Decor-Expert: Kimberley’s Guide to Balanced Decorating
The essential building blocks to harmonious interiors
Balance is Everything
After years of practical experience as an interior design professional, designing, renovating and decorating hundreds of homes, I can tell you this: Balance is everything. In fact, if there’s any design lesson whose mastery is essential, it’s this one. The ability to skillfully harmonize an interior’s essential elements—scale, proportion, light, pattern, and colour—takes practice, but the basics can be learned and improved upon with every project.
Here are a few elements to consider as you work through your next decor project.
In residential design, scale usually concerns the relationship between an item or a room, and the human body. In other words, how well do you fit the space?
Does the room feel sufficiently cosy for reading or watching television in? Is the chair large enough to comfortably support someone curled up with a book? Is there enough space between the chairs and the armoire for people to pass through comfortably? Does the island and kitchen layout support multiple home chefs or only one?
Because lighting has both a physiological and emotional effect on humans, the quality of light is an essential consideration. Balance, once again, is the key to success. Excessive contrast causes eyestrain while absolute uniformity is monotonous and dull. The requirements for a television room are different from those of a kitchen or home office. A standing floor lamp with an opaque shade will push light down onto a book, making it ideal for reading. The same light with a sheer shade will disperse light into a wide circle, adding to ambient light. As you consider lighting, it’s critical to aim for a layered scheme that includes ambient or general lighting, task lighting and decorative lighting (those feature lights you want on when you’re having a party).
When placing pattern in a space, consider its visual weight and determine where you want balance, and where you might want a focal point. For instance, in an all-white room, black-and-white patterned pillows will throw off the balance but create a focal point. If the identical room also has a baby grand, black piano, the same patterned pillows create visual balance instead. As a general rule, patterned textiles have more visual weight than solid textiles. For instance, a solid pale blue carpet will have less visual impact than a patterned carpet in a similar colour. A balance of pattern creates a quieter space, while an imbalance of pattern creates more drama. To determine which works for you—quiet or drama—consider the overall mood and atmosphere you want to create.
When you want visual drama aim for high contrast. For example, a stunning mid-century modern chair in black leather will disappear against a dark green wall. To really show it off, place it against a white or pale oyster coloured wall. Conversely, if the living room sofa has seen better days, choose a wall colour in a similar shade and the sofa’s impact will be lessened.
Remember, balance applies to space planning as well as colour planning. Every item of furniture has a visual weight. You can offset large-scale items such as armoires, pianos, and sofas with a grouping of smaller items.
Taking a photo of your efforts (rather than just looking at the room) will allow you to more easily critique your ongoing efforts and perfect your skills. Change things around and compare the images. You’ll find your skill for creating a balanced room setting will improve with practice.
PHOTOGRAPHY: DONNA GRIFFITH