A rule of good decorating says furniture must be in scale with space. The best rule of good decorating says there are no rules.
Of course, it's only logical to use small-scale things in a small room. But there are occasions when a small room or space calls for large-scale things. The theory behind this reversal is simply that an interesting or unusual piece of furniture, if it's a bit large for a room, will be powerful enough to dominate and distract the eye from the diminutive surroundings.
I planned a tiny guest bedroom with this principle in mind. The space was minimal, but the bed, a beautiful double brass antique, with a heavy rounded head and foot board, though enormous in the room, gave such panache to the space that all was forgiven.
To make the bed look more in scale, I covered walls and ceiling with a small floral-patterned print on a white background and used a matching fabric for the bedspread. The floors were left natural wood in a dark walnut finish. I found two woven cotton rugs in a handcraft Appalachian shop to throw down on either side of the bed. A simple white cylindrical table of white plastic; a white lacquered bureau from the "unfinished" store; a comfortable chair, its seat and back covered in a bright green taken from the floral pattern; an old wood-framed mirror, the frame painted the same green as the chair; small brass lamps; a bamboo bookstand for towels, soap, bathroom sundries and books - all these in a scale suitable for the space, made the oversized bed the center of attraction.
In a low-ceilinged entry hall, I found an antique clothes-tree that filled the only wall, ceiling-to-floor as well as side-to-side, its rich dark mahogany finish a smashing and eye-filling contrast to the white stucco walls and terracotta clay tile floor.
In a tiny dining room, designed for a young couple in their first home, a Victorian town house, I used two huge and purposely out-of-scale wicker "peacock" chairs to flank a 36" diameter modern pedestal table with a glass top. The chairs, in their natural pale finish, look just right and not at all too large in front of two narrow, tall windows covered in natural matchstick bamboo.
The walls and trim and ceiling are white, except for one wall painted deep navy blue matching the wall-to-wall carpet. The wall is decked out with a ceiling-mounted light-track and several small wall-washers. It makes a perfect background for a collection of lovely black and white drawings in narrow chrome frames to match the pedestal of the dining table. The entire collection is hung over a wall-to-wall shelf holding a set of shallow drawers for table utensils and office materials.
For entertaining, four folding chrome chairs with see-through Plexiglas seats and backs can be taken from their narrow storage space in the adjacent hall coat closet and placed between the two armchairs.
A word of caution. Overscale can also be overdone. Like anything else, rules should be broken with caution. In small spaces, though it is perfectly all right now and then to challenge the space with something very large and very interesting, too much large furniture in small rooms can made your home look like the bargain basement at your local discount store. A sensible guideline is to limit the rule-breaking to one significant piece of furniture per room. Try not to do it too often in the same house.