Sofa too large for the room

Scale: The number one reason for bad design


A design colleague and I were talking the other day and the issue of scale came up. He said, quite emphatically, that he believed the lack of understanding of scale contributed more to poor DIY design than any other element. After mulling over this rather radical statement for a few days I decided that he may be very well be right.

Scale, in Interior Design,  is the size of an item as it relates to the surrounding space.  This misunderstanding is most typically found, in my experience, with the size of sofas in living rooms. For example, an over-stuffed 96-inch sofa in a 10-by-12 living room is over scale. Similarly a 2-foot long coffee table is out of scale to that same sofa.  One oversized piece will force the room out of balance and no amount of rearranging or decorating can fix it. 

How to spot bad scale is easy; the piece creates an overpowering visual impact in the room, it often interferes with the traffic flow, and the pieces adjacent may appear too small or too large. 

Out of scale sofa wall
This is all too common.

Prevent this is by following design principals and by using a floor plan.  Yada yada yada, I know you’ve heard THAT before, but here is how you could avoid the too-large sofa issue. 

1 A sofa should be oriented toward the focal point and in a place that does not force anyone to walk between it and the focal point.

2  There must be at least 36 inches of clear space outside a door-swing or door entry area for proper movement in and out a room.  

3 A sofa should not occupy more that 1/2 of the width of the wall on which it sits.  A 12-foot wall means a 72-inch sofa. And this measurement if from the outside edge of one arm to the outside edge of the other. Curled or  oversized arms take up a lot of room real estate. And sofas need side tables.

A living room in scale
Everything is in balance and in the right proportion to everything else.

You know the rules for choosing wall art, and the guidelines for choosing table lamps and coffee tables. And if you  choose a sofa that fits the guidelines mentioned here it will not be out of scale.  If you choose other items in the room based on furniture placement guidelines, (which will dictate piece size), the room will not be out of scale. It is that simple.


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