Proportion in interior design refers to the balance between design elements such as shape, color and texture. Designers and architects often link proportion with scale, which refers to the comparative size of one or more objects and is an absolute, fixed measurement. Proportion is the relative judgment of the “rightness” of an arrangement. You achieve correct proportions by repeating shapes, color and textures, controlling light, and providing style and variety.
Create a pleasing color balance by repeating colors in different places within a space. For example, repeat the vivid blue of a painting hung over the fireplace in a patterned fabric on one of the chairs; add striped pillows in several tones of blue on the sofa; and select an area rug with a deep blue border. Some formulas suggest repeating colors an odd number of times — three or five. Yet variables, such as size, placement and decorative style, can make formulas hard to apply. Simply try to include several varieties of each hue in your color scheme, and you will achieve a harmonious sense of color proportion.
Proportions in Shape
Repeating shapes within a space establishes visual harmony, agreeable to the eye. For example, if you have a square fireplace opening, repeat the square shape in a line-up of square framed canvases hung over the mantel; choose two square upholstered chairs to flank the hearth and a cube coffee table to place between them. Select a square area rug or a rug with square patterns on it. The repetition of square shapes contributes to a sense of sleek styling and order. Repeating curved shapes in furniture, fabric patterns or accessories produces a more complex and elaborate effect — in Victorian styling, for example, yet the proportions remain satisfying.
Proportion of Space
In interior design, proportion in space refers to the placement of objects within a space. For example, balance a large breakfront against one wall with two medium-sized side chairs. If the chairs were too small, the proportion would be off. If the chairs were too large, the furniture would seem overscaled. Cluster a group of small framed photographs on a wall opposite a large canvas. Balance one tall piece of furniture in a space with two or more medium or low pieces. For example, in a hallway, combine a grandfather clock with a bench and a plant in a jardiniere.
Proportion of Light
Designing the light, which includes natural and artificial sources, is an important step in achieving harmony in an interior space. Light affects the perception of space, so controlling it contributes to successful proportions. Light attracts attention to an area, and shadows make spaces seem to retreat. An interior designer approves lighting to highlight a work of art and uses a lack of light to guide eyes away from a corner storage unit. Provide adequate light to facilitate activities in the space, such as reading, crafting or working on a computer, and also provide ways to reduce the light for television viewing or relaxing conversation. Curtains, shades and shutters help control natural light; rheostats can help control the brightness of built-in lighting systems, and three-way bulbs control individual lamps.
Textural variety adds richness and interest to an interior space. Designers may use wall texture — paper or paint — to highlight a focal point. Carpets and area rugs add texture to the floor to balance smooth paint or wood paneling on the walls. Texture contributes to the proportional balance in a space.
Melanie Aves has more than 30 years writing experience. Aves coauthored four interior design color books, authored a book on Newport Beach, California, wrote newspaper features and currently writes monthly magazine features. She holds a Master of Arts degree, a certificate in interior design, and completed post-graduate studies in journalism.