Scale and Proportion: The Holy Grail of Interior Design

Scale and Proportion: The Holy Grail of Interior Design | Duvall & Co.

Scale and proportion are the most important elements in achieving a great design that reflects balance and harmony. In her book, The Art of Space, interior designer and published author Mary Cook explains the seven fundamentals that create great design and spatial harmony.

  • Objective: What are the goals of the design? What impression is to be communicated upon entering the room or viewing the piece of furniture for the first time?
  • Function and livability: What is the purpose of the space and its contents? Great design must not only look great, but it must live great.
  • Scale and proportion: Scale is the size of the items in the room, and proportion is their relationship to the space and to each other. Together, they add grace, balance, and harmony to a room.
  • Light and lighting: Light evokes mood and emotion, generates interest, and creates emphasis, impact, and drama.
  • Color: Color can add formality and sophistication or create a relaxed, casual atmosphere. It can help balance proportion and scale, punctuate architecture, create illusions of size, and even improve a room’s functionality.
  • Pattern and texture: Different patterns or textures enhance and elevate quality. They impact and transform the flat and bland into the 3-dimensional and deep.
  • Significant and relevant ornamentation: Ornaments reflect tastes and inject sentiment, unifying the design and bringing everything together.

Every one of these fundamentals is important on its own. Yet, the author distinguishes scale and proportion as the key factors to achieving great design and a fabulous outcome.

Furniture Makers

The interior design author states, “Scale and proportion are without a doubt THE most important part of achieving great design. Together, they are the holy grail of design (btw, not just interior design, but ALL design). But don’t just take my word for it. A little research will quickly show that the formula for scale and proportion has been around forever. It was first studied in ancient Greece 2,500 years ago. The Romans knew about it too. The golden ratio shows up in nature (…nautilus shell), in all the world’s most beloved artistic masterpieces, and in architecture the world over.”

In residential interior design, scale relates to the size of an object – such as a table – compared with the space or room it occupies. Proportion, on the other hand, is concerned with the relationship of elements to one another and to the whole. A design with the perfect color scheme and style for a space can be ruined by choosing ill-fitting pieces of furniture or using the wrong scale. Selecting the correct scale for furniture makes the room balanced and harmonious.

Before deciding to acquire the table, bench, or chair that has been top of mind for the past six months, consider all aspects of the piece. How will it fit in the space? Is it to scale with the size of the room in which it will be placed? Will it be proportional to the rest of the items already in that space?

Six Tips for Proper Scale and Proportion

  • Room Size: A larger room can handle furniture and decor that are larger in scale. The smaller the room is, the more petite or delicate the furniture and amenities should be.
  • Focal point: The main furniture in the room sets the stage for the scale of all the other items. For example, a bulky sofa and a delicate side table may look odd next to each other.
  • Height: The higher the ceiling, the taller and more imposing the furniture or other pieces can be. Low ceilings call for low furniture and decor. The exception to this rule is using low, modern furnishings in a room with tall ceilings to achieve a dramatic effect.
  • White space: Leave white space – the space around and above furniture. Crowded rooms are rarely aesthetically pleasing.
  • Patterns: In small rooms, keep patterns to scale, and use smaller prints and less of them. A larger room can typically handle larger prints and more colors.
  • Repetition: Use repetitive patterns or colors. For example, for square-shaped wainscoting panels on a wall, employ a square coffee table to maintain the same proportions throughout the room.

David Duvall, CEO, and founder of Duvall & Co., understands the aesthetic necessity and practical application of scale and proportion. Each piece must reflect the balance and harmony that only comes about when both scale and proportion are the foundation of the design-build project.

custom handcrafted furnitures

Duvall and his design-build team also take into consideration the purpose, function, and location of the piece once it is finished and delivered. Balance and harmony mark every piece of furniture they design and build. Whether displaying rustic charm or refined sophistication, each piece is constructed in the tradition of the finest Old World craftsmanship.

For more information about custom handcrafted furniture made from the highest quality hardwoods, contact Duvall & Co. by phone at (919) 819-8377 or by email at [email protected] To see samples of the company’s craftsmanship, visit the Duvall & Co. online store at