What is “scale and proportion”?
In interior design, scale and proportion is a design principle used when referring to the size of furniture or items. Scale is the size of an object in relation to the size of the room or a person. You know when a piece of furniture is so big that it makes you feel small? That’s scale, right there!
So what is proportion then? Proportion is the size and shape of an item in relation to the other objects in a room.
Have you ever been in a room that is beautifully decorated, but something feels off? Nine out of ten times, it would be a scale or proportion problem. I know because I’ve made that mistake more than once before myself! If you are not confident in your decorating skills, it’s usually best to stick to the rules. In a small room, more streamlined and compact items would be best, but they would look lost and lonely in a large room. You get the picture…
Would I personally break the scale and proportion rules? Definitely! It took a lot of trial and error through the years to develop an eye for what works and what doesn’t. And I still get it wrong sometimes! There is a catch, though… You can’t go crazy and break all the rules of these two concepts that go hand in hand. I would not mess around with proportion. Big items mixed in with small ones, and vice versa, look odd. Don’t do that.
That leaves us with scale. Pieces of furniture equal in relation to each other, but not to the room. I would also suggest not going with small pieces of furniture in a large room. If anyone has ever made it work, please let me know! That only leaves big furniture in a small or less spacious room. It can be disastrous, especially when functionality is lost in the process. In other words, there’s no room to swing a cat! (no actual cats have been hurt in the process!) But when you can still be comfortable and move around freely in the room, you might just have a winner!
A small main bedroom with all big-scale furniture and decor
Our main bedroom was the last room in our house that I “just” painted and decorated. (future blog posts will cover more hands-on, DIY projects). When we moved, I was determined not to decorate rooms with the same items that were in them before but instead use old decor and create new looks with it. Does that make sense? With most of the rooms in the house decorated by that time, I only had a few things left to use, and none of them seemed right for this bedroom.
Sometimes all it takes is just one piece of furniture to inspire the design of the rest of the room. The antique sideboard that I turned into a dresser already in the room didn’t lead me in any direction. We went shopping for a new bed and nightstands with no exact idea of what we wanted. That is usually the case when I need something; I don’t know what it is I’m looking for, but I will know when I see it. And I did.
I found the perfect bed and nightstands. They even matched the dresser we already had. However, the challenge was that now all the pieces in the room were oversized, and it’s not the biggest of master bedrooms. With enough space to move around freely, that wasn’t a problem. It just had to be visually balanced out somehow.
I already had the perfect pieces for the job! Three large prints of original paintings in massive ornate frames. I even had a mirror with a similar frame to hang above the dresser! In our previous house, the three prints hung in a double-volume stair area and the mirror above our dining room fireplace.
I honestly didn’t think I would ever find a place for them again since I didn’t want them by the stairs again. It was a bit of a gamble to hang them in a small room with only eight feet of clearance floor to ceiling.
The available wall space turned out to be absolutely perfect for all three of them. In fact, so perfect that they, no two of them being the same size, had the same amount of white space around them. How amazing is that? I think it came together beautifully and lends a dramatic yet cozy atmosphere to the room. Here you can see the room from a few different angles.
You might also enjoy my post about decorating with vintage finds.