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Imagine slicing a room down the middle and placing the halves on a double-pan scale. Would one side weigh down the other or would they be equal? This week is about the principle of balance.
Interior designers can use symmetrical, asymmetrical or radial balance in configuring furniture within a room. They start with identifying the focal point in the room, typically a fireplace or artwork. This is the axis around which the room revolves.
A symmetrical layout creates a more formal space. Think of a room with a fireplace on the south wall. Full-length mirrors stand on each side of the fireplace. In front of the fireplace are a rug and coffee table with sofas parallel to the table. A side table with a lamp sits next to each sofa. One side is a mirror image of the other. Everything is orderly and calm. This is why symmetrical design is pleasing to the eye.
Symmetry as a design tool dates back to the ancient Greeks. Because of its longevity, it may be associated more with classical or traditional styles. It is applicable to other styles based on furniture and material selection.
Some interiors might not lend themselves to symmetry. Consider a bedroom where the window is not centered. The window wall has been painted a dark charcoal to balance out the brightness from the opening. A platform bed with an asymmetrical, cantilevered headboard sits mostly in front of the dark wall. A long dresser on the other side of the bed balances out the extended headboard.
Though the items may not be identical in asymmetrical design, they will be of equal weight and visual interest in the room. Asymmetry in design creates a more casual environment and can create a visually exciting room.
Radial balance is less common. Think of a dining room in an older home. There is a chandelier hanging from the center of a medallion on the ceiling. A round dining table below with an array of matching chairs creates radial balance.
The design radiates outward or inward from the focal point. Hotels and office buildings, which have larger interiors, can use suspended ceilings or light fixtures to center a design. Flooring patterns can show a pattern rippling outward.
Though I am describing the types of balance separately, it’s possible they coexist within a room. A strictly symmetrical room may feel stagnant after a while. Adding asymmetrically placed accessories will enliven the room just as symmetrical elements can offset the unexpectedness of an asymmetrical arrangement.
It may take more time to create asymmetrical balance, but it will feel right just by looking at it. No scale required.
Erin Owen graduated from the interior design program at Kirkwood Community College. She has worked as a commercial and residential interior designer. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org