Architecture and Interior Design

The heart and soul of any great interior design project lies with the architectural principles of proportion and scale.

Proportion

The proportions of a room or space can create movement, tranquility and even excitement or drama. Most people are familiar with Gothic architecture. The extreme height to width ratio of Gothic spaces are intended to create religious drama and divine inspiration. They are humbling while at the same time they entice your spirit to soar.

As a counterpoint, Classical Architecture is clear and rational. It dictates spaces of perfect rectangles, squares, and circles which are often based upon mathematical computation. By appealing to the mind rather than emotion, Classical Interiors can be quite calming and peaceful.

Consideration of proportion should be an integral part of any project. A bedroom with simple proportions without extreme variances will create a tranquil and restful feeling. Stair halls proportioned with a greater height to floor ratio create drama and along with a well designed stair create graceful movement upwards. Today I see many newly constructed stair halls that are large but ill proportioned, they become an awkward waste of space with a stair off to the corner.

Here in New York, I am often asked to design the combination of two smaller apartments into a single apartment. Except for a relatively small number of apartment buildings, ceiling heights may be on the lower side. The creation of large spaces with a low ceiling can often feel oppressive and heavy. As a space's width and length increases, ceiling heights are perceived as being lower. In these cases I often create a subtle division using a large opening as a just 8 to 12 inches less than the width and height of the room. This results in two smaller ceiling surfaces that are in proportion to the rooms width and length while maintaining the free open space of a large room.

Scale

Scale is crucial. Grand crown mouldings will appear out of scale and even obtrusive in a small room. The smaller the room, the more delicate the moulding should be. If considering a marble tile floor, also consider the overall pattern created by the tiles in the space. Are there enough tiles to establish a pattern? How many in the row, how many in the column? Fixtures such as faucets should also be in scale not only to be visually pleasing but to assure proper function. A kitchen faucet at a small bar sink will have too great a flow rate thereby continually splashing the countertop.

An occasional tweak of scale can be used to deceive the eye. Another trick I use to make ceilings appear higher is using tall doors. Although it seems counterintuitive, tall doors will make a ceiling appear higher by creating strong vertical elements.

Attention to proportion and scale is a great investment of time and resources. Most people have visited a house, building or even a shop where the space felt great. The reason is often hard to articulate. It is likely due to proportion and scale.

When you are in New York, stop by to see some great European and American Rooms in the Wrightsman Galleries and the American Wing.

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/The_Wrightsman_Galleries

https://www.metmuseum.org/about-the-met/curatorial-departments/the-american-wing