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True or false: “I have a small room, so I need small furniture.”
I call this “dollhouse syndrome.” The truth is that, while you do want your furniture to be PROPORTIONATE, it does not need to be small, per se. You see, your brain plays interesting tricks on you when it comes to proportions. If you have a small room, and you fill it with small pieces, your brain says, “Look at these little things… I must be in a very small space.” On the contrary, when you put one or two larger pieces in a small room, now your brain says, “Well! Look at the large pieces we have here! I must be in a large space!”
Bear in mind that the larger your pieces are, the fewer you will have. No matter what ACTUAL size the room is, you need to maintain free walk ways, and enough breathing room that your furnishings are not on top of each other.
Living rooms are a great example of this principle. Most homes today have a “formal” living room at the front of the house, and the family room towards the back. (Occasionally I see these two rooms joined together… an unfortunate architectural choice I will never understand, but I digress.) More often than not, I see the poor, alienated formal living room filled with a tiny Chippendale sofa and perhaps a loveseat, two tiny wing chairs, several under-scaled tables, miniature lamps, a small upright piano, and some very dated art pieces – possibly chosen by someone’s aging auntie. Ugh! And the homeowners are frustrated that no one is using the space… go figure!!
First of all, consider how many people you would ever realistically envision sitting in this room at the same time. This is not the early 20th century, when many friends might gather for afternoon tea. If you have a room perhaps 12 x 15, you’re only putting 4-6 people in there before it feels like a sardine can… So what on earth do you need all those pieces for?
Next, figure out what you want to DO in your small space, and get only as many pieces as absolutely necessary. Want to be able to cozy up with a book while husband watches the game or your teenagers evict you from the family room? Get a comfy sofa that’s deep enough to curl up in or stretch out on (maybe even nap!), and a great club chair with an ottoman. Anchor them with a 6×9 or 8×10 area rug, get a coffee table that’s big enough that you don’t have to stretch tooooo far to set your coffee down, one or two good-size end tables and lamps, and voila! C’est finis!
Amazingly, whether it’s a living room or any other room of your home, when you purchase pieces that are comfortable, rather than thinking “small small small small small,” it’s quite likely you will actually find yourself using the square footage you paid for, and the room will look far more attractive and inviting to boot.
Are there limits to what is acceptable? Of course. In the living room of our example, I probably do not want to encounter a pit sectional and wall-unit entertainment center. Use some rational judgment, but don’t fear pieces that have some size to them!
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