In some of your recent posts, you’ve mentioned something about bloated, puffy living room furniture. Well, I might be guilty of that because my living room furniture is pretty hefty. Maybe it needs to go on a diet? lol
Thank you Sophie. You know, over the years, I’ve heard the following from clients and now readers like Ms. Divan ;] regarding their living room furniture:
- It’s so tricky. My living room is big. I need bigger furniture, right?
- My room is small, so I need smaller pieces of furniture, correct?
- But, we’re really big people, and the furniture will be uncomfortable if it’s too small, right?
- not necessarily. It’s what’s inside that counts, not the overall size.
Why, no, nope, and not necessarily, 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 space?
Oh, stop looking at me like you smell onion farts. (BTW, it wasn’t me. I don’t eat onions. lol)
It’s very simple.
The living room furniture is for the people using and sitting on it, NOT for the room itself.
I’ll be right back. I’m going to grab a cup of 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 huge room?
No, not if there’s enough of it with a beautifully designed layout. Please check out this post about large living room designs.
This is a post written in the fall of 2015. It covers a lot of what I’m talking about with overscale furniture prevalent in the marketplace.
Well, guess what? It’s six years and three months later, and NOTHING has changed!
There is still a lot of living room furniture that is BIG, boxy, and in my opinion, pretty darned ugly.
Speaking of which, I have to interrupt myself because I happened on a structure I MUST share with y’all.
However, please, you must prepare yourself. I predict your eyes will open so wide you’ll be able to forgo your Botox treatments this month.
Please do not pin these following four images unless it’s for a public service warning.
Adorable, ain’t it?
But, please check out the rear facade.
This tasteless bastion is where I believe they take prisoners of war to get them to talk. I counted 11 condensers. How many do you see? Can you imagine the utility bill to keep this heap of brown barf cool?
I’m only going to include two more images and then the link, in case you’re interested in purchasing.
The master bathroom. (on the off-chance you are wondering) I wonder how many people are involved in this marriage?
Below, is by far my favorite part of the house.
That’s because no detail was left undone. I’m incredibly impressed that they thought to include not one but TWO HUMONGOUS cash-wrap counters in the basement level. I bet their Christmas is super fun!
I’m curious about one thing, however. I mean, wasn’t there even ONE person who tried to talk these folks down from the McMansion Hell ceiling? Or, did they all say, “Quick, take the money and RUN!”
And Albert Hadley?
Yes, I know. These giants of the interior design world have passed on to the great decorating beyond.
However, they are amongst the greatest of the 20th and, into the 21st century. They understood scale, proportion, and timeless styling.
Okay, I will stop blabbing and start showing you exactly what I mean.
A grand living room designed by Albert Hadley for Mrs. Nancy (Princess) Pyne back in the 1960s.
Did Frank Babb Randolph steal Mr. Hadley’s idea? Well, I bloody well hope so because it’s perfect, and why mess with that? And also, Mr. Randolph usually does bare floors. Of course, Albert Hadley has influenced untold thousands of designers during and after his tenure.
Above, Mrs. Pyne in her tres chic living room, designed by Albert Hadley circa 1965
Can I tell you how much I love this room?
And tell me does it look even remotely dated? (old photography aside)
Well, I don’t think so.
Below is a far smaller living room also decorated by Albert Hadley decades later. And yes, it’s also for Mrs. Pyne’s next home!
I love the white painted floors. They make this room feel so fresh, and the dark brown antiques stand out.
My mood board from the Laurel Home Paint and Palette Collection for Simply White is a tribute to Albert Hadley’s gorgeous room.
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 of the greatest interior designers of our time, Albert Hadley, always got it right, whether it was living room furniture or everything else.
However, my point is that the furniture in these large rooms is not over-scale. In fact, the traditional furniture from the early 20th century through the 1970s was surprisingly petite. You can see more about that in this post about club chairs.
Another 20th-century designer who also designed custom living room furniture is William (Billy) Baldwin. (mentioned above)
Actually, Billy hated the term “interior designer.” He thought it was pretentious and preferred to be called a decorator. Whatever you call him, he was the darling of the upper east side of New York City socialites.
One of his best-known clients was William and Babe Paley. As a matter of fact, he named his Lawson-arm sofa and chair “Paley” after them.
Above is a Paley Sofa in Billy Baldwin’s small NYC apartment. The walls are lacquered a chocolate brown. Now, THIS is how to do brown. Alas, this is the best quality image I could find of his elegant apartment.
So, then. Here’s the question.
How did our living room furniture go from this?
human-scaled Paley sofa by Billy Baldwin (and still manufactured here.)
To this monstrosity?
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 to recline.
What the hell happened?
Here’s what I think.
As a society, we’ve been long overly bloated, overly-consumptive. Right?
1960’s Ford Mustang
2016 Ford Excursion (purchased for a family of three)
1950’s hamburger – a whopping 15 cents!
2022 whopper of a heart attack on a plate
1960’s slim family (raise your hand if your Dad wore a tie to dinner) – Remember when we could eat all the carbs we wanted and didn’t put on an ounce?
The modern 2022 family who’s now vegan, gluten-free, and low-carb.
Honey, does this sofa make me look fat?
So, Laurel, where can we find living room furniture, and I guess you mean primarily sofas and chairs that are of excellent scale?
That’s an excellent question.
In my years living in New York City, I saw numerous beauties that folks had dumped on the sidewalk. Of course, they all needed to be reupholstered, but I imagine if you live in NYC, that’s one possibility.
Other inexpensive possibilities are consignment shops, estate sales, and auction houses.
One of my favorites online sources is Live Auctioneers. There you can find some extreme high-end and gorgeous pieces at starting prices that are about 95% off their retail value. Of course, they aren’t sold for that low an amount.
However, a few months ago, I saw some George Smith chairs that I loved, and I believe the pair, newly upholstered, went for about $3,500.00. The total retail price would be at least five times that amount.
This requires work and patience, but Facebook Marketplace sometimes turns up some gems that folks are only too happy to unload.
Not everyone realizes what they are sitting on. (pun semi-intended, lol)
After that is eBay, I’ve got some beautiful items on eBay.
Please pay attention to the BOTTOM-LINE prices. Sometimes shipping is included, and sometimes it feels like you also have to buy the moving van along with the furniture.
Now, most of the living room furniture from those sources (but not all) is vintage and antique furniture.
Well, you guys who’ve been reading me for a while already know my favorite online sources for the new living room furniture. You can see all of them on the HOT SALES page. Melissa just updated it today.
In closing, what I find interesting, is that most of the top designers today are doing beautifully scaled furniture. A lot of it is fully custom. That means, if it’s upholstery, it’s made entirely from scratch, frame, and all. That way, they can design their pieces to precise specifications.
PS: I have some very sad news.
After a protracted illness, my loyal, and wise companion; my darling Joe the Plant passed away on January 25th, 2022. I will always cherish the good times we shared and be grateful for the 2,235 days he stood by me, stoically listening without judgment. But, he also knew when it was time to speak up and give me the best advice and support when I needed it the most.
Rest in Peace Dearest Joe (Dec. 16, 2015 – January 25, 2022)