From Chaos to Zen: UX in 3D

I am starting a regular series of posts of organizational tips, called "From Chaos to Zen." It is all about what I am learning and noticing as I organize. I hope you find it helpful!


In website terms, user-experience design (UX) is all about configuring virtual, visual space in such a way as to guide users to see, do, or experience a particular thing. In a well-designed site, you know where to go and what to do, because it is really visually obvious.

Quick quiz: What goes where?

Quick quiz: What goes where?

The same is true for a home. When you walk into a room, the placement of the furniture and other accouterments guide you in how to use the space. You are providing people with visual cues of what to do and where to do it. For example, having a shoe rack next to the door silently indicates that you are a shoes-off household, so people should remove their shoes before entering.

Walking into a well-configured space makes you feel comfortable and relaxed—you don’t have stand there awkwardly trying to decide what to do with your stuff and your body. You are visually told what to do.

Try an experiment: Walk into a room in your home and survey what you see. Ask yourself: What is the main purpose of this room? Does the furniture configuration match that expectation? What are you visually telling people to do once they get there? For example, if it is your entry area, what do you do with you coat and whatnots? Is there a closet or a hook on the wall? A place for purses and keys?

I am a big fan of zones and making sure that you are visually defining various spaces so that What Is To Be Done there is clear—particularly if your space is open-concept. Furniture placement is a great way to show this.

View towards the eating area

View towards the eating area

View from the eating area

View from the eating area

Here, when you are sitting at the dining table, it is clear that you are Not Invited into the living room, because the couch has its back to you. If someone were sitting there and having a conversation with you, you would probably feel snubbed because they are not facing you.

What if your space has to do a lot of different things?

If your space can proportionally accommodate it, room-dividing bookshelves can be a great way to delineate zones, particularly when your dining table is your desk and vice versa. Ikea’s Expedit series works well for this—finished on both sides and deep enough to store two rows of books, each facing out PLUS little cubbies to stash office supplies or even a laptop. They can really double your storage and space configuration. Plus, they make it really visually clear what to do, where. Which is nice.

Light and bright with tall ceilings, a smaller Expedit fits this apartment perfectly, dividing the space between living and dining/office areas.

Light and bright with tall ceilings, a smaller Expedit fits this apartment perfectly, dividing the space between living and dining/office areas.

Try the experiment above and tell me how it worked for you. Feel free to ask me questions, I love to give advice about moving furniture. (Ask ANYONE who knows me!)