Google Analytics

December 23, 2010

Scale and proportion and one more thing...

Hi everyone, here's my first design blog (dipping her big toe in cautiously).

I thought I would start with something that a lot of us have trouble with in interior design - scale and proportion.
Image From:
Some interior designers use the terms proportion and scale synonymously.
To be professional, we will need to make a fine distinction:
Proportion is the relationship of one part of an object, to its other parts.

 In other words, proportion is the relationship of one part of a single piece of furniture to other parts of the same piece of furniture. For example, the cocktail table top below, that is in proportion to its legs.

Scale refers to the size of one piece of furniture in relation to the size of the other furniture in the room, or in relation to the size of the room itself.  For example, a giant lamp next to a chair, would be out of scale. An object is in scale when its size is harmonious with the size of the objects and space around it. 

 OK, so now what? 
 Let’s assume that you found a sofa for a living room with suitable and pleasing proportions. Now you've got to visualise what will happen when you add different sized pieces to create a furniture grouping around this sofa.

Take the scale test. When you visualise end tables on either side of the sofa, you don't have to measure to see whether or not the scale works, you just feel instinctively that the scale is right. You will look at an object and instinctively measure it, not by its actual size, but by its visual weight.

Carlson Rug @ Ballard
An object’s visual weight will be influenced by its shape, colour, and pattern, as follows:
The larger its shape, the heavier its visual weight. (OK that’s easy, what else?)
The more intense its colour, the heavier at its visual weight.
The bolder the pattern, the heavier at its visual weight.
These things we intrinsically realize, but sometimes we need to stop, look at our rooms, and see if we have design balance.
When you select furniture, you want to consider only pieces that are suitable in scale with one another. This is just another aspect of achieving harmony. A room cannot be harmonious if one or more pieces of furniture are out of scale.

How do you go about selecting pieces that are in scale to one another? Always try to start with the most important piece of furniture first.  i.e. a large dining room needs a large dining room table.  This piece must be in scale to the size of the room. If it's not, forget it. The room arrangement just cannot work. Select a different piece.
Scale in big rooms. Big rooms can handle big furniture. In fact big rooms require big furniture. In addition, a big room can handle furniture that features intense colour and bold patterns. What's more, a big room calls for large architectural features too. Such a room seems more in scale if it features big windows, big doors and a big fireplace. In other words, the architectural elements of the room should be in scale to the size of the room.

Scale in small rooms. As you might expect, small rooms generally appear more in scale with furniture and architectural details that simultaneous evaluation that you will automatically make as you look at each piece. With a little practice, your eye will instantly rule out any pare on the smaller side. Small rooms require smallish furniture. Note, we're not talking doll house here - I mean the furniture should be visually light, use quieter colours and less bold patterns, nothing should drastically overwhelm. The architectural features of a small room should be generally scaled to the size of the room: smaller windows, smaller doors, smaller fireplace etc.
In reality, these are not a sequence of steps, but rather common sense using the rules of scale and proportion.

Good luck and happy designing!


  1. Well thought out and well written - stating the obvious which isn't always obvious to the untrained eye or novice.

  2. I think this might be the best explanation I have ever read. Thanks Jill! I look forward to reading more!
    Congrats on starting your blog!

  3. This is a good post. Lots of people don't understand "obvious" design fundamentals, which is why so many pieces have strange proportions and every other room I walk into is off scale.

  4. Great post, Jil - and welcome to the blogsphere!

  5. Well done. Your post is very thorough. Look forward to your next post.

  6. Great post! Really helpful for us ordinary folk! Welcome to the blogging world, will make sure to add you to my local Vancouver area blog roll!


  7. Welcome to blogland it is a wonderfully friendly arena to share thoughts and ideas. I am actually celebrating my one year blogaversary tomorrow and now here you are new today!! you are going to love it in blogland, Great post and a great way to start blogging,Congrats, Kathysue

  8. Welcome and what a great post. Keep writing like this and you are definitely off and running. Mona

  9. Thanks everyone for your kind comments! I feel very encouraged. Scale and Proportion may not be the most exciting things to blog about but I think it's important to start with the basics, then move on up to the fun stuff!

  10. Jill, thank you, I will keep on reading as you keep writing. Congratulations on starting to blog.


I just can't wait to hear what you have to say!