Monday, February 6, 2012

Furniture for All

Nothing can induce a large scale Freak Out quite like shopping for furniture. I have witnessed many ‘o loving couple melt into toddlers during the Witching Hour over the process. Crate & Barrel should have a wet bar. Alas, have no fear- selecting furniture for any size space can be a fun process . . I promise. The secret is in the prep.

Before you hit the stores, play Designer for the day and measure your space. This includes the Width & Length of the room, doors, windows and any fixed elements such as a fireplace. Note the direction in which doors swing open into a space. If you live in a multi-unit building, also measure elevators to ensure your new pieces will actually make it up to your lovely abode.

Grab a pad of ¼” grid paper. Each “square” will equal 1 square foot. Convert your measurements onto the grid. Reward yourself with a cocktail- the hardest part is behind you!

While sipping your libation, create a list of needs for this space. Think of how many people you will want to be able to seat in the space. What are your storage needs? Will kids have free reign or is this an “adult” space?

Now that you have determined the use of the space and have created a floor plan, you are ready to sketch in your furniture pieces. Keep in mind to allow about 36” of space for major traffic patterns & 28” for minor ones. Sketch the items from your list onto your floor plan, starting with the Must Have pieces. Work with the space you have. If the room works best with a sofa and two chairs, don't try to squeeze in an L-shaped sectional. Much like dieting aspirations- the walls of your space will not get larger or shrink no matter how hard you try to will it. 

Measure the furniture you've sketched for the maximum size of each piece. Count the number of grid blocks and estimate partial blocks (overachievers- now is the time to whip out that architectural scale and amaze your lover). Draw a colored pencil line inside the outline of each furniture piece to represent the minimum size that works without compromising the arrangement. Note the acceptable size range (min & max) for each furniture item on your list.

Arm yourself with a tape measure, your floor plan & the knowledge of basic meditative breathing before entering the furniture store. Browse and consider ONLY the furniture items you've listed, making sure the pieces fit within your acceptable size range. 
Looking at items that are not on your list is the best way to ensure that your spouse will never do this again. Stay focused.

Look for pieces where most of the size is taken up by functional space, not design elements. Avoid upholstery with enormous rolled arms in favor more tailored pieces. Skip curved sleigh beds that add depth and kill floorspace.

For small spaces, eliminate single-purpose pieces from consideration when double-duty or storage pieces are available. For example, you can use two small ottomans at the foot of the bed instead of a bench- moving them into the living room for extra seating when you entertain. When in doubt- go with the piece that allows for storage.

Create the illusion of larger rooms by selecting light-reflecting furniture finishes. Adding wall mirrors does the best job. Consider lacquered, mirrored, glass-topped or high-sheen wood pieces. Opt for glass or lucite dining or coffee tables for their transparency as well- clear pieces don't stop the eye like their solid counterparts. 

One of my favorite collections is the Peekaboo from CB2.

Order your largest upholstered pieces in solid colors, which take up less visual space. Save the pattern for chairs and accent pieces such as pillows & art. When in doubt, always opt for a monochromatic scheme. Contrasting color schemes visually break up the space, making it appear smaller.

Large spaces with high ceilings call for larger scale furniture. Using small pieces will give the feeling of Alice in Wonderland- and not in a good way.

Happy shopping & may the Force be with you!