Size matters. More and more. Especially in space-challenged homes and apartments.
That apparently speaks to a good chunk of the population, even though manufacturers and retailers have strayed a bit with message in recent years, going for great impact to super-sized sectionals or towering cabinetry, without regard to the dearth of 9-plus-foot ceilings or wide-load elevators in condo buildings. Not to mention narrow doorways.
If not a decided shift at recent High Point, N.C., furniture markets, let us just say that rooms with smaller footprints will not be ignored. The good news is that the commitment poses even more challenges to design furniture smartly, with an eye to size and proportions, multitasking, built-ins and visual tricks.
A sign of the times is that RH (the re-branded Restoration Hardware) last spring introduced one of its legendary weighs-a-ton sourcebooks devoted to … drumroll … small spaces!
Several years ago RH went into heavy Belgian industrial and French chateau mode with mega-scale and opulent proportions. In contrast, the spring 2013 edition is described as “a scaled-down collection of furnishings in sizes that work beautifully in more intimate spaces.”
Relatable scale and clean, modern lines are one reason, perhaps, for the appeal of mid-century furniture. This is precisely what grabbed the eye at the Stockholm collection booth at the recent International Contemporary Furniture Fair, which took place in New York in late May. Inspired by home furnishings from the 1950s and ’60s, the sizes of pieces seemed right; add to that comfort, sophistication and style — in a provocative palette punched up with kellyish or emerald greens and acid yellows — at affordable prices. The collection will launch at IKEA in August.
Another standout at that show, because of its thoughtful addressing of storage in the bath, was a tub designed by the Canadian firm, Blu Bathworks. In addition to graceful lines, the piece spoke to storage needs in an architecturally savvy way, its front and sides wrapped with wood shelving designed to house essentials like towels, soaps and sponges, and even a decorative piece thrown in for good measure.
One company that always has understood the need for small as well as for large scale is Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. For every 90-plus-inch sofa, there are several cozily silhouetted chairs. For every nearly 4-foot-square cocktail table, there may be dozens of petite martini side tables.
“From our first days,” says Mitchell Gold, “we observed how people live and want to live. The reality is every home has small spaces even if the homes are large. We realized people need a variety of proportions.”
Scale really is the motivator — not just the measure, but how the inches measure up; in other words, the proportions of the piece. When Libby Langdon designed her Howell chaise for Braxton Culler, she was reaching out to those who love a lounge option but one that reads more simply, such as a chair attached to ottoman, not a space- hog.
“Often furniture is unnecessarily oversized and overstuffed,” says Langdon. “Many standard sofas have large, rolled arms, each measuring 12 inches wide, which means they are taking up two feet of usable space.”
Says Gold: “It’s about proportion and how you effectuate every detail. By making the arms (on a chair or sofa) trim, for example, you still allow good size, comfortable seating. Bob (Williams) has this incredible sense of proportion — part self-taught, part instinct. It’s what makes our pieces look right in a wide variety of places in a home.”