Some call it an eye for design that can’t be taught whilst the Greeks had it down to a fine art and even had a formula to prove it – their golden ratio algorithm has been used for everything from the explanation of beauty to the building of the pyramids. Despite this difference in opinion on proportion, what can’t be disputed is the defining design element’s effect on the overall appearance of a room. It’s the difference between an aesthetically strong environment and a lacklustre one; an outstanding design and a design nondescript.
Like any principle of design, many factors – scale, colour, pattern, mass, shape and texture – play a part in how proportion is communicated. Discover the intricacies of the professional skill with the help of some truly outstanding interior examples. Learning and eye candy – what’s not to love?1
Enhance Your Room’s Architectural Features
Use proportion to enhance your room’s inherent architectural features. Spaces with prominent chimney breasts, large windows and grand staircases are made successful by pieces which fit them well. Making the most of the grand dimensions of this Notting Hill living room by Katharine Pooley (above), an eye-catching black and white print fills the space above the fireplace simply flanked by two statuesque candlesticks. Also note how the chest of drawers and their vignettes fill the niches on either side of the fireplace perfectly.
Proportion can alter the way an interior looks and feels and is fundamental to achieving a good design – Intarya
Image Credit: Intarya
Carefully Consider Your Materials
Wooden and fully upholstered furniture appear visually heavier than glass and metal pieces despite perhaps sharing identical dimensions. Similarly patterns and bold colours are visually heavier than lighter and plain coverings. This elegant seating area by Intarya opts for a solid colour for its smart sofa and walls and introduces patterning through its carpeting, artwork and some upholstery. The coffee table – although solid – offers a weightless appeal thanks to its mirrored finish.
Image Credit: Helen Green Design
Pay Attention To Dimensions
Proportion is all about the relationship between two pieces so dimensions are important. Large spaces work well when balanced with a statement pendant light. For the perfect chandelier width, add the length and width of your room and convert to inches. If your room has exceptionally high ceilings, you can afford to opt for grander dimensions like the chandelier – at 59 inches wide – in this project from Helen Green Design. The rule of thumb for coffee tables is to choose one which is between one half and two thirds of the length of the sofa.
Always start by looking at the dimensions of a room. Scale up key pieces, focus on exaggerated detail [and] use fabrics with enlarged print to draw the eye – Natalia Miyar, Head of Design, Helen Green Design
Image Credit: Katharine Pooley
Cut The Right Shapes
Silhouettes are a major component of successful proportion play. As examples, the silhouettes of this room’s coffee table and statement table lamps are well-proportioned. By using barely-there metal structures and a balance of light and dark tones, the designs don’t feel too heavy. Add in to the mix subtly rounded forms and a carefully filled built-in display unit – think glass and glossy finishes which are visually light – and the room appears well balanced.
Image Credit: Greg Natale
Think About The Room’s Vibes
Whether you’re going for calm and collected or exciting and directional, your proportion choices affect the vibe of your room. Adding an oversized element to a room will always increase drama whilst regular proportions – what’s called human scale – is the easiest way to create a visually and physically comfortable room. This refreshing scheme of uniformly proportioned furniture by Greg Natale is anchored by a large-scale geometric area rug which creates a sense of intimacy in an open space.