Form, Flow and Function are three of the major design elements to consider when designing a space. Form encompasses all of the decorative design elements. It’s what things look like; the shape of the furniture, the period or style of the architecture, color, texture, etc. Function is the intended use of the space. The great architect, Louis Sullivan, was famous for stating that “form follows function.” Meaning, the shape of the architecture (or furniture) should relate to its intended function or purpose. He did not believe in design for design’s sake. I think it’s safe to say, it’s easy to fall victim to prioritizing how something looks over how well it functions (have you ever perfectly styled your bookshelf by color and then not been able to find the book you need?), the result will always suffer.
But what about Flow? In a nutshell, it’s how we move through the space. And how well something functions is directly related to the flow of the room. Think of a well designed kitchen and the “Magic Triangle” of refrigerator, sink and oven. When it’s done right, and everything is in the perfect spot, you’ll glide through the kitchen, performing a culinary ballet. But when the flow isn’t right, the kitchen doesn’t work very well and you find yourself ordering take out. A lot.
While the use of the space is the first thing to look at when designing a room, without good Flow, the Function will be lost. Of the Three Fs, Flow is the easiest to get wrong and the easiest to fix.
I had a client who wanted to spruce up the main living room of their home. They have a charming Cape house, with a center entrance and living room and dining room flanking the front door. When I began, they had the dining table and sofa parallel to each other, creating a runway-like feeling when you walked in the front door. You could enter the living area, but there was a lamp and side table blocking the pathway on either side of the couch, it was tight and it didn't feel inviting. The flow was all off!
To create more movement through the space, I turned the dining table 90º so it was lengthwise in the dining room. How easy is that?! I pushed the sofa closer to the fireplace away from the door, added an entry table behind the sofa and removed side tables and lamps. Now you could easily walk around either side of the sofa. I also added a round coffee table so no one would catch their shins on a corner. This created an easy figure eight flow through the living room and dining room.
The transformation was amazing. Using much of the same furniture, with a few small tweaks we gained a few inches in both rooms and re-routed the flow. The space was completely rejuvenated! "We have eaten in the dining room more in the past two weeks than we did in the past 5 years. That means more quality family time and I couldn’t be more grateful." commented the homeowner. I couldn't ask for a better compliment!
That is the magic of design. With a few select changes, not only will the space feel better, look better, function better, it has the ability to support your life’s priorities—more time with family, more focused work, better sleep and health to name just a few. What are your priorities? Are there rooms in your house that aren’t getting used because there’s something off? Maybe it’s the flow! How would improving the flow in your home impact your life?