to feel cozy, or in summertime when I like the space to feel more open.

As for the bedrooms, I’ve already changed the setup of our room around since my last post on creating a bedroom sanctuary! Our bed is now in the corner, off the frame and on the floor. It made the space feel less formal, and more nest-like, which feels good for the coming cold months.

I like to play with the kids’ bedrooms as they go through their different developmental stages and add or remove shelves and work tables, and change out cribs for big-kid beds. Each change could be done on its own: Plop a bed in the space your crib was in and call it a day. But I like to look at the room as a whole, and change everything around when making one small change to give a more cohesive feeling.

The key to rearranging is to not be afraid: Push everything to the middle of the room. Take a deep breath and vacuum up all the hidden dust under the couches (So that’s where all my hair ties went!). Roll the area rugs up. Try out as many options as you want to without too much planning or worrying.

The best part of rearranging is, if the new setup doesn’t feel quite right, you can always move things back the way they were!

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. See what it feels like to pull some pieces away from the walls. A couch in the middle of the room might sound strange, but it can work if you reimagine the rest of the space.

  2. Try having some items arranged at an angle, rather than having everything in straight lines up against the walls. It can make a room feel more inviting and visually interesting.

  3. Think of the purpose of each room, and how each spot in the room is used. Create designated spaces in each room for different uses rather than having one large multi-purpose space (for example, in the living room, designate a play area, reading area, TV area, etc. by using your furniture and decor to create these individual spaces)

  4. Use your windows. Be mindful of light and how your furniture interacts with it. Try not to block windows with heavy furniture.

  5. Access and practicality. Does the room function as it should? Can traffic flow in and out easily? Can you open the blinds or is something in the way? Are there spots that are always messy or that you just don’t use? Change it up to maximize what you have.

  6. Does it feel good? This is the most important one. Trust your gut. Do you breathe easy when you enter the rooms of your home? If not, play around until you get that peaceful feeling.

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