Principle of Proportion

Proportion is closely related to scale and is usually expressed in terms of the size and relationship of parts to one another, and to the whole. In design, we deal with shape and form and dimensions. For example, the relationship between the chair seats, back and arms and how that relates to the tabletop and legs is very important to how well it fits a client, and how comfortable it makes them. This is based on ratio – or the comparison of sizes; the table legs are not too wide or too narrow in comparison to the top in furniture terms. Forever, humans have worked to attain pleasing proportions and on how to determine them. The Egyptians and, later, the classical Greeks came to name this proportion the “Golden Mean.” The Golden Mean is a line that visually divides an object – wall, tie back, you name it – into two unequal but harmonious parts. This line falls between ½ and 1/3, say for a chair or dado molding. This moves to the Golden Section, which refers to proportions of parts to one another and to the whole. So progressions between 3-to-5 to 8-to-13 are good ratios and work for our eyes. This translates into sides of rectangles. So a table that is 3-by-5 can be put into place in room size as well, say 12-by-20 (4×3 and 4×5). These are the easiest rooms in which to place furnishings.

For some of you, this sense of proportion will come more easily. Others can achieve the same sense with more practice and by studying classic architecture and design, as well as art. I don’t mean you necessarily have to go back to school. You can simply become more self-aware when you visit a place that makes you instantly feel stimulated or intrigued. You can visit more museums or galleries, become a part of the artists in your community. You will become more able to recognize the harmony in work and space based on use of scale and proportion over time.

What this basically breaks down to for you in your home, when you are decorating or designing spaces, practice using the 60/30/10 rule. or 60/40 rule. For an interior design color scheme, this means 60 percent of your room should be one color, 30 percent a second color, and 10 percent a third color.

You’ll never have to wonder if you have too much or too little furniture in a room if you use the Golden Ratio. Furniture should take up no more than 60 percent of the room as a whole and no more than 60 percent of the floor space. Less than 60 percent and your room will feel sparse and incomplete. More than 60 percent, and the room will feel crowded. Hit that 60 percent mark, and the room will feel just righth