How to easily create a beautiful design with balance principles.
I believe that no matter what style of design you like, the first and most important task is to create the foundation of balance in a room. A balanced room looks beautiful and feels relaxing, and it is in our nature to appreciate it.
There is a reason designers in all fields take a series of art foundation classes. The principles of what naturally looks beautiful are unchanged whether you are creating a drawing, photo, webpage, or designing a room. We innately are tuned to notice if a circle is perfectly round or if a square is plumb or a line is straight. What is less intuitive about interior design is that it is 3-dimensional. The positive and negative space is not flat on a page, it surrounds you. That is why I always go back to drawing floorplans as a way to generate ideas. It is much easier to see at a glance what is balanced, what is not, and how to fix it working in 2-dimensional design. In this post we will dive into creating balance in 2-dimensional areas of your home.
Balance is how things are visually weighed around a central point. The farther away they are from the center the more visual weight they carry. Symmetrical balance is when similar items are an equal distance from the central point. Asymmetrical balance is when items of unequal size are made to have equal weight by changing how far they are placed from the central point.
Envision a fireplace mantle. It is six feet across and has a strong vertical axis. If you were creating a symmetrical design, you would place equal number of similarly sized, shaped and colored pottery on either end of the mantle. One side would reflect the other, like the wings of a butterfly.
Now envision the same fireplace, but this time with one large and a few small pieces of pottery. To create asymmetrical balance with objects of different sizes, treat it like a lever. Pull the larger object towards the center and bring the smaller objects farther away. Group the multiple smaller objects together so they gain visual weight and create that balance.
When decorating bookshelving I think about radial balance. I envision a central point in the middle of the shelving, and I use X-shapes to format the design. Notice in the drawing of the bookshelving, that books are stacked on the top, middle, and bottom shelves to highlight the central vertical axis. The pottery, books and frames radiate out from this point making X-shapes. By using an X-shape you are naturally creating balance, and keeping the eye moving because no shapes become dominant, such a row of pottery or a block of pictures.
What this drawing doesn't show is color and texture. The color of these objects is where you can truly make your design statement. If all the all the frames, pottery and vertical books were white, and the horizontal books in the central axis were black, a central vertical rectangle would jump out and the look would be bold. If the pottery was clear blue glass, the frames in a light wood and the books clothed in linen, the look would be soft and breezy.