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The Art of Scale and Proportion When You Install Wall Panels

By Jamie Richardson | May 24, 2018

Having a few great decorative ideas is one thing. But managing spatial balance is a form of art. The dazzling looks of some gorgeous rooms lies on perfect symmetry. The objects within a balanced room but also wall decorations, ceiling textures, and MDF moulding are found in perfect harmony. It's all about scale and proportion. This dual term is actually the main principle in interior design but also in music, architecture, or even nature.

Where do wainscoting panels, trims, and other wall decors fit in the formula?
Let's say you want to install a flat panel in the living room. One of the first questions that come to mind is: how high should the panel go up on the wall? And before you get the chance to get answers to that, more questions pop: what size baseboard? How thick should the crown molding be? Should the window casing be slim? Once the Pandora box opens, it's hard to close it.

In order to have impressive results with wainscoting installation, you must follow the formula of scale and proportion. The successful installation of all trims in the house has everything to do with the ‘golden ratio’. Why? Simply because it gives you the sense that the room feels just right.

So, what is scale & proportion?
Simply put, scale has to do with the size of things and how they relate to each other, but also to the size of the room. One of the most common associations is between an object and the human body. We talk about small or big things by comparing them to the human body. And since we are talking about homes, we measure things with humans. Take a simple chair for example. It is scaled to fit the human body.

When it comes to wall décor, we use the golden formula to add dimension. We bring wainscoting lower to make a room look higher or take it further up to have the opposite effect. And that brings us to the second term of the formula: the proportion.
Proportion has to do with the size of objects in relation to the whole. It's a ratio. It's actually a mathematical number (and that's why the ‘golden ratio’ is also known as the ‘golden number’) which is used in architecture and interior design to define the right proportions in order for the results to be pleasing. So, if dark colors and furniture tend to weigh the room down, you install 2/3 wainscoting wall panels to bring the room up. Model-Home Makeover provides interior remodeling ideas whether you want to renovate the living room or basement.

Which are the effects of scale and proportion?
When you install the right size modern wainscoting panel, you take a closer step towards a more harmonious space. Every little thing in the room must be of the perfect size in relation to each other and to the whole space in order to bring balance. A simple example? You won't put an oversized lamp on a tiny table. It will create unbalance.

A room is pleasing to the eye when everything – from raised panels to tiny objects – are proportional and scaled. And since each room is different in terms of size and height, you need to follow the formula to create the right balance.
• When you want to bring the ceiling up, you use a slim crown moulding, keep the wainscoting low, and hang the curtains higher.
• When you want to give the impression that the ceiling is lower, you bring the wainscot up.
How do trims fit in the formula?

The baseboard, door and window casing, and the ceiling molding must all be proportional. If the ceiling trim is rather thick so should the base. One common architectural mistake relates to the height and size of chair rails. They often exceed the height of actual chairs. Interior designers won't place the wainscoting chair rail 3' off the ground unless the ceiling is over 12' tall.
Even with classic wainscoting scale, the chair rail was the actual divider which added proportion. So the panel and thus the cap must be installed at a height that will feel right in the room – depending on ceiling height. And that's why average 8' and 10' tall rooms look better with chair rails placed about 28'' or 32'' off the ground.

But don't forget that the shaker along with the base and chair rail must be proportional to the rest of the trims, like the door and window casing and crown molding. And remember that the same scale and proportion formula applies to any other object in the room. So, don't hang a tiny framed picture over a big sofa. It will seem unbalanced.

The key to successful wall design and room improvements is to have in mind the golden ratio and remember that the more you adhere to its rules the more balance and harmony you bring in the room.

Jamie is a 5-year freelance writer who enjoys real estate. He is currently a Realty Biz News Contributor.
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