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Inspiring Ideas: The Shape of Things

by | Apr 28, 2008 | Decorating Inspiration, Details

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Inspiring Ideas: The Shape of Things

A common misconception with decorating is that if you love everything in your room, your room will magically work as a whole. I get calls all the time from clients who say “I know what I like, and I buy what I love, but when I get it home I am disappointed that it doesn’t work.” Buying what you love is generally a good idea, but to really make a room feel right, there are more things to consider than love. If it were only that simple! It isn’t always about loving everything you have, it is about how things work together. Decorating a room is like putting together a puzzle, and finding the correct shape of the pieces determines your success.

One of the tips I often share with clients is that you need to consider the shape of things when you put together a room. So often rooms are made up of mostly rectangles. Rooms are rectangles, we have rectangular couches, chairs, coffee tables, end tables and rectangular rugs. We might love each and every thing in a room, but still the room feels awkward and uncomfortable. Sometimes the reason it feels this way is because traffic through the room doesn’t flow properly if there are too many sharp angles. Especially in walkways, small rooms or tight spaces. Adding things that are rounded will make a world of difference in how the room will ultimately feel. Rounded backs on chairs, round ottomans, round rugs, curved corners and round tables will create a sense of movement that can transform a room into one that is more comfortable to move around in and more pleasing to the eye.

Interestingly, some decorators put everything in a room on an angle in order to create drama and movement, as well as to get that “WOW THIS ROOM LOOKS DIFFERENT” experience. They place a rug on a diagonal and all the furnishings diagonally in a room. Let me just say here that while it does make the room look different, you want to be careful that you are not creating nausea with the new angles. A bunch of rectangles crooked in a room still can look awkward. Turning pieces of furniture in different directions can revitalize a space, and oftentimes some pieces do in fact look better at an angle, but I would proceed with caution if anyone tells you to turn your entire room on the diagonal. You might just end up seasick. If your room is awkwardly shaped and things feel uncomfortable, try adding in rounded pieces instead.

photo: Traditional Home online


  1. diana

    what great tips… love the round ottoman as well as the round rug.

  2. Beverly

    I love the room in your picture today. I could really be happy and relaxed in those colors and furnishings.

  3. Chris

    Let me start by saying that I wish those were MY shoes in the picture, and I was laying down on that daybed. I agree with your shapes theory, but it is hard to find. I spent months looking for a round dining room table (for less that $3,000), but it was pretty much impossible. I wish that rounded items were easier and cheaper to find. Still a great design tip, however.

  4. Diana

    Great ideas – I love the rounded tip – getting round items in a room. Very interesting topic.

  5. Kim

    Love the room Melissa and great advise as well!
    I love that the walls, ceiling and window treatments are the same. Your eye has lots of nice places to land.

  6. melissa lewis - off the wall

    You are so right, great tips here.

    Love the round rug and ottoman, it works well! It’s softens the room I think.

    What kind of ceiling is that?

  7. Melissa

    Chris, I have seen some round dining tables at upscale consignment shops. There are a few of those great resale shops in my area, the ones where wealthy people send their “cast offs” when they redecorate for the new year! You can usually find a good deal, but you have to go every week though to see what is there as the offerings change frequently. And with dining tables in these consignment shops, they often are sold as matched sets. So if you don’t like that matched look, you either need to re-sell the chairs to find something new, or get creative and paint the chairs to look different from the table.

    I’ve actually seen a few round dining tables that I wished I could buy, but I didn’t have a need. I know how that goes though, when you really want something you can’t find it. When you don’t need it, you see them everywhere.

    Melissa, I think the ceiling is covered in wallpaper!

    Hope you all are having a great day!!!

  8. Mrs. B

    Ooooh, I love the room in that photo. I drooled all over my keyboard! I’m a big fan of curves in furniture! I like round but unfortunately I don’t have a whole lot of round things at home, except for my kitchen table.

    I’m not a big fan of the diagonal look. Sometimes a cabinet or armoire on the diagonal in a corner can look really nice, and I like to angle chairs, but that’s about it for me.

  9. Louise

    This is gorgeous and I do especially love how the Chanel handbag matches the room ;) Certainly a lovely room for kicking the heels off in and relaxing.

  10. Polly

    I think sometimes that the “buy what you love” phrase is a dirty little trick just for those of us who buy too often =) …After years of flea market shopping, I see the value of a few new, quality pieces and living with just SOME of what I love. By the way, I “love” that tufted ottoman” lol! Hope you’re enjoying your Monday evening. Blessings… Polly

  11. Kathleen Grace

    Great advice, I often see people in magazines espouse the, “buy what you love and it will all work out”, theory of decorating and I just couldn’t buy it. I love too many different things for them to all work together! i always love the tips you give because, really, we all have our weak spots in decorating and I can use all the advice I can get from a pro! Thanks Melissa!

  12. perfect bound

    I’m not sure what the room looks like, I only see shoes and chanel. Beautiful!

  13. Chris

    Hi Melissa. Leave it to you to come up with consignment shops! Why don’t I think of that when I”m out shopping?! Again, great advice. I’m off to look up consignment shops in my area.

  14. Melissa

    Ok, so you fashionistas who were drawn to the shoes and Chanel bag have just given me a new tip! Just put a Chanel bag in the middle of a room, toss a great pair of shoes on the rug and NO ONE WILL NOTICE if anything is wrong with your space! YES! I’m so pleased, I will share that will all of my clients!!! They can invest in the bag and forget about a new round ottoman!!! Yes, this is brilliant!

  15. Adla

    great tips . I love that circular ottoman.

  16. Lisa

    This room is just beautiful. I have never thought about considering the “shape of things”. I’ll keep that in mind. Fun post and as always a fabulous photo.

    Hope you have a great week!

  17. Jrizzo

    Thanks for the great tips! I love that room you have posted. that would be my dream room!
    Jen r

  18. Barb

    What a lovely room! Thanks for visiting my blog!

  19. Seeb

    completely agree with the article I always wonder if a round dining table take less space??

  20. dawn

    This is my DREAM space! Mind if I blog it?

  21. Aina

    Thanks for making time to creative this Fabulous post!!
    And many many thanks for thoughts full of wisdom.

    Have a fantastic Spring!

    Kiss Aina

  22. Donna Kay

    what incredible rooms – you have such a great eye – congrats on your daughter getting engaged – my oldest did that 2.5 years ago and now we are expecting out first grandchild – and my youngest just got her first car…..and time marches on!!! We just have to hang on for the ride….


  23. Tracey

    Thanks for the tips…I need some round in two of my rooms!

  24. M.Kate

    whao..what a room :)

  25. Amanda Jo

    Thanks for the blog comment! :) I don’t blame you for crying…I would have done the same thing!

    This is my first time visiting your blog and I LOVE it! We live in an apartment with a very unfortunate and inconvenient layout…I need all the design help I can get! Keep up the good work! :) I’m going to add you to my blogroll!

  26. Barbara

    This photo is such a great example of what you are describing! The round ottoman perfectly compliments the softness of the textiles and wallpaper…

    For a while there when “design” shows first became popular and everyone was saying “pull the furniture away from the wall” it felt like everyone was doing that, and in some rooms, especially smaller ones it felt even smaller or awkward. It was driving me crazy! I think you need to do what works for the room.

  27. Rhoda

    I love this pic from Trad. Home & enjoyed the article of designer tips too in this issue, although not all of them are geared toward normal houses. I love to mix in round pieces here and there too, round dining table, round ottoman and round tables do add a lot more interest in a room with all rectangles.

    Have a good week!

  28. cathy

    I have loved adding “roundness” to the decor of the rooms in my house…even if it’s just a round basket, or a round mirror, or a round side table…..makes such a comfortable difference and contrast. As for round dining room tables, I have seen many iron and glass round tables, unless you have to be practical too! As for the picture, wow!! I am adding window seats and cabinetry to our living room now, and I am so excited to be able to decorate in a new way for me…window seats are so romantic (and I’m hoping they will add addtionional seating for my large family!).

  29. Alison Gibbs

    Love the look of the round rug and ottoman

  30. Debbie

    Hi Melissa, thanks for stopping by my blog last night. How in the world did you ever find me??? I think I have seen your screen name on other blogs I have read, but I can’t remember where right now. (Too many of them!) Now I get to camp on yours for awhile. I’m loving what I see….you are a real designer. Wow. I love to decorate and help quite a few of my friends and family with paint, fabric, furniture, accessories etc. But I don’t blog about it since I am not a real designer. I just like to talk about mundane things instead. ;) Thanks again for letting me know you visited!

  31. Jill

    This is such a lovely room. I loooooove the ottoman. Now, I bet that wouldn’t be THAT hard to make. Hmmm…my creative wheels are churning!!

  32. Faith

    Thank you so much for stopping by my blog! I will have to come back to visit you for more inspiring ideas. I love your site!

  33. Bejeweled

    Great tips about mixing the shapes! And that room pic is just gorgeous! Love the ottoman! I have a round carpet and it does great things visually! My biggest decorating problem is always decorating UP, not just thinking about things that sit on the floor :)

  34. Jessica

    Hi! Thanks for visiting my blog! I can’t believe I’ve never been to The Inspired Room before! Love it!

    Keep writing!


  35. Tara


    Just back from vacation, wanted to pop in and I am knee deep in tissues over the post on your daughter’s engagement! Congrats to you and yours! What a lovely time for you this will be!

    Love this post and all of its advice…evertime I read here I store all this info in the back of my mind!!


  36. Fay

    Absolutely lovely post….round on round works well together and is a bit unusual…not expected…clients don’t think of round rugs often either….loved the calmness of the colors… didn’t notice the bag was a Chanel … I better take another look… Fay

  37. Passementerie

    Very true words. The rectangular room is a SCOURGE so far as I am concerned and not easy to furnish pleasingly. I infinitely prefer square rooms, but so few modern urban houses have them. We will be house-hunting in the UK this autumn and for that reason will only be looking at Victorian and Edwardian homes.

    And yes – the skewed rug/couch etc. Drives me insane!

    Lovely post and I like the roundness – I’m nervous of circles in that way, but maybe I shouldn’t be…

  38. sue

    What a pretty, comforting spot.

  39. meg

    So pretty.

  40. Katrina

    Great tips! I have to say, that I’ve long subscribed to the idea that you should buy what you love and it’ll work. But now that you’ve pointed it out, the logic is lacking a bit. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

  41. sandy mctier

    Love it all ~ but would so love to be carrying that chanel bag!
    Have a great day.
    Sandy :)

  42. this is glamorous

    Hello Melissa! Always loved the idea of softening the angles with rounded pieces. The featured room is beautiful–crazy about that ottoman.

    Hope you’re having a fantastic week!


  43. Pam D.

    I LOVE this room too… the daybed looks the way I’d like to build a window seat in my living room… Don’t have a color printer, but I printed the photo to keep with my “idea” file….

    I was also amazed because I just bought a smaller version of this ottoman! I found it at Ethan Allen. Since it was the only splurge I’m making this year on furniture, I could manage it. Thought I’d mention it since so many people here have loved that ottoman! :)

    I’d love a round rug like that too. I also want to get a round dining table as someone else mentioned…but haven’t looked (or priced) yet… Thanks for the tip on consignment shops. Not sure if there are any around here, but I’ll check! :)

  44. Mari-Nanci

    And illustrating one of your points perfectly … l love the effect of that large round ottamon {spelling?} in the pic.


  45. amy

    Glad I found your blog! Can’t wait to explore more!

  46. Dena

    Oh, how I wish I would’ve read this a couple of hours ago! I just passed up a beautiful round coffee table to replace my rectangular one! I got home and tried to picture the new in one in the space, and immediately I knew I need something round in the space. I had the same exact thought you articulated – too many rectangles!
    Maybe I’ll go back after I pick up the kids from school and see if it’s still there…
    great post.

  47. Brandie Kajino

    I love this post! I never really thought about the shape of the actual furnishings in a room, other than mixing it up for interest. You made me think (and some might say it hurts). :)

  48. JDiTomaso

    Great ideas ! I love this site and this Blog! Looking forward to reading more!


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