Rookie Mistake: Scale + Proportion

Rookie Mistakes: a series of common decor mistakes made by rookies… aka us. And no we are not judging because we have made (and continue to make) these mistakes too!

Remember the Rookie Mistakes series is a NO JUDGEMENT ZONE. We’ve both made ALL of these decorating mistakes in our own homes and simply want you to learn from us so you can make your home look amazing.

Rookie Mistake – Scale and Proportion

mastering scale and proportion when decorating

I’ve seen many homes that are absolutely gorgeous…the finishes, the style, the furniture…all so on trend. But when I look around something just feels off. Usually, that’s because some of the rugs, artwork, or furniture are not the right scale or proportion. Scale and proportion actually refer to different things but are often used interchangeably. Scale is how an item relates to the size of the room, while proportion is the relationship between items.

To give you some examples, I’m going to show you guys our condo when we first saw it. These are the MLS photos from almost 4 years ago (you can see all of the before and afters of our place in this post. It’s crazy how far it has come!)

Bedroom with wrong scale and proportion

Why It Isn’t Working: The nightstand on the right is much too small for the large bed and looks teeny tiny compared to it. The artwork is way too small over the bed, as is the lamp on the left nightstand.

Bathroom before with small frames

Why It Isn’t Working: These frames are a pet peeve of mine and I see this all.the.time. Hanging a 4×6 or 5×8 on a wall and calling it a day will rarely work in any design situation. These babies are just floating there! This would actually look a lot better if the frames were stacked because it would take up a lot more room visually over the toilet.Too small dining room table

Why It Isn’t Working: This dining room table isn’t the correct scale for this room…it’s much too small. We actually have a 6 person table and it fills the room so much better in here now.

So those are some extreme examples, but can you see where I’m going with this? Sometimes you can have furniture or items you really love, but they just don’t work in a particular spot in your home because the scale is all wrong. Let’s fix that!

Scale with Artwork

When chatting about scale, the #1 rookie mistake has to do with artwork on the walls. For some reason, people are often choosing small frames and small pieces to hang in their homes and it drives me bonkers. So let’s look at a few bedrooms that have the correct scale and talk about why it works…

How to decorate your master bedroom

Why It Works: An easy rule of thumb for hanging art above a bed (or any piece of furniture) is that it should fill at least two-thirds of the space. For my mom’s bedroom, we needed a big ol’ piece to go over her king-sized bed. This one worked out beautifully.

Casey's master bedroom

Why It Works: In my own master bedroom, I chose to do a round mirror over the bed instead of frames or a large piece of art. I did this because of the square window next to it. It would have looked awkward to do a square piece next to the square window. Instead, a round mirror breaks up all of those straight lines. Plus, the mirror is big taking up at least 2/3 of the bed.Adding frames over the bed

Why It Works: Bridget chose to do 3 framed prints over her bed and this also works great! The 3 frames act as one unified piece, taking up over 2/3 of the bed. If she would have only hung 1 of these, then it wouldn’t look right.

Scale with Furniture

Furniture can be tricky because it’s hard to know how a particular item will look when you get it home and into your space. That’s why measuring is sooooo incredibly important. Shop armed with your measurements and you’ll have a lot more luck. I’ll usually make note of the smallest and largest a piece can be before I head out to the stores or look online.

Another tip is to use painter’s tape to mark out your potential furniture on the floor. That way you can get a feel for how pieces will interact with one another and you can ensure you have the correct proportions.

Here are some spaces where the furniture scale is spot on. Living room furniture to scale

Why It Works: Bridget’s family room is a great example of scale with furniture. This is actually a really large room, so she filled it with large furniture. She opted for an extra long couch on the left, a large table in the middle and another couch on the right. The chair also works beautifully because it takes up a lot of visual space in the corner. Everything is in proportion to one another and nothing looks way too big or way too small. Blue and neutral living room space

Why It Works: The furniture in my brother’s living room is at the right scale too. This is a large open living room space and the sectional works wonderfully in here. You want your coffee table to take up 2/3 the length of the couch, and this one does just that.

Scale with RugsFinding the right rug for a space

We’ve chatted about the too-small rug in this rookie mistake post and exhaustively on other posts here on the blog. By now it should be drilled in your brain that you should always go bigger when buying a rug!

Here’s an example of a too-small rug…

Too small rug

Why It Isn’t Working: This 5×8 (I’m guessing), is way too small for this large family room. Visually it cuts up the space and isn’t the right scale for this large room.

Why It Works: Here’s the same exact room (with lots of other changes), with a much larger rug. The space feels huuuuge compared to using the other 5×8 rug. This one is the right scale for the room.

Your Homework AssignmentFarmhouse dining room

Now that you’re armed with this information, I want you to take a walk around your house and look at each room. Does something just feel off in certain spots? If so, it just might be the scale or the proportion of a piece. Take a hard look at the art and frames on your walls and make sure they actually work for that particular space. I promise that with a few tweaks here and there, you can master scale and proportion to create a well-designed home.