You may have had this strange experience already when you moved: your new home suddenly seemed bigger after you’ve furnished it. How is this possible? Although there is no real study devoted specifically to this topic, cognitive psychologists assert that the perceived “subjective” extent of a geometric figure sometimes increases once it is filled or divided.
A famous example is the Opel Condt illusion: if you draw two horizontal lines of the same length next to each other on a sheet of paper and divide one of them by many small vertical lines located at the same distance from each other, this last straight line appears to you longer than the other. However, the reasons for this phenomenon have not been conclusively elucidated; Several mechanisms are supposed to play, for example the effects of eye movements when we fix several points on a straight line segment, and the fact that adjacent sensory cells in the retina block each other when activated…
How to perceive the interiors of the house is a complex question. First of all, two parameters should be distinguished: the estimated physical size – how many square meters in this room? – and a sense of space – how spacious is the room? Because even a small room can feel spacious, depending on a combination of settings such as lighting or ceiling height.
A furnished room naturally looks more than empty or completely full
Perhaps the first scientific study on the topic was published in 1973: architecture students were asked to estimate the actual size of a room of less than 10 square metres, but also to determine the impression of the space it was giving them. This is under three conditions: when it is empty, normally furnished, or completely full. As a result, when the room was normally furnished, the students felt it was larger than when it was completely empty or full. But, surprisingly, in terms of the feeling of space, the empty room was always the winner! The arrangement of the furniture also affected perception: the judicious arrangement of the furniture made the room seem larger than a purely random arrangement.
Longer or longer?
When I conducted a similar study with my colleagues in 2014, using scale models, we came to a different conclusion. This time, the furniture made the room, admittedly, higher, but also less spacious. However, with computer-simulated virtual rooms, we did not confirm this effect: furniture had no effect.
This scattered empirical data contradicts frequent recommendations of furniture guides: For small rooms, interior designers generally recommend space-saving furniture. Another classic tip for small rooms is to use low furniture, such as stools and tables close to the floor, similar to what is done in Japan.
There is still an answer…
Thus, empirical studies and interior design professionals advise against cluttering your home in order to get the impression of space. Toutefois, les recherches scientifiques n’indiquent pas, la plupart du temps, que les chambres meublées paraissent toujours plus grandes que celles sans mobilier, comme le montrait celle de 1973. of the widget. For example, a very spacious apartment, in particular, appears even larger when furnished, because the sofa, dining table, and wardrobes give the viewer a visual way to appreciate its size by comparing it to the different dimensions of the room’s furniture.
Simulations made in virtual reality have the advantage of creating a large number of rooms, in a relatively simple and realistic way, that can be “furnished” differently, while manipulating other parameters, such as the size and shape of the room. The room, the type of furniture and lighting or the placement of windows and doors. Hopefully, this will soon make it possible to understand the effect of furniture on the personal size of rooms. Because when you move in, you’ll need an answer!
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