When I think scale, Phillipe Stark comes to mind, and his Mondrian outdoor Patio, with those large scale terra cotta pots. Scale is a powerful principle that can be whimsical, dictating, and most of all makes us question our own place relative to the world. It can be strong and dictating, like a large scale public statue outside of a courthouse, or timid, like a small scale sofa, that asks you not to lounge for too long.
It’s sister proportion, is in relationship to something else in the space. Many times, proportion can go wrong….too many items of the same size, and apposing proportion to each other…it sucks the interest out of the space, and adds too much tension.
Enjoy these pictures of rooms that I think show this principle well; next week I will look at the design principle of line.
I’ve used this image before; it’s from Pottery Barn a few years ago. I like the scale of small spaces; they are in proportion to the human body, and I am convinced that people are drawn to spaces like this because they feel protected.
The Clift Hotel in Sanfrancisco sure puts scale into focus with this large sculptural chair…a little Alice in Wonderland! Whimsical for sure! I would have loved to have been around that table when they came up with this!
This room by Ghislaine Vinas works because of the large scale luminarie; many times large scale can also be the emphasis in a room, but imagine this fixture in white, or the Mondrian’s pots in white, with, colourful overhead lighting or floor patterns…they are no longer the focus, but just part of the recipe.
slim 0904- Vibia through Inform
I love these luminaries; I think they work wonderfully apposed to this large scale historical interior, and because of the proportion they share with the stair balustrades. In a group, they have more presence, and create a larger scale fixture. Colour as a principle is purposefully absent; instead, the other principles of line, texture, repetition and form are the recipe.
This sitting area in a hotel setting, starting with the large scale fireplace, uses scale nicely. By adding small scale wood rounds that create one large mass, similar to the mass of the fireplace, and styling with alike proportioned accessories, emphasis stays on the art and fireplace wall. Scale is closely related to emphasis, and the bookcases bring our eye to the ceiling emphasising the scale of the room. Of course, colour is at work here as well.
The Agua Spa at the Mondrian in Miami…those oversized furniture legs as sculpture, and the large scale wall filigree is done in just the right proportion. Even in an all white interior, the scale of these pieces is not lost, just not as emphasized.
Interior by Patricia Gray
Patricia has used proportion in this living room in a lovely way, by keeping the furniture in proportion to each other and the space. The chair backs are slightly higher in proportion to the sofa, adding a pinch of variance and interest. The room is soothing, because you don’t have to work too hard to make order of the space. Emphasis is kept to a minimum, counting on form, a neutral palette, and spreading pattern equally throughout the room, visual or perceived. This is an example of an absence of apposing scale, and everything in proportion to each other, with intention. Also, the scale of the furniture does not invite you to lounge and watch TV with your feet up, which is obviously done in another space. The scale dictates the use.
Of course, symmetry is at work here, but choosing large scale chairs helps anchor that symmetry and their form and relationship to the mirrors behind them is very strong. With all these large scale items, the recipe here called for just a dash of sconces in a much smaller scale!
Interior by John Wiley
Beautiful colour here, and the scale of the sofa is large in a smaller room, but it works because the large scale items are limited to the bottom half of the space, allowing the fewer smaller items to shine. This space has a language of “come on in, I’m big enough to make you comfortable- I’m not too fussy!”
Interior by Joe Serrins
And lastly, in my opinion this room to me is missing something…it’s the lack of variance in the size of the furnishings, which causes allot of tension to me…maybe too much. Many things of the same proportion are used, other than the wallpaper. I love the wallpaper/treatment, but think it calls for larger scale furnishings. Maybe because the paper reminds me of nature, where larger rocks, cliffs and fields equalize a forest’s verticality.
When in doubt, look to nature…if you can’t find the perfect neutral, look to those organic eggs in your fridge, if you can’t figure out the right proportion and scale, look to the variance in the canopies of trees, and if you want to inspire whimsy, look to fireflies and tropical fish. Nature has figured out the right scale and proportion for us, all we need to do, as Vincente Wolf said, is “Learn to See”.