Getting the scale in your room right is less intuitive than you might imagine, but it’s easy to fix once you understand the principles. Why is getting the scale of your room right important? Well, I’ve been in a lot of homes. Hundreds. Maybe even close to a thousand? Please trust me when I tell you that the single thing that makes a room feel awkward or “off” the most frequently is incorrect scale. People love to blame outdated furnishings and paint colors, but getting the scale wrong is the easiest way to make a space feel wrong.
Scale is simply a ratio between two things. Examples: a framed work of art relative to the wall it’s on or the sofa it is above; a ceiling height relative to the square footage of the same room; a sofa’s depth and length relative to the amount of remaining floor space in the room.
These are the top ways people get scale wrong in their interiors.
1. Tiny art on large walls. The goal of hanging anything on your wall is to get people to look at it! How can that happen when you have tiny frames and canvases on your walls that you must stand up, walk over to, and lean across a sofa, to see? They often look like sticky notes that are likely float away because they are so small and so high on the wall that they do not appear visually anchored to anything.
When hanging anything on the wall, remember to visually connect it to furniture below it. If there is no furniture near by, make sure that it takes up a significant amount of space on the wall–let it say “I am intended to be here!”. Also, do not forget to hang things at eye level for those who will use the space the most.
2. Overly deep sofas and chairs with massive armrests. People think that a deep sofa is the best way to feel comfortable, but what they really should pay more attention to is how deep the seat is, instead of how deep the entire sofa is. The seat depth is the depth of the part your butt sits in. The seat can be 20″ deep, but the overall chair frame could be anywhere from 26″ deep to 42″ deep. Two chairs could have an equal seat depth and possibly even be equally comfortable, but one of the chairs will take up a lot more floor space and visual weight in a room.
Similarly on a 88″ long sofa, the armrests could be either 4″ wide on either side of the sofa, or 10″ wide. The different armrest widths will not only affect how much seat width you have (and how many people you can seat on the sofa), but also how chunky the sofa looks in the space. You can flip flop this math to get equal seating width, with a smaller sofa. Say you have an 88″ sofa with 10″ arm rests [88″ sofa – 10″ armrest – 10″ armrest = 68″ of seating width], but you really need a smaller length sofa. By finding a 78″ sofa with 4″ arm rests [78″ sofa – 4″ armrest – 4″ armrest = 70″ of seating width], you’d actually gain 2 additional inches from the 88″ sofa which was 10″ longer, but had overly large armrests.
3.Short end tables and nightstands. Too short (and too narrow) end tables are particularly frustrating to me as they are not practical. While I love beautiful furniture, there is no point in having any furniture around if it doesn’t function well! End tables and nightstands should be within 1-3″ inches of height from the armrest of a sofa or chair, or the mattress height they are next to. The reason for this measurement is so that when you reach over to place a drink, book, or remote on the table, you aren’t having to look and stretch to ensure the item makes it onto the surface–the action should take place without effort! The other reason is that if you have a lamp on the table or nightstand, it can provide the right angle of lighting for reading in the sofa or bed.
If you want to ensure you’re getting the scale in your room right, please join me in my Chic, Kid-Proof Living Rooms Course.