Scale, proportion and light – the principles of interior design

Architect Emily Law, a member of BSBG’s office in Athens, Greece, considers the principles of interior design, with an acknowledgement of three components: scale, proportion and light.

A Matter of Scale

Under the magnifying glass - Principles of interior design

The experience of an end user within any given space varies largely depending upon the scale in which it is encountered; for example, the impression of a house differs if we are within the space compared with the impression gained from viewing the drawings.

Similarly, our perception of a city as we walk through the streets is in stark contrast to our perception of the same city from a plane. Streets that we spend hours walking along suddenly only occupy a tiny line no thicker than a piece of thread.

Scale delivers selective pieces of information to the brain, founded upon the overall understanding of the space as we experience it. It is an element that our human mind can naturally pick up on; we do not need to be specifically taught in order to distinguish the difference in scale. We just need to ‘listen’, as such scales become the phonology of design.

Because of this, scale must be one of the first steps in executing a concept. We must understand what scale we are going to be working within, and we must determine the scale that we want people to experience. One might say that we must begin from the bigger picture, but I want you to imagine if we started the design of a restaurant based on a handle. The methodology of your design would be completely different than if you begin with the plan.

Once we have determined the concept of how to treat the scale within our design, it is important to reinforce this thought, and enter the articulation of design, or speech.

A Game of Proportions

Principles of Interior Design- Proprtion

Proportion exists as a principle theory in design. Proportions articulate the design’s aesthetics, its structure and its functionality.

A space can emanate the sensation associated with an open and airy environment with the use of a high ceiling, while adversely it could feel claustrophobic if the ceiling is low. Alternatively, if we divide the same space into multiple rooms, the option to install a high ceiling can abruptly create a squeezed and suffocating space, while the lower ceiling can become cosy and intimate. How we manipulate the proportions of the space will begin to shape people’s judgement and guide the speech of our design.

There are numerous methods by which proportion can be represented throughout design. Some of the most prominent include the Golden Section/Ratio, Fibonacci Numbers and Canons of Proportion from Ancient Egyptian Art. We can see a combination of these proportional theories in The Module by Le Corbusier.

The expression of proportion throughout a design is the visual effect created through the relationship of volumes of space, as well as the balance of materials. This dialogue of interactions is a reflection of designers illustrating their unique view of the space’s requirements and reinforcing their approach to the scale of the design.

Through proportional elements, we hear the dialogue of our design. We solidify the phrasing that can become the written record of our work.

Light – an integral ingredient for Life

Light - the principles of interior design

Lighting provides clarity throughout the universe to every human eye. It is one of the essential ingredients for life to flourish. It expresses the contrasting of materials and colours, the shadows and depth between volumes of space. How these are seen depends entirely on how we manipulate light within our design, giving form to our spaces.

We must start by deciding what type of lighting our space requires; is it natural light or artificial? Or is it a balanced combination of both? These interactions are essential in defining every design. If we have a room without windows, one may say that it is depressive, however if I tell you that room is a theatre, your perception of the room changes.

Once our concept of lighting has been considered, we must decide how to filter it and how to provide the amount of light necessary. The full height window of a cathedral can give a very different impression to that of a full height window in an office; the way the designer has filtered the light dramatically changes our emotional response to the space.

Through light we become authors of our own space. We can tell the story of our design giving description to the proportions. This description is what people will read in time, and it is what can make our space live long after we are gone.

The Principles of interior design

Through these principles of interior design we can master a language. One that everyone can listen to. One that anyone can learn to manipulate into their own thoughts. And finally, one that people can record and study in the future.

You can learn more about BSBG’s application of these principles by looking at our project portfolio and selecting Interior Design from the filter boxes within the menu at the top of the page.