Question: How can I make my living room a little bit roomier? This sofa bed in the living room seems so big that there are only small spaces going to the window. The small dining room is on the left side of the picture. The sofa bed measures 89 by 36 inches. I was thinking of replacing the sofa bed with an Oriental-style rosewood sofa that measures 76 by 30 inches that I saw in a store here in San Francisco, to go with my coffee table, which is also rosewood. Do you think this will look OK?
Eleanor F. Silvano San Francisco
Answer: Decorating a space while keeping everything in good proportion is what designers do every day, but the challenge of doing it well in a home with furniture that is too large for the room is always difficult.
If, as you suggest, you can replace the offending piece of furniture with one that has a more appropriate scale for the room, you’ve come up with a no-brainer solution to your design dilemma. And any designer or person trying to redecorate their own home would be thrilled if this solution were always an option.
However, sometimes this isn’t feasible, and the real challenge is how to decorate a room that has to include furniture too big for the space. Having said that, let’s try to solve this design dilemma as if keeping the large furniture is the only option available.
The challenge with oversize furniture is to break the rules and make what you have work. If you’ve ever been in a home or seen a photograph of a room where the scale seemed outrageous but the room worked anyway, it did so because the “rule” about decorating were ignored.
Here’s an exercise you can do easilythat will allow you to see your home differently and make the furniture you have work. First, look at the room objectively; focus on the shape of the room, its function, the traffic pattern and where key architectural elements are, such as windows, doors, closets, fireplace. Try to look at the room as if you’ve never seen it before. Be really objective. Be critical. And be honest with yourself. Step outside the “box” that you’ve held in your mind’s eye about how the room must look or how it must function.
For the moment, eliminate the musts, shoulds and ought to’s that you’ve always thought about in relation to the space. Be creative and allow yourself to believe that there are no wrong answers in the process of analyzing the room. And ignore all the rules you’ve ever known or thought existed about decorating.
If it’s difficult for you to imagine the room with the furniture placed differently, perhaps it would be easier to do this with all thesmaller pieces of furniture out of the room. If you can, remove them; put them in another room for the time being. Then start moving the oversized piece of furniture to a different place. Put it on the diagonal, put it against the wall, or away from the wall. You can’t make a mistake in this process. And if you don’t like it where you’ve just put it, move it to somewhere else.
Once you’ve found a new place for the big piece and you’re comfortable with where it is, next you should look at the other furniture you have to work with and ask yourself, “Must I use all of it?” and, conversely, “Is there anything from another room that would help the space more if brought into this room?”
Mix it up; put pieces where you thought it unlikely for them to go. Rearrange, and rearrange it again. Nothing is nailed down, so you’re free to move it around.
When I work with furniture in a difficult room and I start moving things, clients often say,“I never would have thought to put that where you just did, but it works!” and the results are immediately evident. Step back from your work. If you’re satisfied, leave it. If not, move it again until you are. And remember that nothing you’ve done in this process is permanent.
Once you’ve reached a point where the furniture you have is in its new place and you’re happy with it, think about what you can add that will give the room the extra touch that really makes a huge difference. Perhaps it’s a tall plant standing in a now-empty corner. Adding a small light behind the base of the plant’s pot will bring a dramatic touch at night and give the room more dimension and elegance.
A vase of fresh cut flowers on a small corner table can add color to what might otherwise be a dull or “dead” spot in the room. Put a bowl of fruit or even pine cones on the table. Add something that sparkles — silver or brass candlesticks, picture frames, a brasslamp. These little touches add so much to the overall feeling of a room. They don’t have to be expensive pieces, but the difference they make is what helps bring a room into proportion and scale. And, by giving the eye a place to focus on, they simultaneously minimize the problems and maximize the best qualities in the room.
After all this work is done, sit down on your newly placed sofa, relax and indulge yourself in the feeling of satisfaction, knowing that you’ve solved a difficult design dilemma the way the pros do it.
This guest post question and answer have been provided by Beryn Hammil.