Does That House Make You Look Fat?

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Oak Sleigh BedThe McMansion brought about oversized furniture to fill those expanded spaces, but now that spaces are shrinking, why hasn’t our furniture too?

One expert offers up one reason why our furniture hasn’t scaled back — Americans are too fat. Apparently plus-sized furniture is needed to fit our growing waist lines, even as our home’s square footage gets smaller.

“People are just bigger,” Tom Fisher, dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, told Minneapolis Star-Tribune in the article Living (not so) Large by Kim Palmer. “Americans are getting fatter as houses get smaller, and this is a problem. It makes a house seem smaller than it is. It’s two trends going in opposite directions.”

Bigger furniture for larger people is a growing market. Companies such as Oversize and Living XL have emerged specifically to target the plus-sized customer with wider chairs and furnishings, all with extra support.

U.S. armchairs are generally 20-26 inches in width — too small for many customers nowadays. Let’s face it, we’re an obese nation. Nearly 70 percent of Americans are overweight and nearly 34 percent qualify as obese, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. At Oversize, you can purchase a chair 34 to 44 inches in width.

But our growing waist lines aren’t only to blame for the emergence of plus-sized furniture: Who doesn’t find that oversized chair or recliner more comfy?

Just look at what’s happened with beds: Double-sized beds used to be the norm; now it’s the queen size and many households are more fit for a king.

Our accessories — such as lamps and vases — are making a bigger statement and have gotten supersized too.

But with our love for plus-sized accessories and furniture, our small homes are appearing even smaller. It’s a harmless mistake.

“Looking at this stuff in retail showrooms, it doesn’t look too big, then you get it home,” Caren Martin, associate professor at the U’s College of Design, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “Sometimes you can’t even get it into your home — you need a 3-foot entry door — and older houses don’t have that.”

What do you think: Is it time for our plus-sized furniture to go — even at the sake of added comfort — or is there room for the supersized furnishings in home design today?

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

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  1. i think its not time to get plus size furniture, its time to fight the obesity! People should invets in their bodys and not in their oversized furniture. Put in good food and leave out the fast food trash. Cook more – healty stuff and only indulge once with a fatty meal.

  2. Don’t expand – contract! Just like homes, the economy, etc!

  3. With many homes being smaller, just keep what you love and get rid of the rest…including our weight!

    -Judy Turner, Broker
    Keller Williams Realty

  4. Going to be a very hard holiday season when you try to slim down.

  5. Kate

    Two points:
    1. Smaller homes often are reflective of smaller lots. Which means less room to be out of doors and active at home. I really think this is a big part of the children’s obesity epidemic. That and safety issues that keep them indoors.

    2. Big furniture can be passable in a smaller space, but it really means taking a hard look at the clutter that adds to the volume of the room. What might be fine for personal lifestyle doesn’t always work for a sale – stage appropriately and it should be okay. When I show a house with too much big furniture I just tell my buyers – “Well, you KNOW that your couch is smaller than this; so it will definitely fit here.”