Let's tackle the living room.
The key things to keep in mind when arranging furniture are flow, function and focal point. The furniture should be arranged to facilitate traffic flow in the best way possible. Think of the pattern the traffic will take, and arrange the furnishings for the best use of that space. Can you get in and out of the seating area with ease? When walking through the living room to get to another room, is the furniture in the way or can the traffic flow easily?
What function will this room have? Will it be mostly for socializing, relaxing or watching television? Usually, the relaxing fits into all categories, so purchase furniture that will be comfortable for you and your family. If you are buying new furniture, sit in the chairs and the sofas to be sure they meet your height and comfort needs. If the room is mostly for socializing, arrange cozy seating areas with accessible little tables for drinks and hors d'oeuvres. The seating should be arranged in conversation groups of two to four seats; six if the space calls for it. If the room is mostly for watching television then it is obvious the furnishings should be oriented toward the TV.
In all cases, the furnishings should take into account a focal point. If watching TV is the goal of the room, then the TV is the focal point, but some rooms have the advantage of a fireplace and/or a great outdoor view. If it is not possible or practical that all the furniture be oriented toward the fireplace or the view, then put at least two chairs facing that focal point while the other furniture faces the television. This way the room delivers the best of both worlds.
Making movable templates will help in arranging the room. First measure the room, and draw those measurements onto a piece of paper. Next measure the furniture. Make block furniture out of those measurements and cut them out — a simple square to represent a chair, and a simple rectangle for the sofa. Don't forget the accent tables and any other pieces of furniture you intend to use in the room. Now place the cut-out furniture pieces where you think they will work best. Rearrange them just to see if another combination could be better. Don't forget the traffic flow.
Then make it all come together, using fabrics and colors. Pull colors from the area rug, and place those colors on pillows on the sofa and loveseat, for example. Or accent one wall with color, and incorporate that color in the upholstery.
Rosemary Sadez Friedmann, an interior designer in Naples, Fla., is author of "Mystery of Color."