Designer Trick : Tips for Getting Scale Right

Designer Trick : Tips for Getting Scale Right - roomfortuesday.comI’m back with the second post in the “Designer Trick” series and this one is VERY important. So often, I see people ignoring scale or accidentally mixing items into a space that aren’t the appropriate size. Another issue I often hear is in regards to placing online orders… the item arrives and it’s a totally different size than expected. Given most people order everything online these days, scale and measurements are super important. It’s a design mistake that can easily be avoided and will make your space look much more intentional and balanced. Click through to check out my tips for getting scale right.

Designer Trick : Tips for Getting Scale Right - roomfortuesday.comYou’ve probably noticed blue painters tape scattered throughout my home renovations over the years. If you’ve been following along for awhile now, maybe you think that’s odd considering I NEVER use painter’s tape for painting. It’s a product I often turn to for another use… scale. I love taping things out to get a visual representation of how much space a piece will occupy.

Designer Trick : Tips for Getting Scale Right - roomfortuesday.comThis comes in handy for area rugs, furniture foot prints, reconfiguring walls, etc. I always rough tape large items onto the floor- and sometimes I’ll even tape a wall to get a sense for height or art placement. This is really the easiest, stupid simple way to understand and visualize scale. I use this trick throughout the entire design process- even the construction phase (pictured above). I was determining the size of the custom rug in our previous laundry room.

Designer Trick : Tips for Getting Scale Right - roomfortuesday.comI’d also highly recommend carrying a tape measure with you for the duration of a project. I keep a small tape in my purse because I never know when I’ll find something I want or need. It’s nice to be able to measure on the spot for reference. I’ve saved a lot of money and passed on plenty of furniture I thought was perfect until I whipped out my tape. I needed super skinny nightstands for one of our bedrooms and I nearly passed on the ones pictured below because I thought they’d be too large. If it weren’t for my tape measure, this pair of vintage nightstands would’ve never came home with me. Here we are, six years later, and they’re still favorite pieces of furniture.

Designer Trick : Tips for Getting Scale Right - roomfortuesday.comAnother tip? I never purchase items for a project without floor planning. You don’t need fancy software to do this. Basic grid paper and quick sketching works just as well! Otherwise, there is plenty of free software available you can use to make the job fast & easy. You don’t have to be an interior designer to floor plan. It really helps you grasp the overall footprint of an entire room and how the objects within it work together. I’ll print floor plans, sketch on them, move things around, and figure out which layout makes the most sense.

Designer Trick : Tips for Getting Scale Right - roomfortuesday.comYou also need to be aware of the negative space in a room and the scale it represents. Consider the traffic path and make sure there is adequate room to walk around furniture. Here are some basic example measurements to remember…

  • ~36″ is an adequate traffic path
  • minimum clearance between furniture is 18″ (example… coffee table to sofa)
  • 24″ around the perimeter of a dining table

In the below photo, I was planning kitchen cabinetry for our current renovation and was measuring the negative space & traffic path. I always triple check my measurements and make sure I have plenty of room to play with- especially when designing something costly, like kitchen cabinets.

Designer Trick : Tips for Getting Scale Right - roomfortuesday.comLastly, it’s important to consider scale in comparison to other objects in a space. For example, an oversized sofa in a living room wouldn’t look great paired with a small, apartment sized chair or coffee table. You want to make sure furniture feels balanced and works well with the other pieces in the room. Keep it consistent!

Designer Trick : Tips for Getting Scale Right - roomfortuesday.comSome of these tips might seem obvious, but it’s definitely a good reminder to consider scale, measure, map it out, floor plan, and stay consistent for the most balanced, beautiful home! Questions? Thoughts? Drop me a comment below. Are there any other painters tape planners out there? It’s really the best trick. I often tell clients to do this and they respond with “oohhhhh DUH!!! Great idea!”

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  1. I definitely use painters’ tape for this purpose! It’s so helpful. It has absolutely saved me countless times from buying furniture and rugs that would not do. I actually wish some online sellers would do a better job of representing scale in their photos… And I really need to purchase a dainty purse tape measure because the one I carry when I go thrifting adds two pounds to my bag! Good tips! (How are Cash’s photoshop skills coming along? 🤣)

    1. It really is… and SAME! I also agree with retailers doing a better job of representing scale. I carry my big tape measure most of the time, ha! Cash is my computer intern ;)

  2. Ah, the internet consumer issue of our times – online shopping with (sometimes accidental) disregard for scale. It’s happened to us all! I think this issue should be Amazon’s next shopping feature – full-size holograms appearing right next to you as you hover over a product image.

    I’m a big fan too of exploring scale in the space with templates/tape. When we renovated our kitchen, at my print shop I made to-scale paper templates of the cabinets (width/depth) and island, including appliance gaps, and laid them out – it really helped me get a feel for the space and layout prior to install (luckily everything was great and this didn’t prompt any last minute changes). Same when I was deciding on the round chandelier size – 48″ or 60″ round? It became immediately clear which one was better suited for the space when there was a round paper template on the floor.

    I’ve also used Modsy a few times now, an online furniture/decor layout program. Very helpful, though they’re leading you to purchase products from certain companies. Great for someone like my sister, who doesn’t inherently WANT to spend 6 months picking out a sofa (let alone all the other decor pieces that go into making a space complete). But it was cool to see what layouts they came up with (both were clever) and it did help with scale, as you upload actual images of your space and provide basic dimensions.

    1. It has happened to us all, hahah!! I’m just envisioning the hologram idea and I feel like that would be the coolest!! How can we make that happen? I haven’t tried Modsy, but have heard great things about it :)

  3. Yesssss. Painters tape FTW. I’m a big fan and use it before pulling the trigger on so many purchases. And I actually keep a free Home Goods tape measure in a pocket of my purse for measuring on the go. It doesn’t scratch other things in my purse like a metal measure could, holds up surprisingly well, and weighs nothing!

    1. My thoughts exactly- that stuff saves me when it comes to visualizing. I think I need a new petite tape measure to carry around. My bulky one definitely messes stuff up in my purse.

  4. Em DeMent says:

    Love the basic measurement examples!! As someone with no design training that is so helpful! Your posts are always so informative and useful! Thank you!

    1. That makes me so happy to hear!! Hope you had a great weekend, Em!

  5. We’re upgrading from a queen to a king bed and it’s obviously throwing off our entire bedroom layout, so I did a lot of sketching on graph paper to figure out what sort of dimensions our new nightstands needed to max out at! I’m also using this as an excuse to get a new shallower dresser – the one that moved with us from our old apartment is too deep and doesn’t leave much room to walk between it and the foot of our bed :(

    I also saw a really good trick for using painter’s tape of you want to hang 2+ frames of the same size next to each other: stick the tape on the wall where you want the nails to be (making sure it’s level), draw marks on the tape for how far apart the nails should be, and then hammer away! It worked like a charm for us in the living room and the nursery.

  6. I’d love a post about quick measurement hacks – like min and max for walkways and spacing between things. Would be sooooo helpful

    1. Oooh, love that idea! Thanks for sharing, Alex. I’m adding it to my 2021 blog calendar :)

  7. Hi! Just found your blog and love your “voice” in giving really explicit information. Thank you! One areaI could use more help in is SCALE. Can you drill down on this a bit more? How you figure out the scale in a room of this oversized couch should go with xyz so maybe it’s not ALL oversized etc?

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Thank you so much, Erin! Welcome- I’m really glad you found your way over here. Typically I’m faster to respond, but I was out on vacation and have been playing catch up. I made a note in my calendar to dive deeper into scale and proportion in a blog post… one that’s more specific to furniture, room size, etc. Thanks for the suggestion!