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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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Modsy design style

Modsy Style Guide: A Look Inside Our Latest Collections

Modsy design style

Fall is in full swing! To usher in the new season, we’ve created fresh looks for 7 of our most-popular Modsy design styles. In these new looks, you’ll find some of your old favorite pieces, as well as new color palettes and a few ideas on creating more cozy spaces for the colder seasons.

From Mod Visionary to Atomic Industrial, each Modsy design style is full of a mix of furniture and decor that is unique to the look. No matter your style, you’ll be sure to find pieces that fit your budget, space, and lifestyle.

Not sure what your style is? Take our Style Quiz to find out.

Ready to peek inside our top Modsy design styles? Keep scrolling for the full tour of our top 7 looks for fall!

The Style: Mod Visionary

modsy design style modsy design style

Every year Mod Visionary is crowned as the most-popular design style. And it’s not hard to see why. The look takes mid-century designs and makes them comfortable and effortlessly livable.

Shop The Look: The Mod Visionary Design Studio

The Key Elements

The Mod Visionary Modsy design style features mixed woods, subtle pops of color, minimal styling, and all-around welcoming vibes.

It’s Perfect If You…

Like a trend-forward look but still prefer to be a bit conservative with your style.

Also a great style for small-space dwellers, the mid-century undertones of this look help open up petite spaces in big ways.

The Overall Vibe

Emily Henderson’s modern and fresh aesthetic, translated for your home.

The Style: Contemporary Minimalist

Modsy design style Modsy design style
Modsy design style Modsy design style

Light and airy spaces composed of clean lines and sophisticated finishes are the ticket to our Contemporary Minimalist look. With this style, you can give any room a dose of breathable elegance that’s also timeless and simple.

Shop This Look: The Contemporary Minimalist Design Studio

The Key Elements

Slim and structured furniture rendered in sophisticated finishes defines this look. Start with a strong neutral palette then add accents in simple, versatile hues. Top it all off with a dash of mixed materials and metals.

It’s Perfect If You…

Gravitate towards slim structured furniture with touches of mixed materials. If high shine makes you cringe you’ve come to the right place  Contemporary Minimalist interiors always incline towards minimal ornamentation.

The Overall Vibe

The set of Big Little Lies meets Marie Kondo.

The Style: Rustic Warmth

modsy design style modsy design style

Traditional pieces with soft reclaimed elements and an organic feel make up our Rustic Warmth style. Nothing gets comfier than this look, which brings together relaxed furnishings with rustic accents to give your room a cozy, lived-in feel.

Shop This Look: The Rustic Warmth Design Studio

The Key Elements

Pieces that bring cozy warmth to your home through comfy textures and accents. Imagine mixed woods, neutral tones, rustic touches, and playful patterns for a look that feels casual and collected.

It’s Perfect If You…

Want a look that makes any house a home. With this Modsy design style comfort and family-friendly spaces are a must!

This style combines on-trend pieces with durable materials, so it’s great for rooms that see a lot of traffic.

The Overall Vibe

Chip and Joanna Gaines’s busy, happy home – but done your way.

The Style: Mod Enthusiast

modsy design style modsy design style

Mod Enthusiast is a design style that isn’t afraid to embrace iconic Mid-Century Modern design. If this is your aesthetic you can expect rooms full of classic mid-century shapes and colors styled in an approachable and livable way. The brighter pops of color the better!

Shop This Look: The Mod Enthusiast Design Studio

The Key Elements

Iconic Mid-Century Modern shapes alongside other retro staples, punchy patterns, and tapered legs. Our Mod Enthusiast style is also known for its bright pops of color in unexpected places.

It’s Perfect If You…

Have a sense of nostalgia for your grandparents’ retro living room and prefer your home to always be curated in a sophisticated way.

The Overall Vibe

Mad Men retro cool without the 1960s dim lighting.

The Style: Contemporary Connoisseur

modsy deisgn style modsy deisgn style

Comfort, livability and beauty are hallmarks of this Modsy design style. The Contemporary Connoisseur’s approach to styling is relaxed and easy-going, but their home is also versatile enough for formal entertaining.

Shop This Look: The Contemporary Connoisseur Design Studio

The Key Elements

Polished and casual furnishings rendered in natural materials and laid-back hues. Think tailored upholstery, woven designs, and crisp white pillows and throws. It’s a look that’s sure to give your rooms a classic yet breezy feel.

It’s Perfect If You…

Strive for a space with a Coastal California vibe that also entertains an element of formal comfort. And if the idea of comfy furnishings paired with American antiques makes you swoon, this might be the perfect look to try on in your space.

The Overall Vibe

Reese Witherspoon’s coastal beach house.

The Style: Atomic Industrial

modsy design style modsy design style
modsy design style modsy design style

Modern lines, strong foundational pieces, and raw materials are at the core of our Atomic Industrial style. Inside these rooms you’ll find pieces reminiscent of Atomic building materials combined with a moody palette for a space that’s edgy and urban.

Shop This Look: The Atomic Industrial Design Studio

The Key Elements

Sculptural pieces rendered in industrial materials like iron, cement, reclaimed wood, and worn leathers. Our Atomic Industrial style prefers a minimal approach to styling – you won’t find any frills here!

It’s Perfect If You…

Love a style with some serious urban appeal. This is a look for those who feel most at home with a dark color palette and materials that are all about showing off what they really are.

The Overall Vibe

If Queer Eye turned your home into their HQ loft.

The Style: Mod Collector

Mod Visionary’s edgier cousin, the Mod Collector design style is all about Mid-Century pieces in darker finishes mixed with leather and hints of dark metals. This is a look for those who are serious about design and the authentic curation of their home.

Shop This Look: The Mod Collector Design Studio

The Key Elements

Iconic Mid-Century design rendered in eclectic materials. Think dark woods, metals, stone, and natural fibers. Expect the unexpected in a Mod Collector’s home, where the styling always has a collected look and feel.

It’s Perfect If You…

Never want a home that could be described as “cookie cutter.” Our Mod Collector look is great for those who want a space that shows off their personality.

The Overall Vibe

The slightly edgy, Instagram influencer/designer you can’t get enough of.

 

Ready to discover your Modsy style?

Modsy Style Mod Collector

Modsy Style Glossary – What Your Modsy Style Says About You

Modsy Style Mod Collector

When it comes to designing your home, there are so many factors to think about. There’s your budget, layout, and functional needs for the space to consider, as well as the overall style you want to bring to life in your home.

But it isn’t always easy putting pencil to paper and articulate your style. Do you like modern or contemporary? Mid-century or industrial? It’s easy to collect a Pinterest board of interiors you love, but it’s another task entirely to describe exactly what you like about them.

To help take some of the work out of designing your home, our Modsy Style Quiz helps you hone in on a specific look that works for you and your space. From Mod Collector to Rustic Warmth, each Modsy Style is comprised of a curated mix of furniture and accents that is unique to the look – and designed to give your home a look and feel you’ll love.

Not sure what your style is? Take our Style Quiz to find out. Here’s a peek at the top Modsy Styles our customers love the most.

The Style: Mod Visionary

Modsy Style Mod Visionary Modsy Style Mod Visionary
Modsy Style Mod Visionary Modsy Style Mod Visionary
Modsy Style Mod Visionary Modsy Style Mod Visionary
Modsy Style Mod Visionary Modsy Style Mod Visionary

Our most popular style, this look is for those who love mid-century designs but want a space that’s easy to live in. Rooms designed for our Mod Visionary customers are always comfortable, just trendy enough, and styled with a clean and minimal twist.

Read this next: Style Spotlight – Mod Visionary

The Key Elements

Designs feature clean lines, neutral foundation pieces, natural woods, and small pops of brass and silver mixed up with splashes of color and graphic patterns.

It’s Perfect If You…

Like to dabble in trends, but prefer a more timeless and modern aesthetic in your own home. The Mod Visionary look is all about mixing Mid-Century shapes with modern finishes and fabrics – like brassy metals alongside velvets and linens.

Also, the Mod Visionary style is great in small spaces, studio apartments, and tiny rooms. A look curated with furnishings designed to create an airy look and feel, if you’re pressed for square-footage, you’ll find lots of design options with this style.

The Overall Vibe

Like HGTV designer Emily Henderson personally decorated your home.

The Style: Contemporary Minimalist

Modsy Style Contemporary Minimalist Modsy Style Contemporary Minimalist
Modsy Style Contemporary Minimalist Modsy Style Contemporary Minimalist
Modsy Style Contemporary Minimalist Modsy Style Contemporary Minimalist
Modsy Style Contemporary Minimalist Modsy Style Contemporary Minimalist

For those of you looking to balance comfortable furnishings within modern spaces, the Modsy Contemporary Minimalist style has all the essentials for bringing the look to life in your home.

The Key Elements

Timeless furnishings with sleek lines (comfy armless chairs, round table with a unique pedestal base), a strong neutral palette, accents in simple, versatile hues alongside mixed materials and metals.

It’s Perfect If You…

Gravitate towards slim and structured furniture with sophisticated finishes. Imagine light and airy spaces with minimal ornamentation. With our Contemporary Minimalist style, you’ll find breathable elegance paired with simple styling touches.

The Overall Vibe

The set of Big Little Lies meets Marie Kondo.

The Style: Rustic Warmth

Modsy Style Rustic Warmth Modsy Style Rustic Warmth
Modsy Style Rustic Warmth Modsy Style Rustic Warmth
Modsy Style Rustic Warmth Modsy Style Rustic Warmth
Modsy Style Rustic Warmth Modsy Style Rustic Warmth

Nothing gets comfier than our second most popular Modsy style – Rustic Warmth. This look brings together relaxed furnishings with rustic accents to give your room a cozy, lived-in feel.

Read this next: Style Spotlight – Rustic Warmth

The Key Elements

Shabby-chic antiques and reclaimed pieces that add warmth and texture, cozy neutrals with an organic feel (light grays, tans, beiges), and comfy accents (cushy throw pillows, chunky knit blankets, and touches of weathered wood.)

It’s Perfect If You…

Love an inviting, family-oriented atmosphere. The mix of furnishings curated for our Rustic Warmth style combines on-trend pieces with materials that can stand up to some wear while bringing warmth and ease to your spaces.

The Rustic Warmth look is curated specifically to make your house feel like a home. It’s not surprising then that it’s a favorite among Modsy homeowners who are looking to create family-friendly rooms that appeal to both kids and grown-ups.

The Overall Vibe

Chip and Joanna Gaines’s busy, happy home – but done your way.

The Style: Mod Enthusiast

Modsy Style Mod Collector Modsy Style Mod Collector
Modsy Style Mod Enthusiast Modsy Style Mod Enthusiast
Modsy Style Mod Enthusiast Modsy Style Mod Enthusiast
Modsy Style Mod Enthusiast Modsy Style Mod Enthusiast

This is the look for those of you who want a purely mid-century modern aesthetic in your home. Think retro forms, punchy patterns, and lots of bright colors and tapered legs. This Modsy style is where comfy mid-century designs meet twenty-first century interiors.

Read this next: Style Spotlight – Mod Enthusiast

The Key Elements

Mid-Century Modern silhouettes styled in an approachable, livable way. A light and bright palette (sunny-hued art, earthy accents, and bright patterns), natural wood tones, and classic mid-century stapes (is it really Mod Enthusiast if there isn’t an Eames chair in sight?).

It’s Perfect If You…

Are a tried and true mid-century modern aficionado. You have a sense of nostalgia for retro interiors that are curated in a sophisticated way. Our Mod Enthusiast style is all about approachable rooms with a distinct design POV.

The Overall Vibe

Mad Men retro cool without the 1960s dim lighting.

The Style: Contemporary Connoisseur

Modsy Style Contemporary Connoisseur Modsy Style Contemporary Connoisseur
Modsy Style Contemporary Connoisseur Modsy Style Contemporary Connoisseur
Modsy Style Contemporary Connoisseur Modsy Style Contemporary Connoisseur
Modsy Style Contemporary Connoisseur Modsy Style Contemporary Connoisseur

This look might be described as the epitome of California Coastal style. In the Contemporary Connoisseur’s home you’ll find polished furnishings rendered in natural materials and laid-back hues. The result is beautiful mix that gives your rooms a classic yet breezy look and feel.

The Key Elements

Relaxed and sumptuous furnishings (linen slipcover sofas, white club chairs, rattan lighting), a coastal palette (blues, whites, blushes, and soft grays abound), and beautiful earthy accents (ombré ceramics, light-wood vessels).

It’s Perfect If You…

Enjoy classically styled interiors but with a slightly less formal vibe. Featuring a mix of tailored upholstery, woven designs, and crisp white pillows and throws, our Contemporary Connoisseur style is perfect if you like the idea of comfy furnishings alongside American antiques.

Comfort, livability and beauty are hallmarks of this style. The approach is relaxed and the spaces are easy-going but also versatile enough to entertain formally.

The Overall Vibe

Reese Witherspoon’s coastal beach house.

The Style: Atomic Industrial

Modsy Style Atomic Industrial Modsy Style Atomic Industrial
Modsy Style Atomic Industrial Modsy Style Atomic Industrial
Modsy Style Atomic Industrial Modsy Style Atomic Industrial

Strong lines, raw and unfinished materials, and streamlined designs, all underscore the Atomic Industrial look. Inside these rooms you’ll find modern, edgy pieces combined with a moody palette. All in all, it’s a style with some serious urban appeal.

The Key Elements

Sturdy foundational pieces (neutral-hued sofa, iron open bookcases, hefty cement table), industrial materials (unfinished woods, exposed metal, leather with a rich patina), and a high contrasty color palette (charcoal upholstery and pillows, black-and-white rug).

It’s Perfect If You…

Respond to spaces that convey a sense of gravitas and feel most at home amid moody shades and raw materials. If you like minimalist or loft-like spaces that are furnished with just a few substantial (and functional) pieces, the Atomic Industrial look is right up your alley.

And just because this style tends toward the sleek and serious, doesn’t mean the furniture lacks in comfort. In fact, if you’re all about tried-and-true pieces that are cozy and easy to mix and match together, you’ll want to experiment with this style.

The Overall Vibe

If Queer Eye turned your home into their HQ loft.

The Style: Mod Collector

Modsy Style Mod Collector Modsy Style Mod Collector
Modsy Style Mod Collector Modsy Style Mod Collector
Modsy Style Mod Collector Modsy Style Mod Collector
Modsy Style Mod Collector Modsy Style Mod Collector

Thoughtfully curated spaces with an eye towards authentic design define this Modsy Style. As such, Mod Collector rooms always highlight their dweller’s distinct personality and taste – nothing “cookie cutter” here.

Read this next: A Design Historian’s Perspective – The Trend is “Collector”

The Key Elements

Iconic Mid-Century pieces and design elements, beautifully textured materials (you’ll find dark metals, stone, leather, and jute mingling inside the Mod Collector’s home), and a warm palette (think rich wood tones, black and brown leathers), and eclectic styling (where art is leaned, rather than hung, and chairs can be used as nightstands).

It’s Perfect If You…

Consider yourself a collector, a curator, and enjoy the act of designing your home over time with pieces that are truly unique. With this Modsy Style, you’ll find pieces that tell a story and convey your passion for design in every room.

Another favorite amongst city dwellers, the Mod Collector look also is great for small spaces. With mid-century inspired furnishings, it’s a style that looks at home in any space.

The Overall Vibe

The slightly edgy, Instagram influencer/designer you can’t get enough of.

 

Ready to discover your Modsy style?