JDB DIY: Tortured Scale


A dear friend of mine recently purchased a coffee table online, thinking that the design would fit perfectly in his fun and eclectic apartment. Online purchases can be tricky and sadly, when it arrived he felt that it somehow looked too tall for the space.

In reality, a coffee table should be relatively low but most American furniture companies (and all the Chinese manufacturers who distribute in the US) make tables that are too tall. A taller table can command too much space and attention and distract from everything else in the room. The table shouldn’t be eating the room. If you go into some of the nicer restaurants in New York, you will notice what I am talking about. Take Mr. Chow for example. All the furniture is a little lower than one might expect, but the room exudes class and refinement while still feeling comfortable. We live in a nation of oversized everything, but going big can make a room feel less comfy rather than more. A good place to look for furniture that’s the correct height for a room is West Elm, which sells reasonably priced pieces that are not too large.

In general, a coffee table looks most chic in a room when it stands at about 13″ tall. It is of course relative to the sofa, but it makes sense to try to keep the height of the cushions close to the height of the table so guests don’t have to reach too far up or down to rest something on the table. I have plenty to say about sofas, especially those dreadful  oversized ones, but I’ll save it for a different post.

Back to my friend with the too-tall table; would he have to send it back? No need, this one is an easy fix. We simply borrowed a hacksaw from the neighbor and trimmed two inches off the bottom. The original table had metal rings around each leg and they served as a perfect guide for running the hack saw back and forth. Now the tabletop is aligned with the cushions and the room is much more livable. Don’t be scared off by the tools, this took us about ten minutes and just look how much better it fits into the room! Much easier than the hassle of returning the table.

Catalog purchases can be great but you never know exactly how they’ll look once they arrive, so never be afraid to tweak them!

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