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Bring in Old to the New, Correctly!

And we’re back with to address another design dilemma that I see a lot of people ask.

Will my existing furniture fit and look good in my new space?

Oftentimes, when you’re a frequent mover, you will have to reuse your old furniture for multiple reasons. Of which practicality and sentimentality are just two. While answering queries on Facebook, Houzz, and other interior design forums, this is a common problem I come across, such as the one below; understanding whether the furniture you have will fit into your new home where the room sizes are bound to be different!

To understand this, you need to understand the basic concepts of scale and proportion, which make one of the seven fundamental principles of design.

P.S. we shall be addressing the second part of her problem in a later blog post!


On a side note, a little theory for you! Read the seven principles of design

  1. Balance

  2. Emphasis

  3. Pattern

  4. Hierarchy

  5. Contrast

  6. Scale and Proportion

  7. Repetition

Now, Scale and Proportion are just one of the seven, but perhaps the most important of the lot. Both refer to the size of an object.

Scale refers to how well the various pieces you have, fit into the overall space you’re working with. While, the proportion is how well they match, in size, with each other. The image below is a perfect example of the rule of thirds and/or the Fibonacci Spiral, a.k.a. the golden spiral.


1:618; the golden ratio which is used to make the Golden Spiral. This is one of the fundamental tenants of design and nature!

Now the easiest way to determine if what you’re looking at is to scale is to measure the surface it’s going to cover (be it the wall or the floor, whatever your concern may be) and ensure that it fills in about two-thirds of the space. This is the easiest trick in an interior designer’s handy manual.

Allow me to slightly complicate matters for you. Because that is what more information does. Confuse you until you read even more! The fact is we don’t actually sit around measuring all sides and cross-referencing them. Our designers tend to depend highly on eyeballing the size. So please, if you’re imagining us sprawled out on the floor taping the thirds to position items, don’t.

There are some standard sizes for furniture design. What I mean by standard sizes is the minimum size any furniture needs to be for the comfort of use. For instance, the height of any seating surface, beds included should, without question be at 450mm (a foot and a half) from the floor. This information is based on anthropometrics which average the sizes to a median number. There will always be outliers and these anthropometric numbers will differ from country to country.

But as we know, that’s often not the case. We have high beds, low beds, and floor beds in the market. Form over function instead of form following function.

Swipe to see the slideshow

When you’re considering the scale, try to fit everything within two-thirds of the room, leaving one-third of empty space. If you have a large room, you can use the 30-60 split to create two separate areas. In the case of a living room, a formal seating and an informal one; and for small rooms, leave space for a thoroughfare. Or in the case of the bedroom, bed, walk-in, or a bed and informal seating.

Click to enlarge and view all the images

Now the good news is that this Golden Spiral is so common in nature and in our heads, that when setting places, we often tend to naturally veer towards this. Any space that is not split into thirds, will seem unnatural to us.

But the human mindset of using everything we have often acts as a deterrent to our natural instincts. So, my advice is to ALWAYS go with your gut. Trust me, this is where you will end up if you don’t skimp out on taking an effort in doing your home!

Click to enlarge and view all the images

Remember! Don’t plan for occasions, they come around once in a while. You may have a large family or a huge friend circle, but they are not constantly fixtured in your home, unlike the large seat-all sofa that you may be planning to buy. Focus on the proportion of the furniture against your room, instead of the size of the couch you might desperately want. (not only for couches!) If you host weekly game nights, you’ll need more seating broken options, but if you have regular cocktail parties, you’ll need more open space for everyone to mingle! Plan for your functionality. And while doing so, keep the rule of thirds in mind!

Click to enlarge and view all the images

Another thing to keep in mind is to not focus solely on horizontal splits across swathes of walls and floors, but also on vertical ones along your walls, up to the ceilings. High ceilings call for rich statement pieces that look stately. While low ceilings require a modest outfit. Now if there is a mismatch, which I am guessing there is because otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this, there are ways to manipulate the vision to trick the brain into thinking that a room is higher or lower, wider or narrower than it actually is.

There are some wonderful ideas use to achieve that look. But keep in mind, these are nothing but illusions and tricks. And they will only serve you to a certain extent. They will trick the eye when there are mild discrepancies, but they will not cover glaring holes in the mismatch!!

Add-On Tip - The tricky part comes while accessorizing the room. While the room is two-thirds in favour, accessories veer the other way. The length or height of your accessory should not be more than one-third of the length or height of furniture it is going to sit on.

Our Solution

Since the window at the end of the living room does not lead to a balcony, you can place both couches in the new space the way they are placed now. This will allow you to use them both the way you have been doing so far.

An alternative is to use one of the couches as a bench for the dining room. The third option is to skip the TV in the living room and create more formal seating with the couches facing each other. As for the colours. Rugs are life savers. It will break the colour, providing you with a fresh canvas to draw upon.

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