What are household traffic patterns?
Traffic patterns are how people flow into and out of a room, when traveling through, what natural paths they take, and the areas where you walk the most. When a space has been properly planned, people are able to travel comfortably in and around the furniture or through the room.
Before adding furniture, establish where the traffic patterns will be, taking into consideration doors and windows, and whether the door swings in or out. You need to leave room for them opening and closing. You should have a comfortable 24” of space in which to maneuver in and around furniture.
Usually the traffic pattern starts at the room’s point of entry and goes through to the second entry way to the next room. If a room has only one entry or exit then the traffic pattern flows in and out of that doorway.
Calculating the traffic pattern before adding furniture significantly reduces the amount of (costly) mistakes since you will have an idea how much space there is for furniture.
You also need to calculate seating needs – how many chairs at the dining table, how many seats in the living room, and so on. Too much furniture in the wrong place creates a bottleneck, which not only stops people from moving through the space easily, but also the eye.
Traffic flow is biggest obstacle to good furniture placement but a good floor plan makes flow between areas very easy. Some basic principles are to use direct routes, create spots of open space, prevent doors opening from impinging on space, and make sure no traffic plan breaks into the kitchen triangle.
How to do it?
Make sure to carefully examine floorplans before you buy, and even take to an interior designer to make sure it will work.
Dunpar president John Zanini admits to being an obsessed space planner, and goes over all the floor plans personally. “We build from the inside out,” he says, meaning that how people live in a space will dictate how the exterior items — windows and doors — are positioned. That also means he mentally walks through each floor of a Dunpar home, placing the stairways and entryways according to how people actually use the space.
“Every square inch has been planned to work,” he adds. “We always aim to have enough space in bedrooms for at least a queen size bed – and in some a king – but with enough space on either side for sizable end tables.”
Different shaped rooms need to be treated differently:
A rectangular room that is especially long and narrow, should be arranged into two separate areas which helps break up the length and narrowness, and to ensure people can move from this to the next space. For example, arranged into two separate areas, with an opening where the natural traffic occurs, and living room functions on either side.
Square rooms are ideal, but consider how many windows and doors as well as focal points such as a great view, or a fireplace. If there’s more than one focal point, choose the predominant one. This, with the shape of the room and the traffic pattern, will dictate your furniture layout.
For example, a living room with a fireplace naturally demands furniture grouped around the fireplace. For balance, the sofa on one side of the fireplace and two armchairs on the other, but if traffic moves through the room, those two armchairs are probably better angled on either side of the entry to the next room.