Until you’ve mastered the art of How to Measure your Room, you will be at the mercy of guesswork and disappointment. Take a minute to learn this useful skill.
Okay, in our view, people fall into two categories: those organised, careful individuals who own a good measuring tape and the go-with-the-flow, “it’ll be grand” types who don’t! You can easily recognise either candidate. The first person takes an hour to hang a picture to get it ‘absolutely right’. The second person, installs a washing machine without reading the instructions and spends an afternoon mopping a floor! You know who you are!
So, our advice before we start is this – Go out and buy a measuring tape. Any good hardware store will have a retractable tape that will be the very best investment you will ever make. Once you have your basic piece of equipment, you are ready to start!
Okay. Let’s get going.
When you measure any room, you should take as many readings as necessary to get a full footprint of the entire room. If it is a sitting room, for instance, measure the longest and widest part of the room. Then measure the length of the room from the back wall to the fireplace (if you have one). Also take a measurement from the back wall to both alcoves either side of the fireplace. As well, take a measurement of the width and depth of the alcoves themselves.
This is the basic first principle.
Drawing to Scale
If you have just built you home, get your architect to send you an enlarged floor drawing of whichever room you are furnishing. It will be to scale so you can draw in your preferred furniture to give you a good idea of the floor space that will be consumed by your chosen pieces.
This is usually where most How to Guides give up. There is a misconception that if the furniture ‘fits’ on the floor comfortably it will look great. Sadly, this is no guarantee that you will get the finish and format you had dreamt of as you scrolled through a thousand images on Houzz!
The next step to ensuring you are choosing a piece that will sit perfectly within your space is to take more measurements.
You will need to measure the following:
- The ceiling height – this should be measured to give you detail on the height from floor to the full height of the room. The height from the floor to the lower edge of any coving. The height from the floor to the lowest point of any light features.
- The height of any chimney piece – from floor to top of the mantle and the height from the top of the mantle to the coving and / or ceiling.
- The full width of the fireplace including any scrolling or mouldings. In fact, always take into account any added embellishment on corners that might add extra millimetres to any lengths. These can often be ignored when measuring.
- Measure any doorways in the room and always include the measurement of the architrave in the doorway measurement.
- Make a note of the pathway of a door if it opens into a room or opens outward. If the door opens into the room, this space is owned by the door and not the room.
- Measure the actual entry size of the doorway, height and width.
- Measure the height of any skirting boards in the room.
- Measure windows – the distance from floor to the window board, the width of the window (this should include the full width of the window board and any window architraves, the height from the top of the window to the ceiling or coving.
- Take a note of any access points like sockets or air vents, switches for lights etc.
- Measure any built-in cabinets and note if their doors open outwards or slide as this consumes a certain amount of floor space.
- Measure any existing furniture you have in your room. Three measurements for all pieces: length, width and height.
Time for a Cup of Tea
After all of this, you will feel you’ve really gotten value out of your new shiny measuring tape. As well, you’ll feel ready for a restoring cup of tea before you embark on the next stage of activity!
Old School Recommendation for Buying Furniture
Check out any online suggestions for choosing the right size furniture and you will be given the age-old suggestion of laying out newspapers on the floor to create a footprint of the pieces you are considering. This is a very good first-step for anyone to use. It helps to identify how much floor space is consumed by your potential purchases.
The area where it falls short, in our view, is that it doesn’t take into consideration all of the other variables that are so important to consider when furnishing a space.
For instance, if you have a very low ceiling and you decide to choose a very high-backed sofa or chair, you can make your ceilings appear even lower. This has the unfortunate effect of making your room look very compressed and pokey.
As well, you won’t fully understand the impact a piece of furniture can have on the views from your room into the world outside. We’ve seen the most amazing views partially blocked by the wrong style of chair or cabinet in a room.
The way to offset this issue is the fun part of the exercise.
It’s time to create a very rough 3-D model of the piece of furniture you are hoping to purchase. This can really be a lot of fun and if you have children, they absolutely love this game! If you are thinking of buying an attractive armchair, then try to create a model of what size the actual piece is. Building your masterpiece in exactly the location in your room where you want this piece to live. The way we advise you do it, is grab a couple of kitchen chairs, a few cardboard boxes, anything really that will give you the required length, width and height.
When you’ve built your masterpiece – do please be careful you don’t get trapped under an avalanche of cardboard – throw a plain coloured sheet over your sculptural masterpiece. Now you can see how much space this chair will take in your room.
Does the Proposed Piece of Furniture work?
Here are key questions to ask yourself as you admire your creative efforts.
- As you walk around your edifice, see if you can easily access sockets with this chair or sofa in place.
- Note if the chair’s height in any way blocks a key view for others in the room eg. A direct line of sight to a TV or that spectacular view you might have from your window.
- If you need to put a small lamp table by the chair, is there enough room for the chair and table.
- Go out of the room, and walk in again. When you do this, you will take in the whole room at one glance. You will see instantly, if the proposed chair is too big sitting alongside your other furniture. For example, it might be too bulky next to a rather streamlined, petite sofa.
- When the chair is in place, will it be too close to your fireplace and in danger of scorching when the fire is lit.
- Does the chair completely block a radiator or heat source is your room?
- Can you easily open and close any door or access cabinets within the room?
- If you’ve a very low drop ceiling pendant light, will it hang very close to a tall piece of furniture thus taking from both the light and the furniture?
Lines, Lines, Lines
Your next consideration, really takes your purchasing decision to the level of Graduate Interior Designer. Don’t be put off by this. I am guessing you are a gold star user of Pinterest and know what you find pleasing or not so pleasing when you check out some of those spectacular images.
We will talk you through furnishing a sitting room. Most of the rules for this room can be applied elsewhere. Here we go:
- If you are starting with a blank canvas, the sofa is the biggest consideration for your room. If you have a very large room with good ceiling height, then the world is your oyster and you can choose virtually any style.
- If your room is rather small or has low ceilings, a clever thing is to choose a sofa that is on legs. Even if they are just small ones. This creates a sense of openness in a room and makes it feel less restricted with big, blocky pieces in the room. A low backed sofa, also ‘raises’ the ceiling.
- Once you’ve identified your sofa of choice – contemporary, funky, classical, streamlined, you can search out the ideal chairs to complement your choice. Chairs in the same style as the sofa give a very neat and tidy appearance to a room. You can make it very interesting though by choosing a fabric finish for the chairs that is different to the sofa.
- If the sofa is a big piece in the room, do choose chairs that are more streamlined, footprint wise, to complement the room. If the chair doesn’t match the sofa style-wise, it is recommended you find a chair which is taller than the sofa to create a pleasing line in the room.
- If you have to put your sofa or chair immediately in front of a window (something that is less than ideal), step the sofa out enough so that you can open the window, adjust the curtains or blinds without having a degree in mountaineering!
- As a rule, keep all seating away from the walls. Even if it’s just a 10cm gap, it makes your room appear more spacious.
- Curtains are critical to the overall flow of the space but a lot of contemporary homes are opting for minimal window dressings. Ceiling to floor voiles in neutral shades can offer a contemporary finish for a house without conventional curtains.
- Buy a rug large enough to sit slightly under the front feet of your sofa and also under the front feet of any complementary chairs. This unifies your overall scheme and brings it together.
This is the comprehensive guide to How to Measure your Room. At Butterfly Furniture, we work with customers with many styles of homes as well as diverse tastes. We love giving valuable and meaningful advice on which of our contemporary furniture pieces will transform your home from Bland to Grand!
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