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Elements and Principles of Interior Design – Scale and Proportion

Furniture shown in the proper proportion
Furniture in the proper proportion

This is a series on the 7 Elements and 5 Principles of Interior Design. We’ll start Part 1 with Scale and Proportion.

5 principles of interior design

  • scale and proportion
  • balance
  • rhythm and repetition
  • emphasis
  • harmony

7 Elements of Interior Design

  • Space.
  • Lines.
  • Form or Shape.
  • Pattern.
  • Light.
  • Color.
  • Texture.

PART 1 – How to Use Scale and Proportion in Interior Design

The design of this room does NOT reflect proper scale and proportion…don’t do this!

One of the tools people sometimes find intimidating in decorating is how to use scale and proportion in interior design. Scale and proportion are related but have different rules that determine how we put a room together so all the pieces in it look “right.”

Scale is how we describe the size of an object compared to another object. The easiest example of this in terms of interior design is the use of the human scale. For example, chairs, and couches are designed according to a human scale, so they are the right height for the average person to use.

Proportion helps us compare object to each other. For instance, a coffee table is half the length of the couch next to it. That’s a proportion. It can also compare things in the room, such as the number of patterned surfaces to plain surfaces. We use proportions to figure out how to group pieces together within a space so they achieve flow and beauty.

Correctly using scale and proportion in interior design means understanding how to choose objects that are sized to play well together. These concepts can be tricky at first, but here are three great tips to help you achieve better results using the principles of scale and proportion for your interior design.

Rule of Thirds

If you’ve studied art or photography, you’re probably already familiar with the rule of thirds. In interior design, this rule can be used to help direct your eye through a space. Think of your room divided into a grid of three columns and three rows. Place important pieces along those dividing lines or at their intersections.

Repeat Shapes

A common mistake in home decorating is mixing shapes, such as using a square center piece on a rectangular table. When the proportion of the centerpiece to the table isn’t correct, the overall effect isn’t going to look right. Instead, find a centerpiece that repeats the shape—rectangular centerpiece on a rectangular table.

Also, take time to notice what shapes are already present in your room. You may have a lot of rectangles in your doorways or windows. If so, all the more reason to repeat the rectangular shapes in some of your furniture and décor pieces.

Rule of Three

The rule of three is a great tool to use when grouping items on top of a table or shelf. Odd numbers of items tend to look better and be easier to balance than even numbered items. Try a group of three or five different things. How does the use of scale and proportion in interior design come into play here?

Lamps, knickknacks, and other items need to be scaled so they’re proportional to the surface they’re resting on. Try choosing items that are between one third and two thirds the length or height of the table they sit on.

Get a Free 15-minute Design Consultation including for Scale and Proportion!

You don’t have to struggle with scale and proportion in interior design on your own. Some rooms are difficult to arrange, and sometimes you need an experienced eye to identify what’s missing and bring all the pieces together in your home. Let’s talk about what you need and how I can best help you achieve the beautiful, comfortable home you deserve. Call today to set up an appointment!