The proportions of a room are determined not only by the square footage but also by ceiling height, window sizes and sill height as well as any openings or doorways in the room. The relationship a room has with other areas is important to consider for traffic flow and visual balance. A room’s purpose is also key to honing in on furniture scale. For instance, a music room may make use of a space in ways that are different from a child’s room or a master bedroom. Measuring the height and width of the walls are the starting point to achieving well-placed furniture in a room.
Measure the length of the walls and, if possible, sketch a floor plan – a bird’s eye view of the space that shows the layout of the room including the location of doors and windows. In a moderately sized living room, a sofa will likely go against a wall. Consider the window sill height, as this may affect the height of a sofa or chair. When you visit a furniture showroom, measure the length, seating depth and arm width. It is often difficult to perceive the actual size of furniture seen in a store with high ceilings and wide-open space and be able to translate it to fit in a home with typically smaller areas. The scale of the furniture is equally important to the length. Oversized rolled arms in a small room will feel unbalanced and block visual flow. Instead, select sofa and chair arms that take up less extended space. In a large room, diminutive furniture might feel and look less inviting; in this case, there is more room to allow for larger pieces.
Group furniture with visual balance. In a conversation area, pair two chairs at a height which is similar in height to other seating areas. For instance, pair low accent chairs with a low modern loveseat so that when people are seated they are at the same height. Think of the room as having a horizon line and include furniture that falls within that line of sight, rather than arbitrarily varying heights that do not relate to each other. Alternatively, two high-back chairs on one side of a room could be balanced with a tall hutch on the other side to create visual symmetry of the taller elements. If the back of a sofa will face outward toward the entrance of a room, select a sofa back that has a low profile rather than a tall back that will block the view of the room.
Large Room Vs. Small Room
Select key pieces of furniture before adding accessory pieces. In a small room you may need to forego a side table or other accessories. Editing unnecessary furniture goes a long way to keeping the relationship of the furniture in the room from feeling closed in. In a large room, the challenge is to avoid creating a too-wide distance between spaces. For example, consider human scale as you position conversation areas. A very large room with furniture spread out creates an awkward sense of spaciousness. Instead, imagine family and friends sitting in the space and place furniture at a distance that allows for human movement and so that two people can have a conversation.
Use low-profile furniture in a room with low ceilings. In a room with high ceilings, go taller with shelving or an armoire, and a four-poster bed in a bedroom. In a dining room, allow enough room for chairs to push back by placing the dining table at least 36 inches from a wall. In a small dining room, choose a chair style that does not impede visual flow, such as an open- or low-back design. In a large dining room, upholstered chairs with high backs will fill the volume of the room comfortably.
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