x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

House Doctor: Room dimensions and furniture size go hand in hand

Oversized furnishings can make a room look cramped, but with the right scale, more furniture might even make the space look larger.

Last week, I mentioned that I wanted my lounge and dining areas to accommodate four to six people. In a small living space such as mine, multi-use seating is a good option. For example, comfortable chairs in the dining room can be moved over to the lounge area since the spaces are connected.

Many of the images I collected in my research show a variety of chairs. Numerous styles, shapes, scales, finishes and upholsteries are often found together in the same room. My space constraints mean that I will unfortunately have to temper my enthusiasm and limit my choices to just a handful. But a selection of terrific chairs will provide a flexibility in seating that would be difficult with the heavy, large-scale furniture that came with the apartment, and still allow me to express my personal style.

To successfully execute this idea, I have started sketching furniture layouts that reflect the scale and furniture types of the 1920s and 1930s modernist style I want to use.

Since my primary goal is to visually open up my space, smaller furniture will make my apartment look bigger. Inexperienced designers and homeowners often misjudge the size of a room and select oversized or too much furniture. This makes a space appear small and cramped. Room dimensions and furniture size should be considered together. With the correct space plan, I could actually have more furniture than was originally in the apartment and still make the space appear larger.

A useful hint for anyone planning a furniture arrangement is to use a dimensioned floor plan, drawn to scale with all windows and doors included. Make paper templates of standard furniture sizes and of existing furniture that will be used in the redesign (write the dimensions on template pieces for reference). Then move the pieces around to experiment with different layout options. Verify the widths of door openings and hallways to ensure that new furniture can fit into a room.

Using a floor plan and templates, anyone can develop a preliminary layout to discover how furniture will fit into a room. Once the big pieces are positioned, it is much easier to fill in with smaller accent items. This exercise will also illustrate whether furniture fits on a wall, blocks a window or door, is adjacent to an electrical outlet or cable television connection, or crowds a room.

This way, when you shop for furniture, you will understand how each piece fits on the plan. And if you find a piece in a different size than the initial templates, it is easier to determine if it can work.

Robert Reid is a professor of architecture, art and design at the American University of Sharjah. His column, House Doctor, can be read every week in House & Home.