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guide to scale and proportion

Interior Design 101: Modsy’s Guide to Scale and Proportion

Welcome to our Interior Design Basics series, where we break down—you guessed it—the basic principles of interior design! The Basics are the building blocks of interior design that, though we don’t always talk about them, are what help a room feel more balanced, put together, and considered. Today, we’re talking all about scale and proportion and how you can use this design principle to create visual balance within your space.

Scale and proportion are some of the basic interior design elements that help your room look balanced. And a visually balanced space makes a room feel more intentional, harmonious and inviting. Together, scale and proportion help make sure the size of the furniture and objects in your space fit together and within the architecture of the space itself.

guide to scale and proportion

What Is Scale and Proportion?

But, first things first: what exactly are scale and proportion? Though similar—and terms that are often used interchangeably—they actually have slightly different meanings and implications within your space.

Scale refers to the size of an object or piece of furniture within the dimensions and architecture of a space.

Proportion is used when describing the size and shape of an object in relation to another in the space.

Why Are They Important in Interior Design?

Scale and proportion are critical in achieving a livable and thoughtful composition in a space. It’s important to think about scale and proportion of furniture when you’re buying pieces to go together in one room. If you pick pieces of furniture that are too big for the dimensions of your space, you’ll end up with a room that feels cramped and crowded. If you go for pieces that are too small, the room will feel cavernous and out-of-balance.

Thinking about scale helps determine what size of sofa fits into your living room or what mattress size you should opt for in your bedroom. And, when you think of how individual pieces of furniture and decor fit together, scale helps determine the right size of nightstand to place next to your bed, or if an accent table is the right size and height for your sofa. Ultimately, scale and proportion help to create a successful and balanced composition in a space. Without proper scale and proportion, a space can feel “off” or visually imbalanced.

Check Out 6 Ways Scale and Proportion Can Be Put to Work in Interior Design

Want to know more about how scale and proportion play out in real rooms and look at particular places around your home to be especially mindful of in regard to scale and proportion? We’ve rounded up some of the top offenders, along with simple ways to fix scale and proportion mistakes!

Art Above the Sofa

Your sofa is generally going to be the focal point of your living room. And your eyes will naturally be drawn up to the wall space above your sofa—which is why it’s so important to get the scale and proportion right for the art that hangs above your sofa.

guide to scale and proportion

The Problem: Artwork That’s Too Small

This vertical piece is too small for the space, and makes the room feel smaller. It also lacks flow. Because of the shape and size, our eyes are drawn straight to the art, rather than it being integrated in the design as a whole.

How to Fix It

Here, the art helps to “level” the design and visually top off the sofa. Its horizontal format helps to guide the eye across the room and its visual weight feels balanced above the sofa. A good rule of thumb for hanging wall art? Have your artwork be about two-thirds the width of your sofa. (The same goes for hanging art over other pieces of furniture, too!)

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guide to scale and proportion

Side Table and Lamp

Almost all homes have side tables and lamps. And, since these pieces of furniture and decor are super functional pieces, you need to make sure they work in your space. One of the major considerations for functionality with these two pieces? Scale and proportion. If a lamp is too large, it could literally topple over your side table. You certainly don’t want that to happen! And if it’s too small, it will simply look awkward and feel puny in the space it’s taking up.

guide to scale and proportion

The Problem: A Lamp Too Large and a Table Too Small

Here, the table is too small and the lamp too large—causing the pair to feel “top-heavy” and the right side of the room to feel too crowded.

How to Fix It

This lamp sits comfortably on the small side table next to the sofa. It is neither too big nor too small for the table it sits on, and it can be comfortably accessed while sitting on the sofa and leaves enough surface space for the table to still be functional.

Need more help with choosing the right lighting for your space? Check out our full lighting guide!

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Coffee Table and Sofa

When it comes to finding the right coffee table for your living room, you want to make sure it’s in proportion with the size of your sofa but also that it’s the right scale for your overall seating arrangement. After all, you don’t just want it to look good, but you want it to be a functional piece of furniture in your space.

guide to scale and proportion

The Problem: The Wrong Size Coffee Table

This coffee table is too small for the space. It doesn’t feel substantial enough for the large-scale furniture that surrounds it. To make it look centered in the space, it also sits too far away from the seating options. Imagine sitting in this armchair and trying to set your cup of coffee down on the table. You’d really have to reach! So, in addition to looking out of proportion, it’s simply not practical!

guide to scale and proportion

How to Fix It

This coffee table sits at a comfortable height and distance from both the sectional and the chair. It allows for flow throughout the space, while being substantial enough to visually balance a larger sofa. It’s perfectly nestled into the space in front of the sofa/between the chaise and is also within reach of the armchair.

Learn more about choosing the right size and shape of coffee table for your space with our guide on how to pick a coffee table shape to go with your sofa.

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Pillows on a Sofa

When it comes to picking out and arranging pillows on your sofa, there are many approaches you can take—as our guide on how to arrange throw pillows proves. But one goal you always want to keep in mind, regardless of your approach, is a balanced and proportionate arrangement.

The Problem: Too Few Throw Pillows

This one pillow is not only too small for the sofa on its own, but it looks lonely sitting on the sofa by itself. The pillow is dwarfed by the sofa, causing the space to feel sparse and unfinished.

guide to scale and proportion

How to Fix It

Here we have a nice “bookending” of pillows on either end of the sofa. By including pillows of varying sizes and shapes, you achieve more visual balance and help visually fill out the sofa (without it looking crowded). They are arranged in a cluster of three—which is a good number to group not only pillows but also other decorative objects.

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Rugs and Room Size

Rugs are a way to ground your space and make a furniture arrangement feel more intentional. In a living room, rugs are crucial for zoning your seating area. A rug helps define the space within a room—and because of that, landing on the right size of rug for your space is crucial. Too big and the space will feel swallowed up by the rug. Too small and the space will feel ungrounded.

guide to scale and proportion

The Problem: A Rug That’s Too Small

This rug is too small for both the space and the furniture it’s paired with. Due to it being too small or “not to scale” with the room, it doesn’t define the space or ground the room like a rug should. Because of that, the space immediately feels too small and crowded—with the furniture feeling like it’s untethered and just floating within the room rather than grounded in an intentional seating arrangement. This often happens when a person first moves into a new space. They may have a rug that worked in their old place, but with a new room that has different dimensions, you may need a larger rug to create a seating arrangement that fits with the scale of the room.

How to Fix It

If you love the rug you have but it’s too small for your space, you don’t have to start from scratch. You can simply layer a larger rug underneath it! Layered rugs add a nice depth to the space but also act as a “grounding” zone—which creates a space for the legs of all the base furniture to comfortably sit. Layered with a larger, neutral rug, the original rug now feels “to scale” with the room and proportional to the pieces of furniture that sit on top of it. Don’t like the layered look? Check out our guide on how to find the right rug size for your living space! Bonus: We also have a guide to finding the right rug size for your bedroom!

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guide to scale and proportion

Beds and Nightstands

While choosing a nightstand that goes with the design style of your bedroom is certainly important, even more important is how the piece you choose functions. After all, a nightstand is all about having a functional surface for useful objects and bedside organization. And if you choose a nightstand that’s too small, you may not be able to easily reach things like your alarm clock or glass of water. Too large, and you may end up hitting your shins on it every time you roll out of bed!

guide to scale and proportion

The Problem: A Nightstand That’s Too Small

This nightstand is too short for the bed frame, and its size makes the sides of the bed feel like an afterthought. Because of the height, reaching for a book or phone set on top of this table while lying in bed would prove to be quite uncomfortable—which means this table lacks practicality as well!

How to Fix It

These nightstands are at a comfortable height in relation to the bed frame, and you can easily access the objects on the nightstand. In terms of size, the nightstands feel substantial in the space but aren’t too bulky or visually heavy. If you need a little more guidance, check out our guide to finding the perfect nightstand for your space.

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living room dining room combo

Layout Guide: 1 Living Room Dining Room Combo, Styled 3 Ways

When it comes to designing an open living room and dining space, there are more than a few essential moving parts. There’s lots to consider, from furniture style and color schemes to the specific layout and flow of the space.

If you’re not sure where to start, our guide to common living room dining room combo layouts will help kick things off. For added inspiration and guidance, we’ve designed one open living room dining room combo space and reimagined it in three different ways that are each as stylish as they are practical. Read on to see the three takes on the room and all the possibilities for an open living and dining room, and steal ideas for your own space!

Need help decorating your living dining room? Star your online interior design project and work 1:1 with an expert designer to see design ideas in your exact room in 3D!

living room dining room comboLayout #1: Casual & Conversational

In this layout, the living room and dining area are delineated into distinctive zones that are separated by the sofa back and a console table. Nonetheless, the two spaces work together side-by-side and form a versatile layout that maximizes seating in both spaces—chairs and ottomans can be easily pulled from and into each area. The result is a living room dining room combo space that perfectly balances casual and formal in a visually cohesive way.

living room dining room comboFurniture pairings keep the living space versatile:

The matching tables, armchairs, and ottomans not only make for foundational living room decor, but they also bring symmetry and balance to the space. They’re also super versatile accent pieces that are easy to dress up and down as needed. The tables and chairs can be separated and rearranged into a more casual living area setup or lined up together, like they are here, to create a more intimate yet laid-back conversation space.

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living room dining room comboThe high-low furniture mix delineates the vibe in each space:

One way to decorate a living room with a fireplace is to arrange conversational seating around the hearth, such as poufs and chairs that are easy to move around along with a clean-lined sofa, which add up to a casual-chic atmosphere. Meanwhile, a classically elegant console table lining the back of the sofa not only provides convenient storage, it also sets the stage for the slightly more formal dining space.

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living room dining room comboThe dining area nails the relaxed-refined balance:

With a large communal dining table that seats six or more, the dining area is designed for intimate family dinners and entertaining big groups alike. Along with the mix of slipcovered chairs and rustic wood seats, this space reflects the same versatile elegance and ease as the living room.

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living room dining room comboLayout #2: Classic & Formal

With this living room dining room combo layout, symmetry rules. The parallel sofas in front of the fireplace make way for a straight view through to the kitchen, emphasizing a sense of openness in the room. It’s a seamless flow between the living room and dining area, with no furniture dividing and delineating the two spaces, which adds to the overall airy feel and creates a cohesive look in the room.

living room dining room comboThe living area arrangement has a natural, elevated look:

Arranging two facing sofas with matching side tables is one of our favorite living room layouts because it instantly establishes a sophisticated formal look. Plus, they frame a fireplace mantel or window perfectly in the room, rounding out the space with a balanced look and polished appeal. A rug is also key to centering and setting apart this living space.

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living room dining room comboA mix of materials is key and adds depth:

With a formal living room approach, combining different materials will warm up the space as well as continue the elevated appeal. Polished materials, such as mirrored finishes and brass lend a touch of glamour while rustic woods and a woven patterned rug will even the sleekness out with a hint of earthiness. The idea is to allow all the varying textures—smooth, grainy, woven—to shine and provide both visual and tactile elegance to the space.

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living room dining room comboTraditional dining furniture doesn’t have to be formal:

Rounding out the room is a dining space that’s anchored by a classic pedestal dining table and classic slipcovered dining chairs. While the arrangement is definitely more formal in style, the openness of the space and the ample walking room all around helps ease up the traditional appeal of this dining area. An ornate bar cabinet off to the side helps anchor this formal space by giving it some visual cohesion as well. In the end, this well-dressed dining room living room combo layout adds up to a space that’s designed for seamless entertaining.

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living room dining room comboLayout #3: Communal & Family-Friendly

If it’s comfort, coziness, and a fully casual vibe you’re after, this family-friendly living room dining room combo layout is for you. With a big sectional, relaxed side chairs, and a communal dining setup that includes a farmhouse-style table and fuss-free benches, this is our idea of a living room and dining space that’s made for some major R&R. Not to mention, it’s perfectly geared toward entertaining big groups, be it a dinner for family and friends or a kids birthday party. This is a space that lets you do it all in comfort and with ease.

living room dining room comboThe U-shaped sectional creates a framework for the living area:

Between a sofa and a sectional, the latter is definitely the winner for this living space layout. Opt for a relaxed U-shaped sectional design that is low enough to not block sight lines throughout the open room. It also subtly divides your living and dining spaces into distinct areas. Think of it as the foundational piece that everything else will be arranged and decorated around, including your dining pieces.

Additionally, not only does the sectional accommodate lots of people, it’s also super kid-friendly. Pair it with a round woven coffee table for another kid-proof design that gives you lots of surface space to work with. Ground it all with a natural-fiber rug that’s layered with a soft patterned one to add both durability and style.

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living room dining room comboKeep to moveable seating that works across the entire room:

Make sure to have some extra living room seating—be it a pair of laid-back ottomans or airy rattan chairs, like the ones here. The idea is to keep these as moveable pieces that can travel between your living and dining areas as needed. For instance, you can flank the fireplace with them to create a conversation pit in your living area, or you can pull them into the dining space as additional chairs at both ends of the table.

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living room dining room comboThe communal table brings major outdoor vibes indoors:

What sets this dining area apart from the previous layouts is that it captures a truly casual aesthetic that brings to mind picnics outdoors. The x-based dining table and bench have a relaxed look and are perfectly designed for entertaining big parties as well as kids, since there’s no formal seating protocol. This is the best option if you’re looking to create a living room dining room combo space that’s all about casual everyday living and bringing people together.

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bedroom mirror

Bedroom Ideas for a Room With Lots of Doors and Windows

bedroom

So the good news is you have a bedroom with tons of windows and closet space! Natural light and extra storage are two major perks when it comes to designing the bedroom of your dreams. The flipside? There are doors and windows on every wall. “Where do I put the bed?” “What’s the right bedroom layout?” “What if I want to add a TV?” These are all valid questions and this design challenge may leave you flabbergasted and feeling like you don’t know where to begin.

But fear not – with a little creativity, you can definitely find a design and layout that makes the most of any quirky space! Don’t let the double-edged sword of extra storage space and sunshine bring you down. With the right layout, you can easily fit all your important furniture, make sure there’s enough floor space to move through the room, AND make it look great! In fact, our designers came up with three creative ideas for a rustic and cozy bedroom layout with doors and windows on every wall. Take a look and pick one that you like best!

bedroomLayout Idea #1

The main goal in our bedroom layout #1 is to make room for a king bed. This is a bedroom that’s meant for lounging, so it’s perfect if you’re a couple that likes to watch TV in bed! The bed is situated against the back wall, which is the largest wall in the room. It’s big enough to comfortably fit a king-size bed with a nightstand on each side. The small space across from the bed is just large enough to fit a dresser that doubles as a TV stand.

On the window side of the room, we added a bench under the windows for extra seating. We also tucked a floor-length mirror into the corner for a natural-light filled dressing spot! Plus, the mirror gives the illusion of a bigger space. There’s also plenty of floor space to walk throughout the room and plenty of bed space for cozy movie nights.

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bedroomWhy This Bedroom Layout Works

The only way to fit a large bed into this room is to place it flush against the larger back wall. That way there’s plenty of room for two nightstands without crowding the space. With plenty of clearance on all three sides of the bed, it’s easy to navigate the space. The TV at the foot of the bed is perfect for watching your favorite late-night shows while you’re snuggled up!

We added a bench against the window wall to provide extra seating as well as a catchall spot for putting on shoes, clothes, etc. It’s low enough so it doesn’t block any of the natural light from flowing in. We put a full-length mirror in the corner by the window to make use of an awkward corner and create a well-lit dressing area.

bedroomLayout Idea #2

This design places more importance on seating than having a giant bed. We put a queen-size bed against the smaller side wall next to the door. There’s less space on this wall so it leaves room for only one nightstand, but it also offers more floor space and a nice view out the windows from your bed.

The blue and white color palette keeps the room feeling airy and cool. And the neutral furnishings help maintain a sense of openness and serenity – perfect for a bedroom oasis. Plus, with two armchairs there is extra seating for a reading nook or cozy place to hang before you’re ready for bed.

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bedroom doorWhy This Bedroom Layout Works

This layout makes use of the small bedroom wall next to the door by fitting a queen-sized bed with one nightstand. It makes a perfectly cozy spot to lay in bed and enjoy views out the windows to the great outdoors. The smaller bed also leaves room for a large dresser, which we placed in front of the windows. It’s low enough to not block any of the natural light but also provides tons of extra storage.

There is also enough room to fit two armchairs for extra comfy bedroom lounging. These make a great spot for curling up with a book. There’s no TV in this layout because it’s all about maximizing your view. Simple forms and darker woods and accents help add depth and warmth to space. And the textures of the woods, rug, and bedding, along with accents like wicker baskets, make the room feel extra plush and cozy.

bedroom mirrorLayout Idea #3

This layout idea has the most unconventional placement with the bed in front of the windows. The big windows let the sunlight pour in so you know when it’s time to rise and shine. We chose a design with a cane headboard that lets the light seep through so it doesn’t block out any sun but you can also opt for a lower headboard that doesn’t block the window as much. And, if you’re a super light sleeper or don’t want to get up with the sun, make sure to add curtains that will block the morning light.

The contrast of bright white and neutrals with a few blue accents creates an elegant, refined look for your bedroom. The mix of light and dark wood grains and the use of natural textures and fabrics keep the look from feeling too cold or austere. The bed faces the door which helps leave the far wall open for a large dresser and an armchair for an extra seating nook!

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dresser
Why This Bedroom Layout Works

Even though it’s a little unconventional, keeping the bed against the windows frees up tons of space in the room! Placing a contrasting rug under the bed partitions space so your bed doesn’t feel like it’s floating in the center of the room. Plus, the rug helps anchor the room so you can design around it. With the bed against a long wall, there’s plenty of room for two nightstands and you get to enjoy the morning light in all its glory.

This positioning leaves room for a larger dresser and armchair on the opposite wall. It would be hard to fit these large items with the bed anywhere else. And, this layout gives you the option to mount a TV on the wall if you’re someone who loves a cozy movie in bed. It’s a great layout for someone who wants plenty of floor space and a more unique approach to designing your space.

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