torstar file photo


The Egg chair, designed by Arne Jacobsen, may catch your eye in a showroom, but make sure it can fit through your front door before you buy it. See


“We can’t count how many times we have winced at a large and lovely sofa jammed into a small space.”

Buying furniture can be a great experience. You look for a design you love and fabric to die for — but wait a minute! When you buy furniture, make sure you are not committing a design crime. The design team can spot a bad furniture decision a mile away, and believe us, it’s more common than you would think.

One of the biggest problems Tammy and I see is furniture that does not suit the scale of the room. Sure, people may take length measurements, but they don’t consider the curving arms, or the depth of the sofa, for instance. In some cases, we could swear the buyer bought purely on instinct, with eyeballing as the main method of measurement.

Please don’t do this, we beg you! Going with your gut when it comes to imagining how a piece of furniture fits into your room is a huge mistake, and can often lead to grievous design crimes. A piece of furniture viewed in a huge, echoing furniture showroom does not look the same as it would in your cosy living room. We can’t count how many times we have winced at a large and lovely sofa jammed into a small space.

To avoid this, decide how you would like to arrange that room, and measure off the size (including both length and width) that you can afford to devote to your sofa and any other pieces of furniture.

Mark it off on the floor with tape or place newspapers in the precise area to ensure that you have enough room to manoeuvre around furniture — there is nothing that ruins good design more than cramped conditions. To avoid awkward ergonomics, also note the height of windows and any other details such as wall outlets, heating vents, light switches and so on.

Also keep in mind that fabric looks different under different lighting conditions. What you see in the showroom may look different at home, against different wall colours and lighting conditions. If you can, take home a swatch of fabric and observe it at different times in the day before you buy. If you can’t get a swatch, but you must have that piece of furniture, do yourself a favour and make sure you can return it if the look does not work at home.

Part of being prepared is knowing what you are looking for. The most obvious way to do this is to flip through design magazines, browse through furniture stores, do Internet searches, get fabric samples. Have a clear idea of the style and elements you are seeking before you buy.

Another big problem is buying furniture that has the look you like, but isn’t comfortable. It seems fairly obvious, but sit in a chair, lay down in a bed, or lounge on a sofa if you are considering buying it. And do it for as long as you need to make an informed decision. Some furniture has armrests that doesn’t feel restful, or a backrest that doesn’t feel great on your back. Some may simply not fit your body type or height — but you need to check to know.

Also be aware of what is an acceptable price range for you. As with any major purchase, you want to avoid buying on impulse. And avoid buying by committee — limit input to your significant other or a close and trusted friend with a good sense of design. Too many people’s opinions on style and taste only produces confusion — believe us!

And last, but certainly not least, do not forget to measure doors and elevators. No matter how much research you’ve done, and how wonderfully prepared you are, that piece of furniture isn’t going anywhere if you can’t get it in the front door!

Catch Arresting Design every W Network. See