Scale and proportion are both vitally important interior design concepts, though understanding the difference between these concepts and how they apply to a space, can cause confusion. To summarise, where proportion is concerned with the size of objects in relation to each other, scale refers to their size in relation to that of the space.
By applying the scale and proportion, principles to the furnishings and decorative accessories in a room, one can create a truly stunning and visually balanced aesthetic. In this design guide from Minotti London, we’ll explain the importance of scale and proportion in interior design and how to apply them to a space.
5 Ways to Use Scale & Proportion in Interior Design
While the difference between these two principles is quite subtle, knowing how to differentiate these two terms is essential to creating harmonious interior spaces. When scale and proportion aren’t applied correctly, they can break the flow of a room.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the most popular ways to use scale and proportion to the benefit of a space’s aesthetics.
Opt for Furniture that Fits the Room’s Scale
Finding furniture that suitably fits the space it’s destined to reside in is the first step to perfecting the proportion of an interior design | Designed by Rodolfo Dordoni for © Minotti London
Scale is one of the primary forces that dictate the overall feel of a room. It can determine whether a space feels large or small, regardless of its actual size.
For example, a higher ceiling will make a room feel larger — perfect for spaces like kitchens and living rooms. Conversely, a low ceiling will make these areas feel smaller than they are.
Large furniture pieces in a small room, or a room with a low ceiling, will make the space feel cluttered. However, large artwork or mirrors are great ways to add visual interest to small spaces without making them seem smaller. On the other hand, furniture that is too small for a large room will make it feel unbalanced.
Unless the desired effect is to create a dramatic or cluttered feel, one should always scale the furnishings to the size of the room.
Choose the Focal Point of the Room
An excellent way to create proportion and scale in a space is to choose a focal point and build around it. A strong focal point provides a natural way for all the elements in a room to interact.
From a sofa with unique upholstery to a stunning piece of artwork hung above the fireplace, choosing the focal point will impact the rest of the design choices — everything else should be built around this piece.
To create a sense of proportion in a room, the focal point should be surrounded by smaller pieces that complement it, such as a round table with chairs placed around it in a dining room.
Use Repeating Patterns to Unify the Space
Here, circular patterns can be found on the walls and the ottoman in the centre of the room while curves are a clear theme exhibited in most of the decorations and furnishings in the space | Designed by Rodolfo Dordoni for © Minotti London
One way to use scale and proportion in interior design is by repeating patterns and shapes. This creates visual unity throughout the space, making it feel like one cohesive unit rather than many separate pieces.
The repetition also helps anchor each piece of furnishing in its place, creating continuity between the elements while still allowing them to have their unique character.
An example of repeating patterns can be placing hexagon-shaped wall decor in a room with hexagon floor tiles or a round bowl of fruits on a circular table in the dining room. This technique provides an interesting way to tie together different pieces of furniture or decor.
Use the Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is a technique used in photography and art to achieve balance, scale and proportion in a photograph or artwork. It’s one of the simplest, most effective tools for guiding the eye through a space. In interior design, the rule of thirds can be applied to the placement of furniture and accessories in a room.
The rule of thirds divides any given space into three equal parts horizontally and vertically. The objects in a room should be placed on the intersection points between these lines.
However, when applying the rule of thirds, it’s essential to leave enough white space for the eye to rest. A good rule of thumb is to only place the furniture on two-thirds of the intersection points, leaving the others empty. Doing so will create a feeling of harmony and openness in the space.
Maximise Negative Space
The blank white wall is a particularly interesting use of negative space that helps keep the room grounded, when viewed from this angle it brings the focus away from the view outside the window and back to the room | Designed by Rodolfo Dordoni for © Minotti London
In interior design, negative space can help create a sense of scale and proportion in a room by balancing out all the things that are taking up space.
A negative space is an area that does not contain physical objects, such as the open space between furniture or windows or the empty space on walls. When used correctly, negative space can help create an illusion of spaciousness by drawing attention away from objects within a room and allowing the eye to rest.
It also helps create depth by allowing objects, such as paintings, to stand out against a neutral background rather than being lost among colours and patterns.
Understanding Scale and Proportion in Interior Design
Scale and proportion are slightly similar terms in interior design. When combined, these two concepts help create a visually pleasing space that feels harmonious and balanced.
In this guide, we’ve covered five interior design techniques to develop scale and proportion within a space:
- Selecting furniture that fits the room’s scale
- Choosing a focal point of a room to set an anchor and build around it
- Using repeating patterns and shapes to unify the space
- Using the rule of thirds as a guideline to achieve scale and proportion in the furniture arrangement
- Maximising negative space to avoid overstuffing the space
Interior design is a process that requires careful consideration and planning to ensure that all of the elements in a space work together. Following the basic concepts of interior design, such as scale and proportion, help to achieve this goal.