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Monday, July 20, 2009

Symmetrical Balance ~

Over the next few weeks, I will be doing several 'educational' posts. I primarily started my blog to share interior design information. A home is quite personal and important to one's health on many levels. For an elderly person or one with disabilities, being able to function with ease and perhaps live independently is paramount (we'll be discussing universal design in the future). For children, growing up with surroundings that are safe, functional, stimulating, and soothing is important for their development. For adults, home is a place to function with ease, to feel comfortable, to close off the world when a rest is needed and to feel proud off when inviting family, friends, and colleagues in. A home is a place for our psychic to be eased, stroked, excited, and pleased. That is a tall order ~ one that I feel fortunate to be able to embrace. It allows me to marry my two fields of study.

Some of you know that interior design is a second career for me. My first was in the psychology field. I was in that field for too many years to mention. Here is the reality ~ you can take the girl out of the practice, but you can't take the practice out of the girl. Honestly, I feel it is helpful to have that background in my now chosen field of design. When I start working with a new client, I believe it is critical to get to know them, observe them, really hear them (each one of them as their thoughts and needs may differ) as I am helping them interpret their vision to create a home. Serious stuff. When I do my e-designs, I have a comprehensive questionnaire for clients to complete followed by an in depth telephone conversation. It is not quite the same intimacy I have with my face to face clients but I do the best I can and it has been quite successful. Some have asked me why I do e-design at all ~ well for the same reason I do the blog ~ to share interior design information. I honestly believe it is every one's right to have a place to call home. Not everyone can afford design services as they are typically done. An alternative is e-design or virtual design as I call it.

Why am I telling you all this?? ~ because when I have discussed the principles and elements of interior design previously, I didn't emphasize their significance to the soul and psychic. Next to functional, the most important aspects of design in my opinion. So that is what I am going to do ~ discuss their relevance and show you what I mean. I will start with the the principle of balance.

You hear designers speaking about 'balance' all the time. It is a very important principle in design but what does it really mean? One can imagine what it means since it is a common word and folks are always trying to achieve it in life everyday. Let's start by defining it.

Balance is equilibrium. It is the composition of furnishings that physically or visually provide a feeling of stability. This is important as this gives us a sense of security, a confidence about one's surroundings. This principle is accomplished in one of three ways ~ symmetrical or formal balance, asymmetrical or informal balance, or by radial balance. What?

Symmetrical balance is mirrored images. First a center point is found. Next what is placed on one side is exactly (or almost exactly) placed on the other side. Symmetry is not synonymous with traditional design. It is used in all types of design styles. Pictures always help.

In these pictures, you see the fireplace as the center. The window treatments and sofas/chairs are mirror images ~ the exact same thing ~ of each other. In the first picture, the tables are also symmetrical; in the second, the sconces are. Both pictures have puff ottomans visually aligned with the center point.

Here is a bedroom example.

Symmetrical balance is timeless and appears formal. It suggests order and refinement. One doesn't have to decipher what is happening in the room ~ it is predictable thus evoking a feeling of safety. To avoid having the predictability become boring (sounds like a relationship ~ well, my friends it is a relationship ~ a relationship with your home) there should be some asymmetry or, in other words, some variety. Look closely at the pictures. In the top library picture, the vases on the mantel are only on one side, on the tables closest to you, there is a lamp only on one. In the second, note the objects on the mantel and the single floor lamp. In the bedroom picture, note the white vases and their height/size. The asymmetry keeps the room as a whole with a needed breath of relaxation.

Here are some more examples of symmetrical designs. Note the asymmetry to add the variety and interest.

Here's the educator coming out in me again (I was an instructor at a university) ~ always give folks a great read to gain additional information. I will do this from time to time. A comprehensive book that gives the basics of interior design is Interiors: An Introduction by Karla J. Nielson and David A. Taylor.

Stay tuned. Later this week, we'll discuss asymmetrical and radial balance.


  1. excellent article Paula: this is the story of life and art: symmetry is the base of any fundamental substance but asymmetry is the root of change and evolution.


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