By Indra Books
In our homes, as in other parts of our lives, we are happier when we live with balance and harmony. Just like the rest of our lives, balance in the rooms of our homes is sometimes hard to create.
For many years, decorators and home owners tried to create this physical balance by having pairs of everything: 2 matching end tables, a matched pair of wing chairs, even sets of twin beds in the master bedroom. This certainly created a balanced room. It also created rooms that were sterile, formal and visually boring. In a formal setting or a Federal or Georgian home, this is still the way things should be to look ‘right.’ Our ancestors valued this perfect balance so highly that they created false doors in hallways so that both sides matched or doors that looked like windows so that the right and left sides of the back of a house matched perfectly. This can still be seen if you go to visit some of our historic homes. A notable example is the Hammond-Harwood House in Annapolis, Md. We, however, tend to prefer a more relaxed approach to our homes.
So how do we create a feeling of balance without matched pairs of everything? You can use:
Color – Dark colors have more ‘weight’ than light colors.
Actual size – Height, depth and width of an object
Mass – A thick bulky looking object has more ‘weight’ than a fragile, delicate one. Just visualize a blown glass vase and a terracotta pot of the same size.
Number – A group of several like objects in different sizes grouped together creates ‘weight.’ Think of an assortment of silver candlesticks.
Light – A dark corner has more ‘weight’ than one filled with light.
If you want to prove this to yourself, gather together a group of assorted objects and use a tabletop/mantel and try out different scenarios. Be sure you have different sizes, colors, textures and shapes. You can put a larger framed picture against one end and a slightly smaller one in front of it. On the other end of your table put a heavy pot. Do the same thing with a matching pot at each end. Try pairing the picture group with an assortment of candles in candlesticks. Each time you create an arrangement, step back and look at it. In fact, if you have a digital camera, take a picture of it. If you do this for a while you will start to get a feel for balance. You can actually give the illusion that the tabletop is tilted slightly by throwing off the visual balance.
The same effect can occur in your room arrangements. If you doubt this, close your eyes and try to ‘see’ a room in which you felt physically uncomfortable or slightly disoriented even though there was no obvious reason. A room in which the heavy items are all on one side of the room, almost feels as though the floor tilts. Once you have a feel for balance you can start to create a harmonious home.
Stand in the doorway of any room in your house that you feel isn’t ‘right.’ What do you see? Does the burgundy chair stick out like there is a spotlight on it? Does the entertainment center overwhelm the room? Do you have a TV and a fireplace battling for focal point? Do your easy chairs look like they were made for children next to your mammoth sofa? Does your fireplace mantel look like you are setting up for a tag sale? Your room is out of balance.
Move the furniture around and try different arrangements until you have one that works. Unless you have a room that is just for show like a Victorian parlor, you need to be able to use the room comfortably. Once the practical set-up is done, look at the room from different angles. If the room is out of balance use color and accessories, plants and pictures, groups of like objects, light and volume to create an illusion of balance.
Try grouping the accessories on your mantels and tabletops. Balance the entertainment center on one side of the fireplace with a tall plant or group of plants on the other. Note: avoid having the tops of everything at the same height. You might as well draw a line around your room. Repeat the color of the chair in pillows, throws, lampshades or the matting around a group of pictures. You really will be amazed at the difference it makes.
We may all be born craving balance but except for the lucky few, we have to learn to achieve it. There is a myriad of books on the subject and it can help to read them and look at the pictures, but the best way to get a feel for balance is ‘hands on.’ Experiment with portable objects until you get a feel for what works and then enjoy creating your harmonious home.
Indra A Books, author of this and many other lifestyle articles is the owner and founder of ON THE GO 4 U, Personal Shoppers & Concierge Service in the Washington DC metropolitan area. The company’s creed is to provide its clients with the ultimate life management experience. In addition to its shopping and concierge services, ON THE GO 4 U also publishes a monthly e-zine and conducts workshops on wardrobe, entertaining and decorating. For more information about the author and ON THE GO 4 U, please visit http://www.onthego4u.net
Content for this article was provided by Suzanne Copenhaver, Design Consultant to ON THE GO 4 U. Suzanne has years of experience decorating in less than ideal situations and always provides us with tons of insight.
© 2005 Indra Books for ON THE GO 4 U