Proportion in Design is next up in our Elements and Principles of Design Series!
Chapter 7: Proportion!
So far we’ve covered all of the Elements: color, line, space, texture, and shape and form. And we’ve covered one Principle: balance. Today, we will talk about proportion in design, the principle that refers to the relative size and scale of the elements.
Basics of Proportion
Proportion in design is all about taking the elements of a room and putting them in context in the space and amongst each other. Basically, when considering proportion in design, you want to look at the proportion of each object in relation to the other objects in the room. You also want to pay attention to the scale of the objects in relation to the room and to the human body.
When we talk about scale in relationship to the human body, this is especially important for things like furniture, countertop height, lighting placement and height, and walkways and other space considerations. Scale in relation to the room is essential when you’re choosing furniture. For example, if you have a small room but huge furniture, the room is going to feel cramped and uncomfortable. On the other hand, if you have a large room with small furniture, the room is going to feel sparse.
I find that the best way to learn about proportion and scale is to actually look at it. So I’ve compiled some examples of proportion and scale that I find interesting to give you some ideas and inspiration for your own space. Check them out below.
Create Harmony Using Proportion
This first example of proportion is a space with even proportions. The furniture is all the same style and proportionate to one another, creating a sense of balance and calm.
Scale and Proportion for Small Spaces
I chose this photo as a look at both scale and proportion. The seating is a bit narrower than typical and is therefore a bit small in scale to the human form. However, it is obvious that this is not meant to be somewhere where you would spend a ton of time sitting, rather just enough time to get your shoes on or off. Proportion comes in to play with the wreath, the topiary, and the pillows, which are smaller than average as well to keep in proportion with the smaller seating area as well as the smaller scale of the area.
Normalize Form with Proportion
I thought the proportion of the lamp in this photo was interesting because it seems like a really small lamp in proportion to the rest of the furniture, but I think that it actually fits in really nicely with the low furniture and almost normalizes the low profile of the furniture.
Draw Attention with Proportion
This eating area has an example of proportion that’s interesting but also an element of scale that doesn’t work. The first thing that I noticed about this room was the proportionally large light fixture, which is a great way to bring emphasis to an area, like a table. But as I looked at it more, I noticed that the table is so close to the wall that there’s no way that anyone is going to be able to sit in those chairs closest to the wall, unless the table is moved. In this instance, the scale of the space needed to actually be able to use the table as intended was not kept in scale with the human figure.
Playful Proportion adds Whimsy
I thought this photo exhibited a really odd sense of proportion. The couch and dresser-like piece appear to be very small, especially when compared to the plant and the lamp. I think setups like this have a whimsical vibe and can add lightness and playfulness to a room.
Create Emphasis with Proportion and Scale
Playing with the proportion and scale of artwork is such a fun way to create a focal point.
Go Forth and Play!
Proportion is a tricky thing that there really is no hard and fast rule for. It’s really is guided by your own personal taste. Some people find a consistent proportion pleasing to the eye, while others may enjoy the visual interest of differing proportions. Playing with proportion is another awesome way to personalize your space and find your own sense of style. Much like balance, it doesn’t require much, if any, money, just thought and practice.
For more affordable and practical ways to use the Elements and Principles of Design to make your house a home, check out my other Elements and Principles of Design posts. Also, be sure to stay tuned for the rest of my Elements and Principles of Design series!