One of the most important, yet under utilized, design principles is the idea of scale vs. proportion. All too many times, I have been called to a home that, in theory, should be fabulous, but is underwhelming and awkward. One of the main reasons for this occurrence is the lack of design principles in the execution of the design decisions. These principles can take your room from DIY to designer savvy.
So, what is the difference between scale and proportion? Well, the scale of an object refers to the overall size while proportion refers to the relative size of that object versus others. To create a room that visually looks right; the furniture should be the proper scale according to the room’s size, but in proportion to the other items in the space.
As with all things in life, there are always exceptions to these rules, but for the novice DIY design diva, the rules or principles will keep you on track and interior design savvy.
So let’s put your new found knowledge to work. If you have a downtown warehouse loft with fifteen foot ceilings, do you choose a tall headboard or a low profile one for your bed? Ok…..Wait for it…The proper answer according to the design principle of scale and proportion is to select the tall headboard that fits the scale of your room’s parameters. Now, is this the only answer, with the low profile option being wrong? No. As stated before, there are exceptions or alternative answers at times. If a low headboard is your preference, you can utilize the remaining space above it to display a great piece of art or sculpture. The idea is to make the room visually comfortable to the eye.
The proportion of your new furniture compared to the other furniture pieces already in the room, is where many people fail. If you purchase an overstuffed sectional sofa, for the love of design, do not pair it with a petite wing back chair you inherited from Grandma. The same is true when selecting accessories for your room. A delicate lamp should never be placed on a chunky, oversized end table. Do something unexpected and instead, place your delicate lamp on a kitchen or bathroom counter and purchase a large chunky lamp base for the table.
The, hands down, most annoying…errrr…common, design faux pas occurs when the design challenged purchase an entire “set” of furniture as seen on the showroom floor. So you can’t afford to shop at a high end design studio, NBD. This does not mean your only choice is to walk into Value City, buy the largest dining set available and cram it into your “cozy” dining nook. You will never use your new overpriced dining set due to the fact that only under nourished Ethiopian people or small children can now fit in what’s left of the room. Instead, purchase one fantastic vintage piece that you love, whether that’s a really great old farm table, Victorian display cabinet or a mid-century modern table and chairs, and create a truly unique space on a limited budget.
That concludes your lesson on the design principle of scale vs. proportion. Take what you have learned and make me proud!