Does Your Living Room Furniture Need To Go On A Diet?

freaking-out-over-your-paint-colors

 

There have been some requests for a post about scale.

 

It’s a pretty large topic but for today let’s focus on the living room furniture.

 

Here are some things I hear.

 

  • It’s so tricky. My living room is big. I need bigger furniture, right?
  • My room is small so I need smaller furniture, right?
  • But, we’re really big people and the furniture is going to be uncomfortable if it’s too small, right?

 

  • no.
  • nope.
  • not a chance.

 

And not necessarily in that order. :]

 

Why, no, nope and not a chance, Laurel?

 

Fair enough. Let me ask you this.

When you walk into a large room do you put on BIGGER CLOTHES and smaller clothes when you go into a small room?

Oh stop looking at me like I just let out a big noxious onion fart. (which is precisely why I don’t eat onions)

 

Well, it’s the same with the furniture in the room be it large or small.

It’s very simple.

 

THE LIVING ROOM FURNITURE IS FOR YOU,  NOT THE ROOM.

 

I’ll be right back. I’m going to go crab a cup o’ jo while you mull that over…

 

 

 

Alright, I’m back.

How are we doing?

 

Okay, Laurel, I guess that makes sense in a way but isn’t smaller furniture going to look dumb and dinky in a really big room?

 

no.

 

Of course, you may need more of it, but no, it will not look dinky unless it’s a bad layout or something. We’ve been through this issue before with a lot of the overscale furniture still so prevalent in the market place.

Oh man. Where is Elsie de Wolfe when we really need her? And Billy Baldwin. Someone asked me who is Billy Baldwin? And Billy Haines!

And Albert Hadley, the baby of the bunch, but possibly the greatest designer that has ever lived.

These decorators who are amongst the greatest of the 20th century got it. They understood scale to perfection and for us to understand, we need to follow their example. (aka: steal it)

 

Okay, I’m going to stop blabbing and start showing you exactly what I mean.

 

albert hadley large living room 1969 photo by Michael Mundy via the devoted classicist - notice the scale of the living room furniture

photo taken 1969 by Michael Mundy via The Devoted Classicist

 

A grand living room designed by Albert Hadley for  Mrs. Nancy (Princess) Pyne back in the early 1960’s.

Sorry to interrupt myself but hmmm… isn’t this looking familiar?

 

frank babb randolphs gorgeous living room furniture

Not in color of course, but did Mr. Randolph steal Mr. Hadley’s idea? Well, I bloody well hope so because it needs to be done over and over and over! And also, Mr. Randolph usually does bare floors. Birds of a feather for sure.

 

Mrs. Nancy (princess) Pyne in her old living circa 1969image above and below via Rustic Chic and great post as well!

 

Above, Mrs. Pyne in her tres chic living room circa 1965

 

cherryfields mrs nancy pyne f schumacher pyne hollyhock - classic chintz on this living room furniture
Can I tell you how much I love this room?

And tell me does it look even remotely dated? (old photography aside)

 

THAT CHAIR! THAT STOOL!!! THAT CHINTZ!!!

 

Geez, Laurel, calm down!

 

NO, I will not calm down!

 

I’m just warming up. :]

 

Below is a far smaller living room also decorated by Albert Hadley a few years ago.

<

Albert-hadley-living room with white floors and lovely living room furnitureHouse Beautiful

But wait. Isn’t that the same stool?

Antique-English-Settee-Albert-Hadley circa 1972

And isn’t that the same chintz, albeit a little discolored?

 

Well, yes… it is and it’s the coolest story ever. Mrs. Pyne wanting to down-size SWITCHED homes with John Dransfield and Geoffrey Ross of the Dransfield and Ross brand. I think I had already read that somewhere but it didn’t sink in until now. She still pals around with them, and comes to visit the grand Cherryfields.

And here is what the immensely talented duo did with it.

 

John Dransfield and Jeffrey Ross home via Lonny.com = wonderful living room furniture

via Lonny

 

I’m sure that Mr. Hadley and Mrs. Pyne approve.

Back to that gorgeous chintz that is somehow modern and traditional at the same time. It does look familiar, but does it still exist?

Yes, it does, but F. Schumacher DID stop making it quite a while back I gather. Then, a few years ago, they decided to bring it back. Problem is… they no longer had the pattern. So, with the help of Mrs. Pyne who, thank God saved some scraps of fabric, and the old photos, they were able to resurrect it.

 

pyne hollyhock in charcoal f schumacher

And here is the Pyne Hollyhock Chintz, now appropriately named after Mrs. P in the charcoal colorway. For more information, you will enjoy this charming post on Lacquered Life

You may recall that I featured another color-way in this post. Total coincidence. But beauty is beauty. I adore this sophisticated floral.

Albert Hadley is greatly missed. I don’t know if he was ahead of his time or if it’s just taken the rest of us this much time to catch up.

I love that.

Albert-Hadley large living room via gregory mellor

photo: Gregory Mellor via Adeeni Design Group (lots of other gorgeous Albert Hadley rooms too)

 

Another large-scale room with human-scaled furniture. Even the black leather chesterfield is in perfect scale with the rest of the furnishings. The painting is large and the drapes are long and luxurious, but the actual upholstery remains pretty much the same size.

 

One more 20th century designer who also designed custom living room furniture is the aforementioned William (Billy) Baldwin.

 

Billy was the darling decorator of socialites. One of his famous clients in that class were William and Babe Paley. As a matter of fact, he named his Lawson-arm sofa and chair “Paley” after them.

 

billy baldwin library brown walls | chinoiserie screen | white sofa

Above a Paley sofa in what I believe is from Billy’s own home.

These rooms make my heart beat faster.

 

So, then…. Here’s the question.

 

How  did our living room furniture go from this?

 

billy baldwin studio sofa

human scaled Paley sofa by Billy Baldwin (and still manufactured here.)

 

to this monstrosity?

 

gross pit sectional

I guess you’re supposed to crawl into it? Really? Mrs. Pyne too? I don’t think that ladies of her breeding crawl. She will require air-lifting in order to recline.

 

What the hell happened?

 

Here’s what I think.

 

As a society we’ve been long overly bloated, overly-consumptive…Right?

 

For example

1960s ford mustang

1960’s Ford Mustang

IMG_1496

2016 Ford Excursion (driven by a family of three)

mcdonalds 15 cent hamburger

1950’s 15 cent (!) hamburger

too digusting super big mac for words

2016 heart attack on a plate

(sorry, I realize that this is beyond disgusting)

1950s thin family

1960’s slim family (raise your hand if Dad wore a tie to dinner) – Remember when we could eat all the carbs we wanted and didn’t put on an ounce? hmmmm… hmmmm…

fat family

 

2016 family who’s always on a “diet.”

 

gross overscale leather tufted-sofa

 

Honey, does this sofa make me look fat?

 

Is bigger really better?

 

cape-cod house at twilight

gross mcmansion monstrosity

Scale? I think the architect (if there was one) must’ve been a fan of the movie Alien judging from the chimney. No?

Oh gawd.

 

NO, I will not calm down.

<

I am on a mission.

<

And that mission is to try to further the cause of HUMAN-SCALE LIVING ROOM FURNITURE.

 

…to be continued because there are many designers who ARE creating beautiful designs in the manner of the old masters…

xo,

Laurel-e1443573876689

 

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5th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2018 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • Sheila - September 8, 2016 - 5:22 PM

    I can’t wait to read your next post on this topic. I wholeheartedly agree. After purging much of my oversized furniture and finally purchasing pieces that will fit in a large home or apartment, I feel like I finally have my ‘adult’ furniture that will last a lifetime, and fit any room.ReplyCancel

  • Kirsten - September 1, 2016 - 6:00 AM

    Thanks for this post, Laurel, you’ve reassured me that I am not crazy for only having a two seater (plus two armchairs plus ottoman) in my rather large Living Room. There is room for seven to sit, if two perch on the ottoman, and one uses an occasional chair (and many more could be seated by bringing in additional occasional chairs). But when I tried to put a three-seater in, it either had to go against the wall, or would seriously block the flow if placed at right angles, due to the wide, shallow shape of the room and placement of fireplace, window and doors, so I decided to go without.. The oversized trend is making its way from the US to the UK, and most UK homes don’t have the scale to cope – I don’t know how people even get these things through their doors! I’ve also noticed that sofas aren’t comfortable to use to their full capacity – four people sitting on a sofa feels weird and even three sitting on a sofa feels slightly awkward to me, so if the room can take it, I would rather have a mix multiple two-seaters and armchairs. When I lived in a truly tiny cottage,on an equally tiny budget, I found IKEA a lifesaver because they had lots of furniture which looked normal but was actually scaled down from standard sizes.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 1, 2016 - 10:20 PM

      Hi Kirsten,

      I actually prefer what they call Apartment sized sofas. They are (inches usually about 72″-78″) so just a little smaller than the three seater. But for conversational purposes, it’s only two people on a sofa most of the time.ReplyCancel

  • Gaye - September 1, 2016 - 2:36 AM

    Laurel, I hate to be a pest, but I simply cannot get that “sofa pit” out of my mind. I think of it and laugh at the possibilities of Mrs. Pyne or lesser lights confronting that thing and trying to decide what to do with it. Surely the two middle pieces come out, right? Though there is no place visible for them to be. Do you have to take it apart? Or? I posted the blog on my Facebook page and asked this questions, and I’m afraid my respondents had begun the cocktail hour early. 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 1, 2016 - 10:15 PM

      Hi Gaye,

      I have no idea. The entire thing is so weird to me.ReplyCancel

  • Eve - August 31, 2016 - 10:23 AM

    Bravo Laurel. I just listened to your podcast interview on Million Dollar Decorating and immediately went to your website. You are so accurate in your thoughts on what has happened to good design. Thank you for your insight!
    EveReplyCancel

  • Lauren - August 31, 2016 - 10:16 AM

    Oh Laurel,

    This was such a funny post. A few months ago I purchased two new sofas for our living room and had such a hard time finding normal size couches. I have five children so we needed two couches but I wanted something classic looking on our small budget. My two previous couches were found on Craigslist and given to us so this was our first real furniture purchase. It was so incredibly hard to find some nice. Anyway, I was surprised when I saw your link to the Paley sofa because the two I purchased are almost exactly like that except they have feet instead of the slip covered bottom and they are a lovely taupe color. White and little children don’t go very well together. 🙂 Anyway, it was so fun to read this post and I was so happy to see the lovely couch you linked. I must say that the pit couch does look like a lovely trampoline for little kids but it sure is hideous.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 31, 2016 - 1:35 PM

      Hi Lauren,

      That’s wonderful! Craig’s List can get a terrific source if one is patient.

      I had white furniture and I had two of the grimiest little boys ever put on this planet.

      I did train them, however, to wash their hands after eating which helped considerably.

      In our little den, I had an armless love seat that was a part of my husband’s former sectional newly reupholstered in a deep olive green linen velvet. Then, I put a long bullion fringe on the bottom. It looked brand new and I loved it!

      Two weeks later, my h and I went out to a movie and had a new sitter. When we returned 3 hours later, I walked in to find that she had let my barely 2-yr-old eat an ice cream sandwich while watching TV. I found big globs of brown goo embedded into the fibers of my newly upholstered couch.

      I seriously contemplated killing her.

      But then remembered just in time, that murder is against the law, no matter what and figured that a wrecked piece of furniture was preferable to a life behind bars.ReplyCancel

      • Lauren - September 1, 2016 - 7:00 PM

        I laughed so hard at your son, babysitter, and the olive green velvet.

        Your story here and your recent post on paint palettes just has given me so much inspiration. We just moved into this house a few months ago and I have been working like crazy to make it lovely and a home. Then, last month, my in-laws visited with their five children and collectively trashed my house. And brought LICE to boot. All of my hard work of making our home beautiful seemed wasted. When they left I cleaned and scrubbed, cleaned and scrubbed, deloused my children, and tried to fix or replace all the broken items. But we can’t really afford to replace everything now. Anyway, long story short, I have been really discouraged since they left and sort of didn’t even want to go into a few rooms in my home. But, after reading your blog today and perusing some of the classic designers you mentioned, my enthusiasm is reviving for making our home a place of beauty with a limited budget. All thanks to you! I am ever so grateful.ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - September 2, 2016 - 2:08 AM

          Lice??? Oh my word! I shudder to think what their home looks like.

          We also had no money. I mean none. We took out a 2nd mortgage to fix up our place a little. It made me feel so good! We put up mouldings, painted and reupholstered, as I said. It made a huge difference!ReplyCancel

  • Brittany Rhea - August 31, 2016 - 8:21 AM

    Laurel, thank you, once again for another great post. I’m really struck by how really classic interiors really DO endure. Nothing about those rooms look dated to me. The first picture from 1969 floored me. You could have said that someone just had that installed in their house yesterday and I would have believed you. It’s just amazing.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 31, 2016 - 1:24 PM

      Hi Brittany,

      I love it too! If only the photography didn’t give it away, it would be fun to play a game of then or now? I think I’m going to do that with some of the furniture though because the photos of the vintage pieces are recent.ReplyCancel

  • Geo55 - August 30, 2016 - 10:18 PM

    I think that last picture is the ugliest house I’ve ever seen.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 31, 2016 - 1:35 AM

      Thank you Geo,

      I searched long and hard for maybe a full 20 minutes. lolReplyCancel

  • Gaye - August 30, 2016 - 7:43 PM

    I didn’t think you could do it, but you have truly outdone yourself with this one. I’m still laughing. Started with “When you walk into a large room do you put on BIGGER CLOTHES and smaller clothes when you go into a small room?” and just kept laughing—with appropriate pauses to admire the work of Baldwin, Hadley, et al and to bow my head in reverence to Elsie de Wolfe—-through that bed-like sofa and that multi-style house with the most peculiar chimney! It is TIME somebody laughed out loud about the McMansions and nobody does it like you. (But that “sofa”—is it real, not from some movie set? How does it work? I’m afraid to know.
    )ReplyCancel

  • Pamela Sherman - August 29, 2016 - 4:28 PM

    Great post laurel! Always telling it like it is! So refreshing.ReplyCancel

  • Mid America Mom - August 29, 2016 - 3:51 PM

    Love this post! 1. As someone with entrance doors only 31″ wide in a 1920’s home, much of today’s furniture is a nightmare. Now I admit that I am a bargain shopper due to lack of funds so the low end stores is where we would buy new if we choose to. That is out unless you want mid century modern knock off sofa that is “apartment” sized. That style does not work in our home. So thrift, estate, garage, consignment stores really are the place to find what I call normal sized furniture. 2. I love seeing armchairs like the louis – easy to move around, easier to play with pattern, less visual weight? 3. Hoorah! Normal sized cocktail tables. Would you like a 5 foot by 3 foot coffee table to go with that super sectional miss? ARGH! I look forward to your next post.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 30, 2016 - 6:30 PM

      Hi MAM,

      I had a client like that once. And man o man, I specified a sofa with a roll back. Fortunately, it wasn’t overly deep, but they did have to take the door off. The homeowner was very cool.ReplyCancel

  • Suzanne Mundy - August 29, 2016 - 3:45 PM

    Oh Laurel! I am sitting here with tears running down my face I am laughing so hard!I cannot wait for the follow-up to this!ReplyCancel

  • EE - August 29, 2016 - 3:15 PM

    THANK YOU Laurel – for pointing out our propensity for over-consumption in every area of life. IMHO TVs have ruined living rooms in the way garages have ruined houses and cabinets have ruined kitchens.ReplyCancel

  • Claudia Phillips - August 29, 2016 - 12:33 PM

    I love this post! Bigger is not better. I’m a fan of smaller houses.”Less house, more home.”ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 29, 2016 - 12:49 PM

      Hi Claudia,

      Yes! And you brought up a great point too and that is there is definitely a trend towards smaller homes. Need I say more?ReplyCancel

  • Lynda - August 29, 2016 - 10:16 AM

    Great blog post! Smart.

    I totally agree – I hate this trend to over scale and shapeless furniture!ReplyCancel

  • bfish - August 29, 2016 - 6:14 AM

    The last picture is priceless, Laurel. I am going to revisit it frequently for a chuckle. I hope you’ll consider doing a post on the practice — exhibited in that picture — of cramming as many diverse styles of architecture and different building materials as humanly possible into a single façade.ReplyCancel

  • Chris - August 29, 2016 - 12:28 AM

    Oh Laurel, I absolutely love the designers from that era …everything up till the mid 70’s. Anything after the mid 70’s, fahgetaboutit.
    All the designers you mention, what talent!
    But living rooms where used differently then. I remember all the cocktail parties my parents had in the 60’s when I was little. I was allowed to stay up for a white and I felt so grown-up when I was allowed to take drinks to some of the guests, until I had to go to bed, just when the parties got going. The women were so beautifully dressed and coiffed. Perfume, stockings, couture and class. Men in ties. Everyone was drinking, joking,and yes, smoking, and talking about books, art, gossiping as in who is with who, flirting…and all while and sitting in little groups, which is why the furniture back them was organized in several little tete-a- tete groupings for 2 or 3 people. Conversation was everything and people were much better at it than now. You sat up straight in those smaller scale chairs and couches(usually because you girdle was too tight), and moved around to work the room. This was so common, I think my parents went to a cocktail party or dinner every single weekend back in the 50’s and 60’s, so design had to accommodate this social life. I am just now reading the autobiography of Slim Keith “Memories of a Rich and Imperfect Life”, who was in those circles and was Babe’s best friend for years. A fun read.
    But today, I must confess, that I do like a comfy sectional in my family room to watch tv on…while my living room is more classic with 2 normal to small size couches, end tables, coffee table and decorative chairs. Thanks for letting indulge a bit by stepping back in time!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 29, 2016 - 11:57 AM

      Hi Chris,

      We must be about the same age. I have those kinds of memories too.

      Too bad that changed too.

      I have no problems with sectionals. I’ve done numerous ones throughout my career. But that pit thing that one has to crawl into is a sectional on steroids.ReplyCancel

      • Chris - August 30, 2016 - 8:04 PM

        Yep, that one a doozy!
        Just picturing what my huge 50 something butt would look like from behind, while trying to climb up on it on all 4’s to get to the back rest… is enough to scare me. LOLReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - August 31, 2016 - 1:34 AM

          I remember the first time I saw one of those. It was a real wtf? moment.ReplyCancel

  • Patricia Flournoy - August 28, 2016 - 5:55 PM

    Your are always RIGHT ON TARGET…Since when did BIGGER mean BETTER! I guess I live in a time warp! & I am happy here! Merci, MerciReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 28, 2016 - 11:32 PM

      Hi Patricia,

      Thankfully, a lot of us are living in the warp along with you!ReplyCancel

  • mrsben - August 28, 2016 - 3:02 PM

    Laurel, I must admit my favourite car of the 60’s is the Mustang and I also have a weakness for automobiles that date back to the late 1920’s and 30’s. (i.e: The sedans of Mercedes Benz, Rolls Royce and Lincolns to name a few … best described as deluxe … oh yes but needless to say wishful thinking on my part (ca-ching, ca-ching) plus with my driving skills I would need a chauffeur to come with it … ☺.) That said; back to the subject of furniture I am on board with you 100% as question massive furniture particularly sofas that appear to have been designed by and for the Michelin Man himself. In summary, never realized what was out there until a few years ago when assisting my eldest sister to furnish her apartment as we ended up having one custom built what surprisingly didn’t cost an arm and leg and suited the space. Took me awhile to convince her but used the argument how today’s furniture is show cased in retail with lots of open space, high ceilings etc. nor was she a female giant warrior of the lost Amazon tribe (reference to the comic books as she read as a kid) thus there was no need she required something so huge. As for myself, I always preferred smaller scale and aesthetically lighter weight looking pieces which suited our first much smaller home but surprisingly still looks suitable in my present day one with the addition of a few more pieces, and no doubt will be edited a third time when I down size to a Retirement Home or Condo when the time comes. In closing, do love your style of writing and totally thank you for sharing your knowledge. -Brenda-ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 28, 2016 - 11:17 PM

      Hi Brenda,

      Thank you for such a great comment. Alas… it’s been my entire career… the last 20 years of walking into homes where the furniture doesn’t fit, is bloated on and on…ReplyCancel

  • joyce - August 28, 2016 - 2:12 PM

    As for that sofa fabric–perhaps it was Sunbrella for CR Laine? Anyway, we bought it at a store that sells CR Laine. I don’t want to mislead anyone. You will know. 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 28, 2016 - 11:10 PM

      Hi again. Yes, the fabric is not from CR Laine, but it’s understandable that one might think it is. Manufacturers of upholstery buy directly from the mill since they are purchasing in large quantities and are a wholesaler.ReplyCancel

  • Joyce - August 28, 2016 - 2:00 PM

    At slightly shorter than 5’2″, finding sofas and chairs that I don’t swim in has always been quite the challenge. But, as you know more than I do, there is definitely some good normal-sized furniture out there. My favorite piece is our Madison sofa from Baker, which I found on Craig’s List. Its original fabric was destroyed by cat claw gashes and juice box stains, but no problem! I got it reupholstered in a lovely cream-colored CR Laine indoor-outdoor fabric, and it looks fabulous! I saved a lot of money, too, of course. (I mean, who can afford a sofa that costs $12K retail?? Well, apparently the poor soon-to-be-divorced woman that I bought it from could.) But the best thing is that it’s comfortable for me, my husband (5’8″) and anyone else–even tall and big-ish people.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 28, 2016 - 11:06 PM

      Hi Joyce,

      That sounds absolutely wonderful! I totally recommend reupholstering a piece that is tough to get and well-made. A whole new sofa for a lot less $ than the original.ReplyCancel

  • Mari Montaruli - August 28, 2016 - 12:35 PM

    I’m currently luxuriating in the wonderful book Parish-Hadley Tree of Life. All former designers dish on working there. Tons of wonderful photos. Enormous praise for Hadley the designer, the teacher and the man.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 28, 2016 - 11:04 PM

      Hi Mari,

      I’ve heard that as well– from Bunny Williams of course!ReplyCancel

  • Ellen Shook - August 28, 2016 - 11:16 AM

    And this is why I shop estate sales in the best neighborhoods for furniture.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 28, 2016 - 11:22 AM

      Hi Ellen,

      Now, you’re talking. Can I tell you the number of gorgeous pieces I’ve seen on the sidewalks of NYC that someone dumped? That’s what people do around here. They just leave it on the street and believe me, it’s gone in a flash!ReplyCancel

  • Cindy - August 28, 2016 - 11:05 AM

    I am so with you! Shopping for upholstered furniture is so frustrating! That is why I have been looking for a pair of chairs for my living room for the last five years. I bought my husband an oversized chair for his man cave. He is 6’2″ and he doesn’t even sit in it. He prefers the normal sized sofa.

    My kids both have sectionals in their family rooms, and one even has his old sectional from a previous home in his sun room. That was supposed to go in his finished basement when they moved into their new home, but it wouldn’t make a turn down the stairs, so it lives in the sun room.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 28, 2016 - 11:20 AM

      Hi Cindy,

      There are companies (at least in my area) that will take a sofa apart and put it back together again when it won’t make it down the stairs. I had to do that once for a client. I was so embarrassed, but they were cool and all worked out just fine.ReplyCancel

      • Cindy - August 28, 2016 - 12:01 PM

        Thanks for that info. What would I even search to find such a company? Apparently, their mover could not do that. They are in northern VA, about 1/2 west of DC.ReplyCancel

  • Rhonda Kontos - August 28, 2016 - 10:46 AM

    Conversely to this article I have large furniture from an 8000 sq foot home and recently downsized. Some of the pieces in the large house I adore. I can use them then?!? I’m terrified to try but I cannot afford to buy new smaller scale furniture when I own 6 couches and so much other furniture.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 28, 2016 - 11:14 AM

      Hi Rhonda,

      Well, you most likely won’t need 6 couches. I’m not going to tell you what you can afford or not afford, but how much did you spend on your car?

      How often do you replace it?

      My philosophy has always been that it’s not wise to put good money after bad. If the furniture looks funny in the new place, you’ll never be happy with it.

      Of course, you can always try it out and if it doesn’t work out, then perhaps think of downsizing that too.

      OH! One other thing to consider. You can donate your gently used furniture and take a nice tax deduction. ReplyCancel

      • Rhonda Kontos - August 28, 2016 - 11:26 AM

        Thanks for the response. Going to read it to my husband. and no I don’t need 6 couches. I’m not sure what I spent I’ve been afraid to add it up. But we did get it by buying the model home pieces (it was a model home and got it as a bulk deal). Thanks thoughReplyCancel

  • Susan - August 28, 2016 - 10:34 AM

    I’m forever fiddling over ‘throw pillows’ and I’m not the only one, based on Pinterest! What I immediately noticed in rooms designed by the greats was the absence, scarcity of pillows. uumm, Overly-consumptive society = pillow piles…hahaReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 28, 2016 - 11:08 AM

      Hi Susan,

      Yes, you are right! But if a sofa seat is 27″+ deep most people need them! ReplyCancel

  • Lin - August 28, 2016 - 9:10 AM

    You nailed it! So funny and so well stated. Loved the burger and the car comparison. Is this why I have 15 navy cardigans stuffed into my overcrowded closet? All about balance yet we Americans tend to be such manic consumers. Thank you for “grounding” me this morning.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 28, 2016 - 11:05 AM

      Hi Lin,

      Well, at least a navy cardigan is an enduring classic. I’m quite fond of cardigans myself! I never leave home without one in the summer because you never know when someone is going to have the air conditioner set at 50 degrees! (also exceedingly wasteful and unnecessary.) ReplyCancel

  • Sandy - August 28, 2016 - 8:58 AM

    So happy to hear about your mission! We live in a smaller house and it took me a long time to find an attractive, quality sofa that would actually fit in our family room. I had to special-order it. Most of the furniture in showrooms are behemoth monsters that remind me of the Stay-Puff marshmallow man. Yay, Laurel!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 28, 2016 - 11:02 AM

      Hi Sandy,

      Every market I hold my breath waiting for the light to go off! And yes, there are some offerings that fit in with this aesthetic. Hickory Chair does a great job with that, but a sofa from there is going to sell for at least 10k and that is out of reach for a lot of people.ReplyCancel

  • nancy keyes - August 28, 2016 - 8:27 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    The photo of Albert Hadley’s room is the exact one that I use a the cover photo for my pinterest board “Absolute All Time Favorites!!! I LOVE the room and the STORY!!
    XOReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 28, 2016 - 10:59 AM

      Hi Nancy,

      I love the room too. The white floor version, right? It is the perfect example of how traditional can be modern at the same time. He makes it look easy with an added dash of high style.

      And notice, no big rugs. I love rugs, but sometimes, it takes things to another level without one. But sea grass is a lot like no rug. It’s just another texture.ReplyCancel

      • nancy keyes - August 28, 2016 - 5:20 PM

        Yes, the white floor version. I had several painted floors in my previous house. Planning to paint my sunroom black (after Labor Day) with a white floor. And I love seagrass, too. Have them in all of my rooms on the first floor…Loved today’s blog!ReplyCancel

  • Emilia - August 28, 2016 - 8:06 AM

    Near the late 70’s a decorator convinced us to get a sectional. We quickly found out that instead of providing flexibility of layout – it was absolutely limiting. It could only be placed pretty much one way. Also guests would be forced to sit together too closely.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 28, 2016 - 10:55 AM

      Hi Emilia,

      Yeah… sectionals are not the best for conversing and there’s no place to put down a drink except for a coffee table if one is in the corner. (unless there’s a sofa table behind)ReplyCancel

  • Nancy Robertson - August 28, 2016 - 7:56 AM

    You’re so right, Laurel, scale is everything. I’m just an amateur when it comes to decorating, but I’ve found scale is just as important or even more important than style or color. And I’ve found that for some things, even one inch makes a huge difference.

    I can’t stand oversized furniture or furniture arrangements in which one or more parts are too large, too small; too tall, too short; too fat, too thin; too deep, too shallow. Things need to be in balance or the room will never look right.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 28, 2016 - 10:53 AM

      Hi Nancy,

      Balance is definitely the word. And it’s probably one of the most difficult to achieve. ReplyCancel

  • Kathi - August 28, 2016 - 7:46 AM

    Laurel, one of your best posts ever! I love to find old decorating books from the “Masters” -They were so amazing and their designs still will fit well in todays homes- We downsized from a 5500 sq house to a 1200 sq foot Condo with the narrowest living room ever built, because they put in a massive brick fireplace, that looks like it belongs in a ski lodge-The only saving grace is a super tall wood ceiling painted in BM Gray Owl. We used a white curved sectional from our old game room that was brand new-( I know, but it is the only furniture in the room ) and it surprised everyone how well it fits in the room, the other owners had a couch, 2 chairs and it looked so crowded- scale is everything! Amazing how large furniture can look great in a small room. Less is more!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 28, 2016 - 10:50 AM

      Hi Kathi,

      Yes, sometimes one large piece in and of itself works beautifully. And I have nothing against normal sectionals, but those pit things are just too weird. They are just begging to be used as a trampoline! haha.ReplyCancel

  • Betty - August 28, 2016 - 4:38 AM

    While I was looking for a house last year I saw so much overstuffed furniture it made my eyes tear. Huge rolled arms, multiple giant pillows and tufting – oh the tufting – crammed into historic narrow homes it made one claustrophobic. Much of this furniture reminded me of the giant Stay Puft man. You couldn’t see the house for all the over sized, over the top furniture. I don’t believe that furniture should overtake a room but enhance it and when a person enters it they say “ahhhh”. It is up to you and other designers to keep pounding away against “trends” and keep telling us that furniture needn’t be over the top expensive, but it really is about the aesthetic of the room and just plain good old taste.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 28, 2016 - 10:48 AM

      Hi Betty,

      Yes, indeed Betty. Our grandchildren are going to laugh at us in a few years. Remember grandma’s four foot deep sofa? hahahahaha!!! What were they thinking???ReplyCancel

  • Bambi - August 28, 2016 - 1:42 AM

    Bwaaaaa–that chimney looks like a baby ostrich peaking out of the roof! Seriously though, I enjoyed the post as I do all of your posts. Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 28, 2016 - 10:42 AM

      Hi Bambi,

      It always blows my mind when I see something so absurdly tasteless.ReplyCancel

  • Libby - August 28, 2016 - 12:54 AM

    A wonderful and entertaining post – so glad there will be a part 2 or more! You left us on a cliffhanger!
    I’m delighted to learn about the Pyne Hollyhock fabric! I never knew that story. I am familiar with the designers you noted and I love the Hadley room you highlighted. Really all the rooms were elegant, comfortable and quite timeless.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 28, 2016 - 10:40 AM

      Hi Libby,

      Thanks so much. As I was writing, I realized that there were two separate but related topics. But the next one is more focused on the specifics of the designs and some interesting observations.ReplyCancel

    • Libby - August 28, 2016 - 12:55 AM

      I mean I am familiar with their work and who they were, to be clear.ReplyCancel

  • Leah - August 28, 2016 - 12:21 AM

    When I was a kid in the 60s my parents had a sectional sofa in our living room. I guess the idea was that it would provide a lot of seating but who wants to sit in a line like people in an airport? Not conducive to socializing, that’s for sure. Plus no one sat in the corner so that was wasted space. I guess a sectional sofa is ok for a family room where everyone can stretch out. All I know is I’d never want one.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 28, 2016 - 12:30 AM

      Hi Leah,

      Yeah, I think that sectionals, even if they are sleek are better used for TV watching. I always so that no matter how large a sofa, if it’s straight across, only two people are going to sit on it if conversing. So, it’s best to get the one that fits in the room.

      I remember our sixties living room in Indiana so well. We had these two very sleek turquoise sofas. Very modern.ReplyCancel