A few of our recent blog posts have looked at measuring up and buying garden furniture that is the right size. This month I wanted to look at it from a slightly different perspective.
More 3 Dimensional if you like, the patio as a whole space, and not just a set of tables and chairs.
Scale and proportion are key design considerations. Looking at how all the items on your patio will look next to each other, how they fit/function on that patio space, is a great way of making the most of the space you have.
You need the patio space to flow. It should be easy for people to walk around. However, most people want several different pieces – BBQ, table, chairs, planters etc – to fill that space correctly.
Too many pieces can make it look cramped and inviting, not enough could leave it uninviting and unfinished looking.
Correctly using scale and proportion when you design and decorate a patio is a lesson I’ve learnt the hard way over the years, both in my own garden, and styling for Lazy Susan photoshoots, showroom etc.
However, paying close attention to these details will help to achieve a certain harmony. Make your patio much more inviting and appealing on the eye.
And garden furniture size plays a massive part in that, but in this article I want to look at the bigger picture. How it fits in relation to the patio (and garden for that matter) as a whole, and the items you place alongside it.
What do I mean by scale and proportion?
When we talk about scale in garden design, we are basically talking about the visual size of your patio and wider outdoor space.
A well designed garden and patio need a variety of different sized items to create interest. Things to draw the eye, that fit together. If everything on your patio is the same size, then nothing will stand out.
Variation of scale on your patio is vital, but the key to success is balance. A large BBQ grill next to a small bistro set for example will not work. You need to use items of similar scale, pick the right pieces to create a focal point.
Choose the right size garden furniture and accessories for your patio
The items you place on your patio need to be scaled by function and importance. A BBQ should never be bigger than your outdoor dining set. A patio should always provide enough room for people to sit and relax or eat in comfort.
Layering your patio will keep it from being too flat. Start with the garden furniture set as this will often be the largest item on your patio, then try to vary the scale of each item you have on your patio down from that.
For example, large planters on the floor grouped around the seating area, smaller pots on the actual table is one perfect way you can achieve this. It creates cohesion. You’re gradually shifting the eye from large to smaller scaled items.
Consider the proportions of your patio
When we talk about proportion, we’re referring to the relative size and scale of the various elements on your patio. The relationship between all those individual elements on the patio as a whole.
Proportion and scale go hand in hand really. But there is that subtle difference between the two… Scale is more absolute, while proportion is truly relative.
In patio design terms it requires more of an understanding of how all the items on the patio fit and function in that space.
Inside the the home, furniture will weigh down the lower half of a room, so you can add tall floor lamps, large paintings to add interest at eye level, to create a greater sense of proportion in the whole space.
Yes, I know that unlike a room a patio is open to the sky, no ceiling, but it can still benefit from cleaver use of scale and proportion.
After all the eye can only take in so much. Get basic proportions wrong, and well it’ll look odd for want of a better word.
Architectural elements such as wall planting/climbers, trellis, tall bamboo, pergola style patio covers etc around a dining table can create this balance.
Giving the patio more of a room-like feel, such as you see in our customer photograph above, is a great way to achieve this. It all combines to help compliment the proportions and size garden furniture you have/want to get.
Grouping items to create impact
You want the items you place on your patio to create impact. However, that doesn’t mean you have to have large statement pieces too. You can group smaller items to create scale and proportion.
Rather than a large 8 seater dining set filling the space, go for a four seater set and a more informal outdoor sofa set maybe.
Combine groups of smaller items to create the impact. A group of small planters can create more interest than one large planter. But be careful… Smaller items scattered across the patio can also look disjointed.
Bringing them close together in groups will add proportion to the patio, cohesion with the larger items you have on there.
On the other-hand, too much variety of scale and you’re into clutter territory. When it comes to the patio, it is a delicate balance between creating scale and proportion, and over filling the space, making it chaotic.
And all that said, a single large-scale object can make a bigger splash than a cluster of small objects. Think carefully about what will work on your patio before you buy.
Even colour can be used to create a sense of scale
Colour is a key component of interior design when looking to create scale and proportion. Basically, dark, bold colours are heavy, while soft, muted colours will give you light.
So far example, a dark brown leather sofa against a light coloured muted wall will create visual interest. Against a dark wall it would simply become lost, and you would lose all sense of scale and proportion.
The same principles can be taken outside onto the patio, and garden design as a whole for that matter.
Determine garden furniture size and proportion to the size of your patio
Ultimately, it is the architectural dimensions that will most often dictate garden furniture size and scale.
The proportions of a patio are determined not only by the square footage, but by the size of your property, entire garden, any doors and windows that open onto the patio etc.
The relationship between patio and home is an important one. It’s what will dictate traffic flow and the visual balance of your property.
If you have patio doors opening onto the patio, then you can use them as a focal point. Much as you would a fireplace in your living room.
If not, then you could maybe use a large BBQ as the focal point? Scale and proportion your choice of garden furniture from that starting point.
It could be the furniture set itself is the focal point, and you scale down from that? The patio’s purpose will also play key role in deciding on furniture scale.
How you want that patio to function? Do you want it to be a BBQ area with more formal dining or an area for purely sitting and enjoying your garden?
Size of garden furniture matters
If you’ve decided on a Lazy Susan garden dining set (which of course you will) for your patio, then there’s a good chance it will be the largest piece on your patio.
If it is too big, then it will dominate your patio, leaving it feel cramped and difficult to move around.
Don’t try and force large furniture onto a small patio. You need space for it to flow, for people to move around.
Too small is just as big a no no. You could be left trying to fill the space with other pieces of furniture or planters etc. Back to our old friend clutter.
Proportion and scale are definitely one of the more challenging parts of good patio design. And whilst there’s a plethora of things to consider with any design, it is scale, and in turn proportion, which seem to have the biggest impact on how that space functions.
Just remember there is no right or wrong when it comes to this application of scale and proportion. It does, however, have dramatic impact on the way our patios and gardens look and feel.
Just think before you buy. It’s often a case of trial and error, but it is also very easy to waste money. Don’t buy things that won’t work or fit in the space you have.
However, for me anyway, getting the scale and proportion right all comes down to how you intend to use the space at the end of the day!