Interior Design Principles: Proportion and Scale

7 Nov

Good example for using two contrasting colours to create different areas in one large room

Proportion is primarily concerned with the relationship of one part to another. Our eye is pleased with good proportion and disturbed by poor proportion, but the choice remains a personal judgment.  It involves every aspect of design and is extremely visual. In Interior Design there is a “two-thirds to one thirds” rule as reference for the selection of colours, textures and patterns. Ancient Greeks designed all their buildings on the Golden section 2:3

Scale refers primarily to the relative size or character of an object or to its parts. This is in comparison with other objects either in whole or in part. A chair is small and a table is large, but either can be small or large in scale depending on the space they are placed in. Human scale too is of vital consideration. Rooms, furniture and equipment must be suitably scaled and designed to meet people’s needs and requirements. The basic aim of form follows function is lost if human scale is not considered. For example a kitchen should always be designed for the person who uses it most. Heights of work benches can be adjusted in relation to the person’s height, the implementation of the “work triangle” is important for a practical design.    

Often problems with proportion and scale in rooms are either they are  too small (dark, low ceilings) or too large (feels cold and unwelcoming). But there are many Interior design tools and tricks to still turn these rooms into cozy and comfortable spaces:

Interior design tips for small spaces and rooms with low ceilings: 

  • Use light colors on the walls
  • Paint the ceiling white, or lighter than the walls
  • Have lots of light – and use up lighters, to highlight the light ceiling
  • Keep home decor simple – limit patterns and choose small designs
  • Use mirrors and glossy finishes
  • Streamline your furniture – keep open spaces in mind when arranging them
  • Stay as tidy and uncluttered as possible
  • Consider a simple style – traditional designs can be too fussy and cluttered
  • Match the scale of your furniture to the scale of your room  
  • Wallpaper with vertical stripes can make low ceilings seem taller

Interior design tips for large rooms and high ceilings:

  • Use a darker color on the ceiling than on the walls
  • Bring the darker ceiling colour down to picture rail level
  • Use large scale, bold patters
  • Use lots of interesting, rough or fluffy textures
  • Try to create different areas by using colour as optical dividers
  • Use room dividers, columns or furniture to create smaller spaces
  • Fit lower hanging lights and down lighters
  • Use dark, warm colors on the walls
  • Use a darker color flooring
  • Match the scale of your furniture to the size of your room
  • Make sure you include lots of accessories, artworks  and décor items

 Samples for Proportion & Scale

Example for using a dark colour on the ceiling to visually lower it. A large or textured artwork on the wall behind the table would focus the eye and further improve the proportions of the room


Wonderful example for using texture, contrast and warm colours to turn a huge open space into a cosy and compfortable one


Example for a kitchen out of proportion and scale compared to the huge architectural roof design. It makes the kitchen furniture look too small and out of place


Personal Note: The last two days I had major computer problems. What a drama! But it shows how much we depend on our computers. I couldn’t do my internet banking or write my blog. And there are so many other tasks, I use the computer for. Even my son has to download his homework from the school website and he is still in Primary School! Alright, finally I am back on track, had to “de-clutter” my files and was reminded again (by my lovely husband and rescuer Bernie) to save my files on a regular base!

“In my next interior blog I will write about “Harmony”.  So, stay tuned and have a happy and wonderful day!”   Beate


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