A well designed home reflects the lives of the people within it. Like most things in life however, there’s often a fine balance between chaos and order. Interior design as a discipline helps us see and appreciate our homes in new, more balanced ways.
Here are a few techniques designers use to achieve balance and order when space planning and arranging furniture:
Step 1: Observe the Space
Take note of immovable architectural elements and objects:
Do any of these objects serve as a focal point?
Do you have multiple focal points you’ll want to balance?
Do you need to introduce a focal point or two into the space?
For older homes the obvious choice is often a fireplace, while in modern spaces a large window with a stunning view serves as a great alternative. Certain large pieces of furniture like headboards or four-poster beds can also be introduced to act as focal points, especially when strategically centered within a room.
Your primary focal point should be the first thing you see upon entering. It’s often tall and dominant in colour, pattern or texture to draw the viewer in. It should also ideally serve a purpose in the type of room you’re trying to achieve. Making a large flat screen TV your primary focal point works extremely well in a media room when it’s more often an unsightly distraction elsewhere unless properly balanced in terms of size and/or colour.
Step 2: Establish a Grid
Draw a straight line from your primary focal point to the opposite side of the room.
Draw a second line that intersects the first at 90 degrees forming a cross between four distinct quadrants.
People tend to place furniture haphazardly around a room because they skip this important step. As such furniture ends up spaced too far apart, up against walls or at odd angles.
Designers prefer symmetry because it represents order, structure and tranquility. As in nature, symmetry is more pleasing to the eye because humans immediately understand it and are therefore drawn to this understanding.
If there’s one thing a designer detests it’s a focal point purposely placed on an angle. In the late 80’s and 90’s builders started putting fireplaces in corners to conserve space. This forced a lot of people to place furniture on equally awkward angles.
This isn’t to say there aren’t exceptions to every rule but it’s near impossible to achieve balance and symmetry when designing on the diagonal. Stick to placing furniture along your 90 degree intersecting lines and you really can’t go wrong.
If you have two focal points, consider placing them across from one another. Many of us feel a TV belongs above a fireplace when it’s often too high for comfortable viewing. Instead arrange the room so that you have the fireplace on one side of your seating and the TV on the other. This way both focal points balance each other in terms of size and/or visual weight with the added bonus of no longer competing with one another.
Step 3: Edit & Style
Tidy and edit your space so that only your most functional and/or attractive objects are featured.
If you have a lot of unsightly items, built-ins are designers best friend when hiding everyday objects you can’t live without but don’t want to display.
It’s important to consider items from all vantage points. Looking at your focal point, looking away from it, standing, sitting – all are important to achieving a truly balanced room.
Items can be placed in a symmetrical or asymmetrical fashion when done intentionally.
Be sure and group all objects in uneven numbers – three’s, five’s etc.
The number one rule is to establish a working relationship between the objects you choose. They don’t have to be the same but should look good together. Often sharing a common element like colour, shape, size and scale helps achieve this similarity.
Remember less is always more when it comes to accessories and furniture. Negative space helps any room feel larger.
Scale can be played with but rarely ignored. Large objects look best in larger rooms while smaller objects look best grouped together.
Choosing what, where and how in terms of furniture and accessories really is an art unto itself. Follow these three simple rules to achieve a more designer friendly and magazine inspired room the next time you change the furniture placement in your home.