What is Good Design – Part 3

To understand the importance of scale inside a home, consider the differences between public buildings and houses. Offices, malls, schools, and places of worship are intentionally built on a huge scale, often with soaring ceilings, walls of glass, and massive beams. This allows large numbers of people to inhabit them in comfort.

However, homes that are designed and built on a massive scale can lose their sense of security and comfort. This doesn’t mean that houses should never have vaulted ceilings or tall windows. Rather, it means that the scale and proportions of the room must be considered when determining ceiling heights.

Appropriate interior proportion involves ceiling height and room size. Although raised ceilings can create the illusion of space, they can just as easily make a room seem small. Basically, if a room is taller than it is wide or deep, you may feel as though you’re in a cavern.

Wall thickness is another small detail where scale can make a substantial difference. The typical interior wall is framed with 3½ inch-wide wood studs. When this thickness is doubled to 7 inches (using two studs) at openings, there is a perception that all the walls are this thick and the entire home appears to be sturdier. In some cases, thickening the walls to 12 inches can offer an even more substantial look.

For example, take a close look at this floor plan and note that the short walls that separate the dining/kitchen and the great room/dining are thicker than the other walls.


This is a very inexpensive detail that creates a rather dramatic difference as you walk between these areas.

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