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Design Balance in Decorating

Creating a Harmonious Space

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Design Balance in Decorating

In this living room, the bold sofa is balanced by the windows and the two dark chairs with patterned pillows. The softly textured rug creates a conversation space.

Photo © Jules Frazier/Getty Images

If you’ve ever been in a fun house, you know what it feels like to walk through a room that is unbalanced. But many times in home decorating, design balance is something that is an afterthought. After all, unless you’ve got serious foundation problems, I doubt your floors feel anything like those in a fun house.

But design balance in decorating is something that should be considered at the beginning stages of room design. Without proper balance, a room can make its inhabitants feel uncomfortable and anxious.

In fact, balance in a room is as much about emotion as it is about good design. Good design balance gives off feelings of stability and wellness. More specifically, balance is a part of the design that invokes a feeling of wellness in a room. Nothing feels weird, lopsided or unstable.

So how does one achieve good design balance in a room? Creating a balanced and harmonious space depends upon three things: furniture and decor placement, use of color and texture, and the scale and proportion of furnishings and decor.

Below are tips for creating a balanced room.

Furniture & Decor Placement

1) Vary the heights.
A room where all the furnishings or decor are the same height will lack interest. When you place your furniture into your room, put tall pieces next to short pieces. If your sofa has a low back, add a piece of furniture that is tall like an armoire or bookshelf. Same rule works with small decor. With small decor, use the ratio of 3:1. For example, three vases of varying heights grouped together and balanced by a single larger decor object on the opposite side of the mantel or shelf makes a striking design.

2) Balance your heavy or bold pieces.
Imagine a seesaw in your room. If one side gets weighed down with heavy furnishings or decor, your room will feel off balance. Add something on the other side to put the eye over and around the room. For example, if one wall has a tall bookshelf and tons of wall decor, make sure you balance that wall with something tall or bold on the opposite side of the room. If you have a heavy sofa against one wall, pair the wall opposite the sofa with another foundational piece of furniture.

3) Less is best.
Don’t set up an obstacle path with your furnishings and don’t cram a room too full of small decor objects. A room needs “breathing space.” (FYI… The most common mistake amateurs make is to add in too much small decor.)

Use of Color & Texture

1) Don’t match but blend.
One sign of an amateur decorator is a room where everything matches perfectly … too perfectly. Don’t go for perfection but strive for ambiance. For example, balance a bold color with a large pattern that blends but doesn’t match exactly, or balance a bright warm color with a textured cool color. Or choose colors that are the same hue but vary in intensity and scatter them evenly around your room.

2) Play up contrasts.
Homes look professionally designed when new elements are mixed with old, smooth contrasts with rough, polished is balanced with nubby. You get the idea.

3) Spread the wealth.
Don’t make one side of the room color heavy or only use a color only once in a room. Choose two to three main colors for your room palette, and then be sure to spread these colors throughout your space. This will carry the eye throughout the room and keep things interesting.

Next: Scale & Proportion in Room Design
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