Why Scale And Proportion Matter In Interior Design

April 29, 2019 6 min read

Why Scale And Proportion Matter In Interior Design

Creating a beautiful home usually draws on a blend of science and art, with the science or measurements, referring to proportion and scale. If you’re not great with figures, these concepts can be a pain when all you want to do is buy that gorgeous sofa you saw in your favourite design store. Persevere though, because once you’ve grasped these concepts, you’ll save time, money and sanity, and create a gorgeous and functional space.   

So, what is scale? Usually it relates to the size of one object compared with another, especially when the size of one of those objects can be measured. Proportion generally relates to how two objects work together and sometimes brings in the ‘art’ aspect or how a tweak here and an adjustment there gives schemes the X factor – that special something that makes spaces look beautiful and feel right.   

Wikipedia’s definition of interior design is, “The process of shaping the experience of interior space” through the manipulation of spatial volume as well as surface treatment.” So, manipulating spatial volume (that’s proportion and scale), are the first principles to master before working on ‘surface treatment’, or the soft furnishings and finishing touches. This means beauty in the home is more than skin deep because scale and proportion – the foundations for everything else – need to be spot on before achieving that successful look.  

People often underestimate the size of the spaces they’re furnishing and/or decorating and purchase pieces that are too small. Bigger can be better, with larger pieces looking more impressive and taking command beautifully in larger spaces. Some people go the other way and buy pieces that are too large for the space. What works for us interior designers every time is considering the full volume of each piece, not just the measurements. Instead of thinking two-dimensionally we think in three dimensional and consider length, width AND depth to get the best results.  

This works with home staging too where our focus is always on giving for-sale homes an alluring ambience.      

Proportion, scale and playing with perceptions

Confession time: interior design often uses elements of ‘smoke and mirrors’ and that’s usually because of budget. We all love unlimited budgets but most of us have other demands on our finances, so we need to work with what’s at hand.   

There are things we can’t change like the size and style of some non-negotiable pieces in a scheme but clever tricks help shift perceptions, so an integrated look is still achieved. If a room or space looks big and unwelcoming, using design features such as generous sculptural lighting, larger-scaled furniture, oversized rugs and really generous artworks help to better define spaces and add intimacy.

We often fall in love with a piece that is so right in many ways except for one aspect, and that’s usually size. Perhaps you fell for a light fitting but when you bring it home and place it above the dining table you realise it’s way too small.  We say, don’t get discouraged, get brave and maybe think about purchasing two more. Three light fittings – and they don’t have to be the same size – will make more of a statement and look stunning too.    

Sometimes more is better too. You might have the perfect artwork to hang above your sideboard near the dining table but it’s small and overwhelmed in the space. Perhaps you have a few more artworks tucked away that will work or pick up inspiration from something in the artwork such as colour, texture or theme to inspire a few new works that will give your arrangement consistency. Remember to settle on an odd number too, for better balance.  

Buying the right furniture pieces

The first steps for success: before you commit to buying furniture consider your needs. For example, what will the furniture will be used for, where and who’ll be using it. Keep your personal style and lifestyle in mind too, which helps ensure any new pieces you bring into the home are an ideal fit in practical terms and work visually with what’s already there.    

Draw some rough floor plans too showing where the furniture with its correct measurements will go. Show walking spaces within and between rooms too, which helps divide up the spaces and indicates where furniture can and shouldn’t be placed. Keep your plans on hand too when you’re researching so you have something definitive to refer to. Impulse purchases are minimised when there’s a plan in mind. 

Buying key pieces

Larger foundation pieces such as sofas, dining suites, arm chairs and beds receive a lot of use over the years and need to be functional, practical, comfortable and ideally beautiful too. Décor items and finishing touches can be changed out regularly so if you make a bad decision with one of these it generally won’t break the bank, but not so with foundation pieces. 

If working to a budget with any of these, try to avoid a compromise on quality. These are pieces that people come to cherish, some even become heirlooms, so you’ll want them to last and give pleasure and comfort along the way.

Choosing sofas that last the distance  

Again, consider fundamental needs: where the sofa or sofas are going and who will be using them. Choosing one for the formal lounge will have different needs to one you’re buying for the family room.

Then think about whether the sofa is a good “fit” for the space. Specifically, will the dimensions including volume work for the space and how will it look? Try and imagine the bulk or visual ‘weight’ of a piece and how that will look within the layout taking into account surrounding elements such as windows, and access to other doors.    

Next comes budget. Every time, it pays to allocate more funds to buy well-made, crafted, guaranteed pieces as opposed to scooping up bargains with a lot of unknowns because chances are you’ll be replacing them in a few years’ time.

Choosing the right bed          

What we’re looking for here is where quality meets comfort, those invisible features that are so important. Then there are ‘looks’ and whether the style is visually consistent with other features in the room and throughout the home. The bed is usually the main focal point in the bedroom too so buying something special is always a good investment.  

Choosing the right sofa bed 

The same applies to sofa beds, which are more popular as we’ve become better at using valuable space more cleverly. Dimensions and volume are really important here, especially when transitioning the sofa to the bed and the impact that will have on the room.

Keep the big picture in mind too because the overall space still needs to function well. When the bed is out, you still need to move easily around it and have clear access to other areas. Drawing up a floor plan will assist here too.   

Choosing the right dining suite

Magic happens around dining tables, such as people’s dreams and inspirations being shaped, shared and proudly celebrated. We spend a lot of time around the table too and the right one inspires and enhances our lifestyle. As such, the quality of the surfaces, the materials and craftsmanship should please the touch and the eye because in their own way they can be as satisfying as enjoying a beautiful meal.

Having enough space around your dining table is just as important as the table itself because if space is restricted the dining experience can feel frustrating. Try and have 1m between the edge of the table and the walls or other objects so your guests can move in and out of the spaces easily. If your dining area features booth-seating, 600mm should do the trick. In more formal areas and where people might walk behind your seated guests, 1.4 to 1.5m should work well.   

The design and comfort of dining chairs are just as important as the table, so craftsmanship really comes into play here too. We want to be comfortable for long lively dining sessions and we all know from first-hand experience that if people feel comfortable, the quality of the dining experience is much more enjoyable.  

If you would like to focus on furniture selection, placement or any interior décor needs, give us a call today.