Design Recipes: Working with size, scale


Ever wonder why one piece of furniture fits perfectly in one space but looks awkward in another? It may relate to how the object is visually perceived within a space, in which size and scale can often come into play.


Size does matter in certain rooms. A general room of thumb is a space should allow for proper circulation. Typically a minimum of 3 feet should surround a piece of furniture. Be careful to select a piece of furniture that is not too big or too small for a space. Need help deciding? Here are some general rules of thumb.

1. Allow for proper flow and circulation in a space. One should be able to open a closet door, enter and exit a room without bumping into a piece of furniture.

2. Visually allow a space for the eye to rest. For example, a smaller coffee table next to a larger sofa may allow for the coffee table to not further overwhelm the space.

3. Use a piece of furniture or accessory to help anchor a space. Often in spaces that are overly large, a larger area rug, upholstery item or case good can help achieve this.


A chair in one room can look small, while in another space it can look commanding and grand. Similarly, a room that has soaring ceilings can feel cavernous and cold if furniture of the appropriate scale isn’t used. What can go wrong? Perhaps it’s a space in which the sofa is too big and overstuffed, a mirror is too small or too big, or an area rug just “floats” as opposed to helping ground a space. Here are some helpful tips.

1. In general, when it comes to artwork and mirrors, they should be 2/3 the size of the object below it. You want to avoid selections that are too small or too big.

2. When working with high ceilings or large walls, a selection of large-scale artwork often works best. Conversely, if you have a small area to fill, smaller scale pieces work best.

3. Think of scale even with accessories. A vignette of various accessories such as vases, sculpture, lamps even plantings or blooms should be of the appropriate scale.

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