How Scale Can Transform Your Residential Interior Design

How Scale Can Transform Your Residential Interior Design

open concept residential living room design

Let's face it. We've all been in a room where the couch just feels too large or too small for the space. It can be awkward, make the space non-functional and as any interior designer would agree, is not to scale.

Establishing the proper scale and proportion of objects, furniture, interior decor, and accessories are essential to creating a balanced interior. Interior designers study these concepts for years to help make decisions when it comes to specific design elements.

Playing with scale, in particular, is a technique that interior designers and stylists alike use to create high-impact spaces. Upscaling, as it's referred to in the world of interior design, can be accomplished in a simple manner – through a signature piece of furniture or artwork, a lamp or pendant lighting or even the addition of a patterned cushion!

If you've got a really keen eye or are working with an experienced interior designer, scale can also effectively be created with a more complex approach, using various types of patterns, such as wallpaper or tiles.

In any case, using scale in a harmonious manner is a simple tactic that goes a long way and is really, essential in interior design. The world's finest interior designers analyze the scale of a room and it's furnishings and accessories to create stunning effects – and focusing on scale when designing your space is guaranteed to help the scheme of your room reach a whole new level.

Playing with scale and proportions is powerful and versatile. Depending on your interior design goal, upscaling can make a small space feel a whole lot larger and can ultimately be a technique to make a space more feel impactful.

To find out how our leading designers use scale to their advantage for our clients at Stewart-Schäfer, keep reading.

Interior Design 101: the golden ratio

Think of the golden ratio as your golden ticket to balanced rooms and functional living spaces. It's a key design rule that is really helpful to employ when you're creating a room scheme based on your own individual design style and preferences or if you're rebalancing an existing one. Whether you're new to interior design or have experience creating balanced spaces, this mathematical formula has been used for over 2,500 years, so yes, it's one you can trust.

To be precise, the golden ratio is a mathematical sequence that is equal to 1:1.618. It's a formula that naturally occurs in our bodies, nature, and art. So it's naturally pleasing when used in interior spaces, especially when thinking about the scale and proportions of a room's layout.

Put simply, the ratio dictates that you should fill approximately 60 per cent of a room with furniture while leaving 40 per cent as negative space. This provides a sense of visual balance for the eye and also helps to prevent any visual overload.

Make space for negative space

In interior design, negative space is actually a very positive thing. Negative space refers to the empty space between objects and is incredibly important when it comes to balanced residential design.

When there is a lack of sufficient negative space, it can not only cause different elements of the room to compete with one another, but it can also become difficult to notice any intricate design details. For example, you'll want to ensure you leave ample negative space between furniture and furnishings, just as you would want to leave enough room between individual wall-mounted artwork in space to ensure you allow the composition of the chosen artworks to really shine and make a statement.

If you're looking to make a bold statement or design choice, scale can help you add drama to any space in your home.

Scale your lighting

Every room needs a wow factor and that applies to lighting as well! Pendant lights help create interiors that are extremely eye-catching.

PRO TIP: When you work with pendant lighting in your home, purposefully evaluate the room's furnished elements carefully. For example, you'll want to ensure a dramatic pendant light properly complements the thick base of the room's table. These items need to have the proper scale to achieve a stunning visual effect and still remain functional.

Design around accent furniture

An antique piano in a formal dining room can set the tone for the dimensions of a dining table, which then helps you decide the dimensions of your dining room chairs and so on!

If you have a family heirloom or an especially expensive piece of furniture you're not sure what to do with or just aren't ready to let go of, breathe new life into these pieces by making them the focal point of your space. Use them as a guide to the size and style of furniture and decor you move forward with.

Once you have established a sense of scale around these items, all you need to do is keep it consistent. In short, design around important, expensive, and priceless items, let them lead to a custom and unique interior!

Play with patterns and shapes

When you're putting patterns together, it's crucial to mix different pattern scales. It's ideal for one pattern to be upscaled, so use one large-scale fabric or wallpaper as a showstopper! You can then pair it with a medium or small-scale design to create a complementary pattern throughout.

Here's another idea - instead of using plain or small-scale patterns in small areas, try taking the opposite approach in your new interior design! When you use a large-scale pattern as a backsplash in a small kitchen or in a small bathroom, you'll be surprised how quickly the contrast makes you forget about the compact nature of the interior.


PRO TIP: Take a page from interior designer and hotelier Kit Kemp, who is known for the way that she incorporates art in her maximalist schemes. Kemp uses art to create generously proportioned and incredibly appealing artistic displays as a focal point.

From there, she will often incorporate colours that are seen in the artistic focal point into the fabrics of the space, to create a continuous and intimate effect throughout.


Scaling up at floor level is another fantastic option. Maximalist flooring not only makes a sizeable room feel cozier, but it also ensures there’s a warm, soft surface underfoot when getting up in the morning.

If you have an area rug you love that’s not large enough for this technique, you may still be able to use it! Try to create the same effect in one of your rooms by layering it over a neutral design to size it up and create something truly unqiue.

Don't forget to favour functionality!

As we've discussed, interior design in many ways is a technical science.

Formulas and sequences aside, functionality is a key element of interior design scale and proportions, and should really be at the heart of every design. Considering how you will use the space is of utmost importance when developing a room scheme.

It's important to consider elements like, how will your space facilitate traffic flow? How will guests be able to enjoy the room? How will they enter and exit? The scale of furniture and furnishings needs to ensure that a space is not only pleasing to look at from an objective standpoint, but livable as well.

So whether you're ready to create bold new interiors or learn more about how scale strategy can make a your home more balanced, beautiful and bold, our team of interior designers is here to help revolutionize your residential interior design into your dream home designed with creativity, functionality and ultimately, the perfect aesthetic for you!

If you're curious to learn more, contact us today, our passionate team of interior designers would love to chat about how we can help transform and redefine your residential interior design.

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