It used to be an axiom of good design that furniture should be scaled to space. Unpredictably, however, we are learning that we can break rules as easily as make them and often with astonishingly fresh results.

Chunky furniture, for example, is back in favor once again. And while this seems out of keeping with lower ceilings, smaller rooms and the need for easier maintenance for busier people, it may simply be a need for substance, stability and permanence.

This doesn't mean the chunky-furniture-look of 30 years ago, when everything in the room had the same hefty, down-to-the-floor look.

Today's designer may use chunky upholstered pieces combined with thin-line tables of glass and chrome. Or perhaps a heavy white lacquered coffee table and cube occasional tables, combined with light-weight wicker seating.

In other rooms, chunky forms can be combined against an unadorned background, for an effective, sturdy, comfortable look. Although chunky is "in," it is in only with restraint.

In a dining room, I used a chunky square-legged lacquer dining table with a thick top in a rich rust, combined with six French open armchairs upholstered in off-white Ultrasuede. All this sits on a rust plush carpet.

In another room, a master bedroom, I used a modern version of the of the traditional four-poster bed, in thick white-lacquered posts and frame. Since there was no wall for the double bed, I placed the four-poster in the center, free-standing. I flanked it with tables and lamps and used the smaller wall areas for a bureau and chest.

In a room that's large enough and where the outer shell is treated in straightforward manner, chunkies can maka a room look soft and coxy.

In one large living room I worked on, I kept the window treatment simple, with white vertical blinds. I used a matching wall-to-wall carpet.

A thick white Parson's-style coffee table stands in front of the chunky sofa, flanked by two matching, chunky, armless chairs. Large throw pillows on the floor and rows of fat square pillows with Turkish corners on the sofa give a harem-like look to the down-to-the-floor furniture.