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 the 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 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.
master PRIMARY 🙄 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 on the basement level. I bet their Christmas is super fun!
There are a lot more images here! Yes, it’s for sale.
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!”
What happened to Elsie DeWolf, and Billy Baldwin?
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.
photo from 1969 by Michael Mundy via The Devoted Classicist
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.
The image above and below via Rustic Chic and great post as well!
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.
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 of the greatest interior designers of our time, Albert Hadley, always got it right, whether it was living room furniture or everything else.
I know at least one book in the book list that features his rooms.
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 leather 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 George Smith chair is coming up for auction soon.
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.
Of course, there’s Etsy, Chairish, and 1stDibs.
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)
I have no deep interest in home decor and design, but we’re sprucing up our pad to sell it, and I stumbled onto your page while looking for ideas. I am dying laughing. The tips are legitimately helpful as well,so thank you, but I’ll be coming back here even after our house makeover is complete. I need to see ALL the horrible mansions.
“Sometimes it feels like you also have to buy the moving van along with the furniture.”… lol. Yes. Happens every time I try to buy furniture from Chairish.
You’re not obligated to use their delivery people, but it’s a helluva lot easier. After years in the business getting stuff shipped a la carte, is always expensive as well as time-consuming. I’ve ordered from Chairish numerous times and the shipping was always fast and professional. No problems.
If it’s a large piece and coming out of state, there’s usually an interstate shipping company that delivers the piece(s) to a local receiver who then makes the final delivery to the recipient’s home.
Hi Laurel, my comment(question) is concerning a different post – How To Get Window Treatments Like You See In Magazines. But I couldn’t figure out how to leave a comment there. I noticed that in the blog, you mention using a certain number of “panels” per curtain and rounding up to the nearest fabric width. But in a room with several windows where you are aiming at a certain fullness, would you use the whole width of fabric or trim to keep all the windows at close to the same fullness? Is there much difference between a fullness of 2.4 and 2.8? I guess that means adjusting the pleats and the spaces between?
My next question is regarding the examples of french pleats shown in your blog. They seem to be tacked together at the top of the pleat, where most examples I see are tacked at the top and bottom. I find that your examples have the fullness but not the formality of the ones more commonly seen. Do you still prefer this style of french pleat?
I feel I should apologize for butting in with these questions about a totally different topic.Thank you for this post and for others, including the one on drapery which I have looked at more than once,
There are approximately 800 posts. So, in the name of sanity after two months, the comments automatically get turned off. As for your questions. They are valid, but I can’t see what you’re talking about exactly, so can’t answer. Plus, I need to discourage asking questions not pertaining to the post. I’m sorry, but it’s just me, here and something has to give.
Great post – right on! I think houses are like purses — the bigger they are the more stuff you put in them but that doesn’t necessarily make them as chic as a smaller but fully functional one. I’ve lived in houses of all sizes and types and now living in a more modestly proportioned older house – embracing the cozy cottage ambiance. It just feels right, because proportions are everything which the best architects and designers like you can recognize… Unfortunately many newer homes just don’t feel right because they get the proportions wrong, but it’s difficult to find older houses built just right because everyone’s in a rush to tear them down and build back bigger mcmansions. Same with furniture. I like to buy the vintage stuff before companies started cranking out the style du jour compromising quality for trends. There’s incredible value out there with these online auctions and local marketplaces. It’s also fun to hunt them down and score a really good deal or rescue a piece of design history + you don’t have to deal with supply chain issues 🙂
Is that better? I didn’t change much. Maybe every other comment was slightly lighter. But, now they are all the same. The font is a little smaller than for the posts. Maybe that’s the problem?
I’m so sorry to hear about your Dad. It sounds sudden which is always such a shock.
The phone call.
Hope the weather isn’t too bad and you don’t get stuck, traveling. xoxox
Gorgeous and Kinderhook is an elegant area in Columbia County.
Hi Laurel, this house link below is a couple miles away from me…check out the murals in the great foyer …. the only thing the house in TX did for me… was make me realize that this other house at 7.8mill maybe isn’t so overpriced afterall??? 🙄🙄
Laurel, this post raises a decorating question I am currently pondering. I own a Hancock and Moore sofa. I purchased it for a song, from my (very wealthy) friends when they were moving to Florida and, liquidating their furnishings. It is very well made but, slightly outmoded. I have an amazing upholsterer who can make the necessary changes to bring it up to my current standards. This will cost a lot of money. Probably more than a new sofa from a “better” brand. Is the investment worth it?
I would like to ask a small favor? The text that you use for your comments is so light, it can barely be seen? Is it possible for it to be darkened?
Also sorry about joe! I too carry around a plant from ohio to Florida yearly, just can’t find anyone willing to water😩
If I was going to build a castle, I’d look to English Georgian manors, French chateaus, or American shingle style, rather than making up my own style from my imagination!
Haha I’m from Southlake (don’t judge) and that “house” has been for sale for many years. I don’t think that it’s ever been occupied. There isn’t much in the way of landscaping around it either which makes it look even worse. I find it hilarious that you’re giving it somewhat nationwide attention🙂
Mrs. Pyne must be a Southern girl with that hair
I love Nancy Pyne’s houses so much and the story behind them! Every time she is published my eye goes right to the bench and I sigh. Sunday and this morning I went down the rabbit hole clicking on links that were you linked to our houses. Always makes me smile! Thank you! Poor Joe…
I was very relieved to see that the Paley sofa looks almost exactly like our living room sofa. A few years ago my husband and I replaced our very well worn living room chairs with high end, very neat and tidy looking leather recliners, largely because I could no longer sit comfortably in the evening with my legs down. It’s an age thing, I guess.
I love all the living rooms you show, but a lot of the smaller chairs are only suitable for guests during afternoon calls or a proper afternoon tea. Legs and feet together, and back erect. Good discipline, but not what you want when collapsing at night after a long day.
So sorry about Joe! Believe it or not my husband still has a plant that his mother bought him as a freshman in college, which was in 1982! It’s doing better than ever.
It’s amazing how attached you can get to a plant.
I agree with you that oversized and boxy sectionals are too “man den” and don’t look good.
Classic is so much better.
My friend’s family had one of those pit sectionals when we were kids. Too many pieces to move around. As kids we loved it but it would drive me nuts now as an adult.
Overstuffed furniture piled with pillows and throw blankets, you need a big room for all that stuff. Slim it all down, people!! The whole castle thing? Falls into the category of living according to a theme,a big NO NO.
Oh dear, that horrid house is less than 20 miles from me. Yikes! Does this entire McMansion appear as though it’s been smeared with…poo? Only $5M for a great big poo pile. Mmm.
Farewell, Joe. He would want you to be happy, dear Laurel. Like fishes in the sea, the are other plants in the forest…er, Home Depot.
Thanks for a wonderful post!
Joe died? I’m so sorry. I’ve lost some plants in my day & the best thing to do is get another one.
You’ll feel better. 😘
Great post as usual. Sorry about Joe. When you are ready, maybe you should consider getting a ZZ plant. They don’t require much care — just watering every 7 to 10 days and some light — but have nice glossy leaves. Find a wonderful jardiniere (larger than Joe’s pot) and use it to hold the pot the ZZ plant is in.
So sorry Joe is no longer with you. After the grieving period, please find a wonderful replacement. Joe would want you to do that.
Years ago I would go the the decorator showcase home in northern Virginia. Once it became all McMansions, I stopped going. The workmanship was deplorable. Have an acquaintance who bought one of them and the construction was so bad the engineer said if you have more than 20 people upstairs, the floor will cave in. They fixed it and sold the piece of junk for $7,000,000. She didn’t have taste.
That McMansion!!! Oh, my. I live in a “Leave It to Beaver” neighborhood with homes built from 1920s through 1940s with sidewalks, etc. Someone bulldozed three homes and built a Spanish style McMansion that we all call “Olive Garden East”. The decorating inside is straight out of the mall. UGLY.
Hi Laurel! I’m a bit ashamed to see that the grunt castle is in Texas. Not surprised, just a bit embarrassed as a Texan. Why is it in this world that the people with money have absolutely NO TASTE. One of the tragedies of life, I suppose. LOVE your blog! Always good for a chuckle and ALWAYS very informative. Have a healthy and wonderful 2022!
We used to see a lot of these McMansions when we’d go around the ‘rich’ part of town to check out the C’mas lights when I was growing up. Whenever a particular monstrosity was spotted, my sister would say, “That house was built by poor folks with money!”
Hi Laurel, I was still able to find a made in USA sofa, with your specs & was able to pick back pillow style, feet, arms,cushion design and fabric.I chose attached pillow back, hope I don’t regret. The down side is….I will receive in September!!!
Laurel, all those gorgeous living rooms with the exquisite furniture are ideal for “ladies” who have guests over for cocktails before dinner. I have a living room almost like those in your photos. I used photos similar to those for inspiration when I planned my center hall colonial home 27 years ago. Only we have “fewer”of those lovely antiques and original art. To my sorrow, my husband and I never use the room. When we do entertain, it is outside on the patio and when it is just us, we lounge in our great room on the “big” comfy sofa or in the leather wingback recliner. The living room is purely for show these days.
That real estate ad made me play if I had 5 million to spend on a house what would I buy – certainly wouldn’t want to see the neighbors and the school/prison/???? across the street.
Here’s my pick, only 3M, I can hire and interior designer with the remaining 2M.
Sorry about Joe! I looked at the house on Zillow and it looks like they’ve been trying to sell it since 2011. Who would buy that monstrosity?
I knew exactly where that brown monstrosity listing would be as soon as I saw the first photo! We lived not too far from Southlake for years, and the new construction “Castle McMansions” just kept getting more and more ostentatious.
Ok…Mrs. Pyne’s hair made me laugh as much as that Mansion in TX. What was going on?
Sorry about your plant.
This was meant for Gabrielle!
Condolences to you for losing your Dad. Even though it’s for the best, it’s never easy.❤️
So sorry about Joe. A giant soul among plants.
And thank you for the McMansion report. That was a lot of ugly cheap Home Depot tile and light fixtures by the dozens. Wow. It was missing a moat. And a Renaissance festival.
If I spot a mcmansion as I drive around, I always think of you! Along with seeing weird windows shapes and multiple roof pitches. I bought my first house home in 2021 (had a condo prior) and have enjoyed decorating it with all my shopping/hoarding through the years. You are so generous in sharing your expert design principles and tips. Sweet Joe, RIP. P.s. I have Ellie, a plant from my junior year in college, I am now 50! Xo Lorrie
I’m so sorry to hear of Joe’s passing. The end of a era. How lucky for Joe that he got to travel the Northeast in his later years!
Thanks for the great post. Really makes you stop and think about furniture proportions!
Condolences on the passing of Joe, Laurel. A sad day indeed!
For those of us in Canada who are outside the shipping area of OKL, Chairish, etc., Lee Industries supplies stores in Canada with a wide ranges of lovely sofas / chairs. I’m in a fairly rural location in Atlantic Canada but there is a wonderful furniture store (Bellissimo) an hour or so away in Halifax that sells Lee Industries.
Sorry to hear about Joe, Laurel — the great nursery in the sky is full of my lost plants!
That McCastle is amazingly hideous (everything that could be done wrong is), and I note they have a “real wine tasting room [sic]”. Do you think they also have a fake wine tasting room?
Rest In Peace, Joe
Thanks for finding another McMansion…I always die laughing looking at those houses! I glimpsed a TV with an image of the Eiffel Tower…it was the best stab at artwork in the whole place! I think the design was Beauty and the Beast trying to be grown up, but didn’t manage that too well…
Sorry to hear about Joe…a week of losses. My dad passed on Fri night. Traveling to sub zero MN for his funeral, but glad for him … he was at home, and is now at peace. No hospitals or Altzheimer’s for him, and I’m glad. Just lots of great memories. I do wish I could have shown him your post…he would have enjoyed the McMansion, I think. Hope you can find a new Joe to keep you company…do stay warm up there!