In case you haven’t heard, we’ve been celebrating the start of fall by re-learning design lessons in the form of our favorite school subjects. While math may not have been fun for all, turns out there are helpful styling tricks inspired by the numbers. Cue, the golden ratio. If you haven’t heard of it, don’t stress. In the spirit of being studious, we did the research for you. Below we share the basics and how to apply it to creating a perfectly proportioned and well-balanced living room layout.
The Golden Ratio Simplified
The Golden Ratio, also known as the golden number, is an age-old mathematical sequence that occurs throughout nature. It became popularized in design because it is known to be the most pleasing composition to the eye.
So what exactly is the golden ratio? The mathematical answer — 1 to 1.618. To make the number a bit more digestible in terms of design, experts have simplified it as the rule of thirds.
Living Room Layout
Using the golden ratio in a living space means thinking in thirds as opposed to quarters or halves. The goal is to select furniture that feels balanced in scale and proportionate to the other pieces in the room. Start with an element of the room and relate all other objects to it. For example, select a couch and then choose a coffee table in relation to the scale of the couch.
In case you need a styling starting point, we crunched a few numbers to come up with our go-to proportions in the living room. Keep in mind these are general suggestions and you should always trust your innate design instincts.
Couch = ⅔ the width of the wall or ⅓ the size of the rug
Coffee table = ⅓ to ⅔ the length of the couch
Accent Chairs = ⅓ the length of the couch
Side Table = ⅔ the length of the accent chair
Rug = ⅔ the size of the room
Styling Tip: We’ve found that covering about 60% of the room with furniture feels full but not overwhelming.
The Art of Arranging
When it comes to wall art, there are a few creative routes you can take depending on your room layout. Applying the golden ratio, mentally divide the wall into thirds from top to bottom and left to right. For large, statement pieces, position the art so the outer edges of the painting sit nicely in the hypothetical grid.
When hanging art side-by-side or creating a gallery wall, the center of the painting or arrangement feels most comfortable when at eye level, which is about ⅔ of the wall height (measuring from bottom to top). Similarly, small pieces can make a quiet but impactful statement solo when placed about ⅔ of the way up the wall.
Styling Tip: Choose a large art piece that covers about ⅓ of the wall for a clean and complete look.
Last but not least, lighting. There are a lot of other factors that come into play when it comes to illuminating your space, so take our styling suggestions here with a grain of salt. For visual balance, we recommend using different types of lighting. Here are a few general scale recommendations to get started:
Pendants = hung at about ⅓ of the room’s height (but with at least 7 feet of clearance)
Wall sconces = placed at the ⅓ or ⅔ mark of the wall’s height (from bottom to top)
Floor lamps = about ⅓ of the room’s height
Table Lamps = no larger than ⅓ the size of the surface it’s resting on
Styling Tip: Layer different types of lighting for visual balance and overall illumination.
There are endless interior opportunities to apply the golden ratio, but at the end of the day, you should always style your space with your personal aesthetic in mind. If anything, we hope this guide serves as a general starting point as you flex your creative muscles to make home your own.
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