The Right Scale

Few things are harder than working at a proper scale.  Constructing anything at the right scale-whether it be a landscape, a garden, a swath of groundcover, or a holiday window box, getting the project scaled properly is directly related to the level of confidence one feels taking on the project.  What do I mean by this?  A lack of confidence in one’s idea dimished the result.  Confidence makes for properly scaled expressions. The size of a project needs to be properly proportioned to the size of a space.   

What appears to be a giant size under construction in the garage gets visually downsized once it goes outdoors.  They do not call it the great outdoors for nothing.  Even my tiny urban property is bigger than any space or room I have inside my house.  Add the sky to that property-outdoor spaces are big spaces.  Groups of 1 or 3 tulips in a perennial garden is a tentative gesture.  Planted in 9’s and 11’s, there may be a significant spring statement in the works. 

A client ordered up a winter display in her second story window boxes.  The iron boxes with their coir liners are enormous.  Quite properly proportioned, or scaled, to the building.  The boxes have liners that are but a tenth the size of the visible iron work.  This is not a good proportion.  I protested that I could not do make the winter displays large enough for the iron work, in 4 liners that were 8″ by 8″ by 6 inches deep.  She asked me to try.    

The four liners are not even visible here.  We stuffed the four liners it took to fill one box with dry floral foam.  Then we stuffed those liners with as much material as we could.

This picture shows the size of liner number 3, versus the overall size of the window box.  What appeared so massive indoors got a visual dressing down at the installation.  Inside these hayrack style window boxes-a plywood platform on which these small liners would sit. 

A fall planting of cabbages and pansies is barely visible from the ground.  Any display on the second floor, to be viewed from the ground, needs to be overscaled by 3 or 5 times.  Our winter display to the right is barely big enough.   

I was happy with the finished scale.  Not that it could not have been bigger.  This is my first try with these boxes.  They read from the ground, but they could read better.  Would that the greens could be thicker, and lower.  The platinum twigs-are they too subtle?  We installed these boxes this past Saturday-it was warm, and windless.  A miraculously benign late November day.   

The window boxes are a major architectural feature of this new house.  I like the shape and the size.  I was worried that I would underscale the winter display-as well I should have been.  It is clear I could up size that display considerably, and be in no danger of overstating.  It is hard to find just the right size and scale.  Just think what it takes to find jeans and boots that fit right, and look right. The same applies to selecting the tree whose mature size will be the right scale for the space.  Or the right number of Russian sage that will create visual excitement.  Underscaled-this might make you sleepy.  Somewhat overscaled-bold.  Way overscaled-silliness.  The right scale takes skill, nerve, and lots of patience.

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