Interior Trends 2012 – The Anatomy of GREAT Design – Part 3

Balance is to design what Gravity is to the planet Earth. Your design would not make much sense without it.

Veranda Feruary 2012 Cover detail

Welcome to my first article of 2012! WordPress informs me that over 300,000 readers passed this way in 2011. If you were one of them, welcome back! If you are new, welcome to ReDo-it Design, the how-to extension of my home décor business, – grab your favorite hot beverage, and have a look at Part 3 of how to create GREAT design. (parts 1 and 2 are linked below).

Let’s begin 2012 with “Balance” – always a winning practice.

The Veranda Magazine cover design (above) that has been serving as handy Rosetta Stone for all design concepts discussed may be redundant by now but is a visual cheat-sheet to concepts defined herein.

Balance is the delicious foundational center that frosting can neither assuage or compensate for if it gone amiss. You can purchase all the great design elements from MyHomeFaceLift or any of my venerable competitors and the result will still disappoint. This is not the design 101 version; I am marrying fine arts precepts and interior design basics here to make a system of logic that cuts the fat and creates a rubric that will function for you with less pieces. If Balance were a flowchart, it would look allot like this (to me):

My view of Balance, as divinging some other basic design concepts. Image by me.

At the heart of balance is composition. Composition is layout, the effect of which is read by your brain, even if not at a conscious level. In a painting, composition is achieved by clustering objects in circular, triangular or rectangular forms in a procession that directs the eye around the room intentionally.

Da Vinci created a compositional layout to intentionally draw the viewers gaze in the direction he intended. Painting by Leonardo Da Vinci

A room composition is a layout combining directionality with functionally. A layout efficiently describes the plan for the use of your space, which results in functionality couple with visual harmony. This space plan implements solutions for problems your architecture may present. Layout governs traffic flow, creating rhythm by distributing shapes and visually weighted elements (which include furnishings and architectural features like windows, fire places, built-ins and door-swings) in a manner supported by color choices. Creating task-specific living zones that function seamlessly with aesthetic and color choices define the harmony of your space.

There are several ways to achieve balance, and a few good tricks for making it work.

Symmetrical balance is a key component of traditional interior design. This style of creating balance is achieved by placing objects (or creating scale size repetition) on either side of a space or a vertical axis. It’s not just placing matchy-matchy bedside tables on either side of a bed! It is equal distribution of visual weight.

The Veranda Magazine Cover we’ve been discussing is a text-book example of this, but you can shake the concept up a bit, to add interest.

Symmetrically balanced room image from Philip Gorrivan Photography

The images above leads the eye through static symmetry with color, and in the foreground distributes weight in equal areas using unequal numbers of objects.

This image from House to Home UK infuses a symetrically balanced room with Assymetrical art!

Asymmetry or Asymmetrical balance has become the dominant expression of balance, as modern style has come to dominate interior design world-wide. If you are reading this and feel left out, I would characterize it as an urban phenomenon, and its popularity is not new, but accelerated by a multi-media that did not bind us culturally in the 40’s or 50’s when modern style was coined. Asymmetrical balance is achieved by distributing objects with equal visual weight or visual dominance, often in the form of an isosceles triangle. Asymmetrical balance less contrived in feeling, but harder to accomplish correctly. Asymmetry conveys movement, and creates dynamic arrangements in interiors, but can be difficult for design enthusiasts. If you live in a Modern abode, the architecture may have done the work for you –

But there are some ways to scale it however, that can make it easier to emulate – even if just the flavor, by infusing modern art with Asymmetrical composition (like the painting of the dog above with red background or the Matisse prints shown in Veranda Magazine’s  cover example above), or simply by distribution of room elements:

Assymetric lay out, guiding the eye with red – image from House to Home, UK

object arrangement creates modern asymmetric space – image from abodelove blog

I should really mention Radial symmetry. This expression of balance is achieved by arraying design elements around a center point. Spiral staircases are an example of radial balance, as are the internal structure of nautilus sea shells, or armed galaxies.

I would be quicker to recommend radial arrangements if room elevations were laid out like crop circles – but like crop circles, radial layouts (done ineffectively) are better at creating ambiguity than solutions. Radial arrangement tends to place visually weighted objects (like entertainment centers) outside the array, making it look like some room elements have been bad and sent to time out, at the room’s parameters. A true radius does not conform to a square or rectangle, and it takes savvy design skill to make it work.

Overall radial symmetry works best on an architectural scale (like the Apple campus in Cupertino) – or for museum exhibition layouts, or for that matter, museums like the Guggenheim Museum of Art in Manhattan.

1)     Radial symmetry can be stunning in vignettes. Keep it to wall art, a mirror, or carpet pattern you can even try a combination of these elements, but try them together on your design board first.

A radial carpet design by Emma Gardner

2)     Distribute your radius in a circular formation instead of an array. Don’t use your coffee table as a center point – (snore) – instead; pick a lighting focal point as the center of your layout for that Zen vibe. It works for the solar system!

A fabulous design with a radial feel, centering on an unexpected chandelier, whose shape is dialoguing with the graphic carpet pattern – image from House to home UK

The basic principle of design in well executed combination create the harmony of a visual orchestra – but the focal point is the conductor. Tune in (couldn’t help myself) for part 4 of GREAT design, to get inspired to find that unexpected element that does double duty for your design, creating emphasis and interest.

HAPPY 2012!