Interiors Q&A – furnishing with large furniture
Dear Andrew, I am moving to a smaller home and want to design the new rooms around some existing big pieces (like sofas, dining tables, sideboards), can you give any advice on how to do this successfully?
With many people downsizing to smaller homes, and as it often impractical to replace all your furniture, the challenge is to make your large furniture work in a smaller space. Although instinctively many people think “small house = small furniture” a great look can easily be achieved by using a few large pieces of furniture if you carefully think about several important steps.
The first question has to be, would the furniture actually fit into my new home? Make sure you check before you move as no amount of clever design can make it look good if it completely fills the new rooms. Do remember that estate agents plans often don’t show accurate measurements so if you can, go to your new home and measure the rooms yourself. Also ensure access into your new home will not be an issue – if you are moving to an apartment from a large house the huge sofa may not even go through the front door!
When you have moved the furniture to your new home the key to using large furniture is to remember that less is more. The room may be able to accommodate the comfortable large sofa you love but do you also need the chair, the side board, the coffee table? Try to rationalise the furniture in a room, one large piece will look less cluttered – and therefore more spacious – than several pieces fighting for space. Also try to ensure walkways through the house are kept clear. If you squeeze in a large piece of furniture that you end up walking around or over the room will look crowded and you will quickly tire of the layout. Do also consider the sight lines within the home, a large sofa blocking the view of the garden will make the room look smaller.
If your large furniture can serve two purposes in your new home it will help to eliminate redundant pieces. One example of this could be your cherished dining table that you actually don’t use often but don’t want to part with. Consider using it to display a collection of books stacked in piles, they are therefore easily accessible and you don’t need a separate bookcase and the table also becomes a great focal point. Similarly in your bedroom you can place a multi-functional chest of drawers next to the bed, rather than a small bedside cabinet. The Slice cabinet from Heals shown below would be ideal for this purpose.
With larger furniture the space may be dominated by the colours of the furniture so it is often advisable to choose a neutral, pale tone decorating scheme. This doesn’t however need to be an oasis of boring beige, the blue and white colour scheme below works really well. Choosing a neutral background will help to showcase your furniture and if you want to add further colour add it to through the accessories – this also allows you to change the colour scheme easily. Another trick is to use mirrors throughout your home to make the rooms appear larger, and therefore the scale of the furniture appears less overpowering.
By carefully placing the furniture and ensuring there is not too much of it you should easily be able to use your existing furniture. Just remember that you might not be able to bring everything, and if you are willing to edit your belonging the rooms should be very comfortable.