Part of the formula to good design is the proper selection of elements that make up the composition. But equally important is the quantity and size of those elements. This is where scale and proportion come into play.
Scale and proportion should be considered for every aspect of your design. There are some general guidelines where minimum and maximum dimensions may be given, but in many instances it’s a matter of you (the designer) making a judgement call based on “what looks and feels right“.
Okay, if making a decision based on “what looks and feels right” seems a little vague, let me explain. Before you even get to that stage there has to be some logical thinking behind what you might initially consider in your design.
Form always follows function. Right? What is the function or solution to the problem you’re trying to solve? The answer to that will naturally give a list of “general” features and elements. I say general because at this point you shouldn’t be worried about specifics – those will evolve in the design process.
The home in the picture above has a wide and inviting walkway from the driveway to the front door. Visually it has a lot of prominence and rightfully so because we’re leading people to the front entrance…the primary focal point to the home.
What we needed was a way for people to get from the front entrance landing and down a slope to the lawn area below. This would not be used often, but logically there should be this option.
So we’ve identified the need and function for the path / garden steps – how about scale and proportion?
These garden steps needed to be subtle so as not to compete with the main walk to the house.
To determine the width and size of the steps use marking-chalk (granular limestone). Mark out several renditions of how the garden steps might go. Experiment with different size shapes and positions. Stand back and look at the relationship of your “chalked” lines with the surrounding elements. With the visual help of the chalked lines you should begin to narrow down the possibilities. You can even involve the homeowner in this process to get their opinion and approval.
For the project pictured above stone slab-steps were used to appear as though they had occurred naturally. Notice how the line of garden steps is slightly staggered to be informal. The width is fine for one person and does not compete for attention from the main front walk and landing.
Vinca minor covers the slope and surrounds the stone steps. This works great to stabilize the slope against erosion, but it also softens the look and makes the steps less prominent.