If you’ve seen our guide to scale and proportion, you already know they’re important decorating principles, just like symmetrical balance in interior design.

For a quick refresher, scale and proportion refer to how things relate in size visually (and physically) in a room. Having the right scale and proportion across your furniture and decor will give your space a more balanced look and feel. For example, you want to pair a spacious sectional with a coffee table that’s relatively large in size.

But sometimes you have to toss the rules. Consider a large sofa paired with a non-rectangular rug or a room with just one giant art piece. These are examples of how by breaking the rules of scale and proportion, you can create moments that add drama and visual impact to a room.

We recommend understanding the rules before trying to break them, of course. You can always check out our interior design 101 guides to make sure you have the decorating basics down.

Otherwise, here are a few of our favorite unexpected ways to play with scale and proportion!

breaking the rules of scale and proportion1. Play With A Large Rug Size

A rug that’s proportional to the size of your room is key. Which means a very large room with high ceilings can be tricky. Consider a large cowhide or an irregularly shaped rug.

In this bedroom, the size of the cowhide rug helps to offset the large space and high ceilings. It does so by drawing the eye down and towards the bed, the main focus of the room. Additionally, whereas a rectangular rug would have felt rigid in such a large room, the cowhide’s organic shape breaks up the straight lines and gives the overall space a more effortless look and feel. And because it’s placed at an angle, with part of the rug under the bed, it helps to ease up the flow of the overall space by making the room feel open but not vast and empty.

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breaking the rules of scale and proportion

2. Contrast With A Floor Vase

Large-scale decor pieces meant for your floors are a great way to play with scale in a room. Try a giant floor vase that visually matches up in size and proportion to your furniture.

In this corner, the floor vase is far larger than any of the other decorative pieces. What it also does is serve as a second focal point that evens out the cabinet. Its scale is almost that of a small tree plant rather than an accent. Next to the large sideboard, it fits into the space by way of its size and becomes a decorative touch that goes one step further to add impact beyond the other objects and accents.

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breaking the rules of scale and proportion

3. Offset With Statement Art

Adding large art is a surefire way to play with the visual scale and proportion in a space. Try hanging a single art piece in a room as a way to create focus and balance.

In this living space, a large-scale artwork is tucked behind a small side table, filling a space but also helping to center the focus of the room. By hanging it off to the side between the sofa and the table, it directs attention to the side table area by way of its large size. At the same time, it also helps to balance out the substantially sized sofa.

breaking the rules of scale and proportion

4. Activate Walls With Small Art

On the opposite end of the spectrum, small art can add just as much drama to a space when used to set off empty wall space.

In this bedroom, the art piece helps to “activate” the negative wall space, meaning it’s the only break on the intentionally bare walls. What it does here is raise the overall focus in the room by being placed slightly above the rest of the low-profile furniture. That ultimately guides our eye up towards the art and ultimately makes the furniture seem less low to the ground. You can even play with hanging small art a bit higher for a more dramatic effect, but the key is to make sure it’s not hung so high that it feels out-of-place or simply floating.

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breaking the rules of scale and proportion

5. Juxtapose With Mismatched Nightstands

Mismatched furniture is another way you can purposefully break up scale and proportion in a room. The easiest place to start mixing up your furniture is with bedroom nightstands, which usually come in pairs or sets.

In this bedroom, the tall dresser offsets the size of the small side table to the right of the bed. The dresser’s large size and structured form is the complete opposite of the small, thin, and delicate side table. The result is a look boldly contrasted in scale, proportion, and every other way. However, by positioning a pendant light above the small table, it adds height and balances out the overall space.

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breaking the rules of scale and proportion

6. Break It Up With Lighting

Lighting is one of the most common accents you can use to break up scale and proportion in a room. Depending on where they’re placed, they can add major visual impact.

In this living room, the hanging pendants and floor lamps are sculptural and dramatic and they offer a hint of shape and form against the white walls. For instance, the floor lamp arms extend high over the low-profile back of the sofa but it doesn’t feel out of place. Instead, it contrasts with the low sofa in a way that pulls together the design of the room. In the same way, our eye is guided up by the pendant, which visually bridges the mantel and artwork with the furniture.

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breaking the rules of scale and proportion

7. Experiment With Gallery Wall Size

Gallery walls are often super organic in shape, which makes them fun to experiment within a space. You can easily scale yours up or down for a gallery wall size that’s focused or expansive. How you do it is up to you.

For this bedside, the gallery wall takes over the space in a way that not only draws attention to the art but also steers the focus away from the bed. That’s because the size and scale of the gallery wall as a whole are much larger than the headboard, which gives the art a more commanding presence in the room. If you’re working with a plain white upholstered bed, this is a great way to spread the focus in your room.

breaking the rules of scale and proportion

8. Anchor Spots With Large Decor

Similar to a large floor vase, you can scale up or down your decorative objects intentionally depending on where and how they might fit into your space.

In this living room, the oversize white organic vase on the coffee table has a larger scale that stands out among the other decorative pieces in the room. So it helps ground the center of the space. Additionally, because there aren’t layers of pillows on the sofa, the vase actually feels proportionately balanced among the furnishings. However, if you’re going for this look, consider all the other elements in your room first, so that you don’t overcrowd your space visually with large objects and “stuff.”

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breaking the rules of scale and proportion

9. Create Focus With Small Wall Accents

Small mirrors and artwork are often placed in unexpected places, where they can offset the focus. Try layering a small mirror with large furnishings to switch up sightlines and draw the eye.

In this living area, an antique mirror placed above a large-scale dresser is equally captivating despite its smaller size. Moreover, the decorative objects on the dresser help round out the look and add to the look by making the difference in scale appear intentional and intriguing.

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