It is always helpful to have some guidelines when you are decorating a room. What size? What height? How much? What proportion? These are common questions that decorators are asked. The answers to these questions can make all the difference in the success of your decorating project.
Proportion of furniture:
It seems rather obvious, but this is one that people so often get wrong. The scale of the furniture has to be in keeping with the size of the room. All the pieces of furniture need to be in proportion with each other as well.
A 10′ x 11′ living room looks completely wrong when filled with furniture that is more suitable for a 20′ x 14′ family room. That massive leather sofa or those oversize recliners just overwhelm a small intimate room. If you are dealing with a smaller space, buy furniture that is relatively compact and very simple and clean or open and delicate in its design. A large space requires larger scale pieces of furniture so that the furniture is not ‘lost’ in the room. Oversize pieces with wide arms and deep seats, big accent tables and large ottomans in front of the chairs will be appropriate here.
Accessories such as end table and lamps must be in the same proportion as the main pieces of furniture too.
If, due to a move, you are stuck with too big furniture for a too small room, do not try to squeeze it all into the new room. Edit it carefully and make sure the pieces you use are proportionate to each other. An example of this would be to leave out the matching loveseat to your sofa or removing the ottoman from in front of a chair, or only using the loveseat instead of the sofa and reducing the number of side tables to a bare minimum.
Side tables for a sofa should approximately match the height and depth of the arms of the sofa or chair they accompany. Coffee tables should be slightly lower than the seat height, 17″ – 18″ (45 cm). Any lower is really awkward to use and looks out of proportion. Coffee tables can be higher than the seat in some cases, though. An example would be using a large steamer trunk for a coffee table. It may be higher than the seat but does not look out of place due to its overall proportions and original intended use.
Your lamps must be in proportion to the scale of the furniture too. A short, thin lamp looks odd when placed on a solidly built, large end table or visa-versa. Lamps need to be tall enough to read by too. The shade of the lamp also needs to complement the style of the room and what is in fashion right now. And your shades should be similar in style and/or colour. Balance and harmony is very important when choosing and placing lamps.
A variety of lighting improves the mood of the room. Add an uplight on a pole in a dark corner. Down lights such as pot lights or mini spotlights on a track give a modern and stylish feel to a room or hallway. You do not have to have pot lights all over the ceiling either. Two that highlight your fireplace, or strategically placed over work areas, island or counter top eating area in your kitchen will add a nice ambiance to a room.
I firmly believe that you should not rely on pot lights as your major source of lighting in the kitchen though. The light is uneven and, to my mind, should be used as additional, focused lighting or mood lighting rather than the main source of lighting. They are hard on your electricity bill too if so many lights are turned on all the time. I still like a main, bright, central source of lighting for everyday use, and pot lights and under mount lighting to augment it.
An area rug has to be big enough to tuck under the front legs of the major pieces of furniture in the room. For instance, the rug should start under the front legs of the sofa and carry across the centre of the room and tuck part way under the chairs that face the sofa. See “Decor Tips – Ground the Room“ for a more detailed description and diagram. No area rug is better than one that is too small for the space.
The style for placement of the drapery rod changes over the years. Now it is not fashionable to place it right at the ceiling line (as in the 60s) or on the window frame, as in the distant past. Today’s rods are usually placed about 2″ (5 cm) above the window frame or just below half way between the top of the window frame and the ceiling line. The rod should extend at least 6″ to 12″ beyond each side of the window frame. There are exceptions to this, but this is the general rule for regular decorator rods.
Another problem often arises with the placement of your drapery rod. Your standard 84″ long curtains will often be too short and you will have ‘flood’ curtains (like ‘flood pants’!). You will have to let them down or add a decorative border to them. If you buy the 95″ length you can either shorten them or puddle them artistically. Puddled drapes are still somewhat fashionable in formal or ‘romantic’ settings but my preference is for draperies to hang neatly, just barely above the flooring.
Sheer, semi-sheer and very lightweight, unlined draperies should be 3:1 fullness. Heavy fabrics, crisp fabrics or lined draperies should be a mimimum of 2:1 fullness. Anything less tends to look skimpy and unprofessional.
Ready made pinch pleats are usually less than the minimum fullness and you should purchase a pair that are wider than your measurements to make up for the less than 2:1 fullness that is common in these types of draperies.
- Note: 2:1 fullness means that the whole curtain – both sides – laid flat, before they are pleated or gathered – are twice to three times as wide as the window +frame+ 6″ of rod at either end. A 48″wide window would then require a minimum of 112″ of fabric or flat panel width for double fullness and 168″ wide of fabric for triple fullness. A 48″wide window therefore would require 2 to 4 single, ready made flat panels that are 48″ wide each, to cover the window nicely. A very fine, sheer fabric that is less than 48″wide would require 6 panels to look nice and full on a 48″w window.
- Also Note: Curtains should be full length in most cases except over the counter in the kitchen or bathroom.
The picture or art above the sofa should be two-thirds of the width the sofa and the bottom edge should be around 10″ – 12″ (25 – 30 cm) above it – no more than that. This goes for over any piece of furniture! Another good rule to follow is that the centre of any picture or group of pictures or group should be roughly 58″- 62″ from the floor. If these numbers do not work out to be around the same over a piece of furniture, go with the height above the furniture measurement, rather than the distance from the floor.
If you don’t have a picture or painting big enough, make a group to fill the space. See ” Series – Hanging picture groups” for more information.
Pictures or groups that are not directly over furniture should be hung so that the centre of the picture or group is around 60″ – 64″ (152 – 160 cm)from the floor.
Proportion of Colours
The general rule of thumb is 70-30% or 60 – 30 – 10%. Stick to two or three colours. You can use four colours but it starts to look a little chaotic if not done very carefully. The easiest is to have a neutral background, a main colour and an accent colour. This is a three colour combination and if the walls are the neutral, they would be most of the 60 or 70%, your main furniture pieces would be the 30% and the cushions, art, accessories, the 10%. These are just guidelines, not strict rules to help you create a harmonious balance of colour. See article “Decor Tips – Proportions for Accent Colours” for more information.
These are a few basic rules for you to ponder and will help you create harmony in your room.