interior designer melbourne

Flow of Movement in Interior Design

This week I was working on a proposed floor plan for a house renovation project in Preston. The client wanted to add a bedroom, move the kitchen, and basically change the layout of the entire house. He wanted to put the laundry in the middle of the house next to the living room. I suggested this wasn’t the best position for the laundry due to the flow of movement of the house. But what is flow of movement in interior design?

What is flow of movement?

According to The Design Basics, the flow of movement from an interior design perspective is ‘how people ‘flow’ through a space’. Flow of movement, therefore is closely related to functionality and how people use a space.

How people use and perceive a space can be different for everyone. But there are some fundamentals based on functionality that are key to observe when developing a proposed plan. On a basic level this is why an ensuite is close to the master bedroom.

The connection between functionality and flow of movement is also why a butler’s pantry is next to a kitchen and why open plan living areas are so popular. Because an open plan living area creates a flow of movement between connected functions such as cooking, eating and lounging.

Interior design is about many things including how people interact with all the elements of a space. The most beautiful space will fail to achieve the holy grail of interior design, which is harmony, if there is poor flow of movement.

Seven interior design elements

A good interior designer will consider all the seven interior design elements when creating an interior design. The seven interior design elements are;

  • Colour
  • Shape
  • Light (natural and artificial)
  • Line
  • Pattern
  • Texture
  • Space (negative space and positive space).

The question for an interior designer to achieve a successful space is how all these elements will deliver a good flow of movement to the space. For example when considering light, key considerations include, is there enough light to support the flow of movement?

Does the light direct the flow of movement based on functionality and furniture layout?

Is there a stream of natural light that obstructs functionality, for example glare on a TV and how does that impact movement.

Good floor plan

That’s why a good floor plan is key to a good flow and ultimately a successfully space. In the example above the client wanted to put the laundry next to the living room but they also wanted to separate powder room.

Due to connected functionality, it made more sense to place the powder room next to the living room and put the laundry somewhere else.

The space in question was off the main hallway, so ‘prime real estate’ in the house. From our perspective it was more logical or a better flow to have the powder room accessible from the main hallway in the centre of the house instead of the laundry.

If you’re in the living room and need to go to the bathroom, then you go the adjacent space rather than take a few more steps down another small hallway to access the toilet.

The number of steps in takes to get to a space from another with a complementary function may seem silly but it’s part of what constitutes a good flow of movement and especially key in commercial design, such as hospitality design.

A good floor plan isn’t just a series of rectangles and squares drawn on a piece of paper. A good floor plan is a 2D representation of 3D living in the real world. And flow of movement is critical to the success of a good floor plan.

Furniture layout

As well as a good floor plan, a good furniture layout is vital. So often we see floor plans drawn without consideration of the furniture. This is why so often glare is a problem in the living room. Because windows are placed in the wrong place and light is not factored into the equation.

I’ve also seen a master bedroom drawn with only enough room for a bed not bedside tables. When developing a furniture layout negative space and positive space are important factors to consider to achieve a good flow of movement.

Simply positive space is taken up by the furniture that is key to the function. For example in a dining room this is the dining table and dining chairs. Negative space is the empty space around this furniture to allow the flow of movement to access this function. Essentially you need enough room to pull chairs in and out comfortably.

It’s not ideal for the dining chairs to hit a wall for example. Or if there isn’t enough space between the dining chairs for people to get in and out easily. All of this impacts flow of movement.

The big picture

Interior design is not just about beautiful tangible furniture and furnishings. It’s also about non tangible feelings such as ease or flow of movement. How people feel in a space? How people interact in a space? How optimal functionality is achieved through the flow of movement?

The heart of interior design is people. The seven elements of interior design and the principles of interior design exist to guide interior designers to create spaces that work on every level but that are fundamentally a joy to be in.

Feeling joyful in a space is a seamless interaction between the end user and colour, light, texture, pattern, shape, line and flow of movement. This is what separates a space created by an interior designer and a space created by everyone else. A successful space is sublime, sometimes for reasons we can’t even put our finger on.