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Principles of Design: Balance

Balance is probably the most easily understood design principle. In decorating, it simply means a state of equality – or equilibrium between two elements or two parts of a design composition. There are two kinds of balance: formal or symmetrical balance; and informal or asymmetrical balance.

Formal balance is achieved when the two halves of a composition or design are exactly the same. Identical end tables flanking a sofa; a fireplace with matching bookshelves on either side; a pair of candlesticks placed the same distance from a central bowl of flowers all represent formal balance. This kind of evenly matched balance tends to creative a sense of order and stability – evenness – if you will. It’s fairly easy to create, but you need to remember that formal balance has a tendency to make a room seem static and stiffly conventional- especially if it’s overdone.

Informal balance is achieved when two halves of a composition balances each other even though they are not identical. Size or physical weight is not the only factors involved in this kind of balance, which can only be appraised by the eye. Bright colors which seem to advance “weight” more than pale, softer colors or neutrals, which seem to recede. Irregular shapes which engage the eye longer than regular ones seem more important, and therefore also “weigh” more in terms of balance. Interested in creating informal balance in your room? I suggest you think about a seesaw. Equal weights balance each other when they are equal distance from the center. If one weight is heavier than the other, it must be moved closer to the center to balance the lighter one. This is also an excellent way to arrange objects on top of a table, chest or fireplace mantle. The heavier, larger, or more brightly colored object should be placed closer to the center than a companion which is lighter, smaller or less noticeable.

Ignoring this rule makes one side of your design composition seem too top-heavy.
The same see-saw theory can also be applied to decorating foyers and halls. You need to treat the door or opening as part of your overall composition, and balance it by placing a light-looking grouping a greater distance from the center of the wall. Strangely enough, an opening or archway has more “weight” than a plain wall and just as much as a door, so it should be treated the same way or carefully balanced.

Today, the trend is definitely toward informal balance. Why? Because it works
extremely well with design’s ever popular eclectic look. An informal balance plan also works well in creating a contemporary style of decorating. With most today’s
homeowners interested in creating a relaxed, casual lifestyle it’s important to take into account an informal balance plan.

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About the Author

Lori Wawczak, Decorating Den Interiors
Lockport, IL 60441

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