Scale and Proportion
Scale refers to the size of one object in relation to another. In particular, it’s used when the size of at least one of the objects is known with certainty. In design, scale is usually used to refer to the size of an object or space in relation to the human body. For example, standard countertop heights and chair widths are scaled to fit the average person.Though the two terms are similar and are often used interchangeably, proportion refers to a general relationship in size between two objects. It’s what interior designers refer to when they describe how two objects relate to each other in a room. For example, as a rule, designers recommend that coffee tables be two-thirds as long as the sofa they are set against.
The Relationship Between Objects Matter
In interior design, scale refers to the way two or more objects relate. Many times, the object’s size is compared to our scale as humans.
For example, in the workplace and the home, standard heights are created for chairs and countertops fit the average person’s height. Hallway widths are designs for people to pass each other comfortably.0 As you can see, the environment is built based on the common anthropometric human-scale data.
In interior design, proportion refers to balancing elements of design such as texture, color, and shape. Architects and designers link proportion often with scale, referring to comparative sizes of objects.
Proportion is a fixed, absolute measurement. It is the relative right or wrongness of arrangements. Correct proportions are achieved by repeating textures, colors, and shapes, providing variety, style and controlling light.
Tips for Using Scale and Proportion in Interior Design
Repeat patterns and shapes. Repeated shapes are pleasing to the eye and a great way to balance the proportions of a space. For example, if you have square windows in a living room, you might echo that shape with a patterned area rug. Recurring patterns can unite disparate elements of design within a room, but be judicious and don’t go overboard with repetition.
Scale design elements to a room’s ceiling height. High ceilings call for larger, more stately furniture, while low ceilings call for smaller, more modest furniture. Consider the scale of your moldings as well: If you’re working with high ceilings, you may want more substantial moldings. How moldings relate to the overall architecture is something to consider because they can make or break the space. Odd proportions can turn out to be very cool, but make sure to keep them in mind when designing.
Design around your most important piece of furniture. Decide which piece of furniture you want to be central to a room, then build out the rest of your design with this piece of furniture in mind. For example, if you have a large dining room, furnish it first with a large dining room table, then design the rest of the room from there.
Leave room for negative space. Negative space refers to the empty space within a design. To keep a room’s design from looking too busy, leave certain areas blank. When hanging wall art in both small and large rooms, make sure to leave white space around the frames; it’s best to let the walls breathe rather than covering up every square inch.
Use the golden ratio. The golden ratio (also known as the golden mean) is approximately equal to 1.618. The golden ration reoccurs throughout the worlds of science and design: The proportions of the human body, the designs of ancient Greek architecture, and certain works of art by Leonardo da Vinci all involve this golden ratio. The ratio (which is roughly 60/40) is useful for interior designers seeking to achieve visual balance when furnishing a room. Filling 60 percent of your floor space with furniture and leaving 40 percent open makes a room feel complete without appearing overcrowded.
Ensure that all furniture is to scale. Though the relative size of a piece of furniture should generally be to scale with the size of the room, it’s more important that each object be scaled to the rest of the furniture. For example, you can make large furniture work in a small room as long it is to scale with other pieces of furniture in the room (and doesn’t take up more than 60 percent of the floor plan). A big sofa and a big coffee table might work well together in a small room, but a small sofa and a big coffee table will rarely look right combined.