DDH Decorating Ideas

Contrasting Scale and Balance by decordreamhome
May 14, 2010, 12:25 pm
Filed under: Decorating, Interior Design, Living Room, Rooms | Tags: , , , ,
Mary Gilliatt Interior Decorating Blog: Scale & Balance

Wild prints can modernize a traditional space. Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

The importance of developing a good sense of scale and balance is often underestimated in decorating. By this I mean knowing how to contrast height and width with furniture; when to use large designs or patterns in fabrics and wallpapers and when small; when to balance solidity with delicacy; and when to offset an angle with a curve. All of these things are just as crucial to the final effect of a room as a sense of style and color, and the sort of sensitivity to a building and its internal proportions which will intuitively suggest the way it should best be treated.

Some people are born with an accurate sense of scale and balance just as others are born with perfect pitch or a useful color sense or automatically knowing what style to use where. But although perfect pitch is an absolute and is either there or not, a sense of scale and proportion can be developed with time and experience, just as one can develop a good sense of color and style, which is, at the very least, encouraging.

Mary Gilliatt Interior Decorating Blog: Scale & Balance

A study in balance and contrast. Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

As for all issues of decorating I would advise looking through books and magazines and analyzing rooms that you particularly admire, but this time for the arrangement of furniture and accessories and for the various contrasts of patterns and colors. Look too, at your own rooms and ask yourself these questions:

  • What flashes of color would be enhanced with a little repetition here and there? Could, for example, the color of a chair at one end of a room be repeated in a painting or decorative object, or flowers, or a throw cushion or a rug somewhere else in the room? Or could the colors in say a vase or a ceramic table be picked up by the ceramic base of a lamp?
  • Are there any nice contrasts you could make to vary the pace a little? Like a hard-edged marble of glass coffee table in front of a squashy sofa; a rug on a large expanse of Coir matting, or polished wood or limestone floor; a pattern on fabric repeated in a different color way, or in reverse effect, or in a larger or smaller scale?
  • What shapes can be effectively juxtaposed? A rococo or Louis XV1 chair with the straight legs of an upholstered stool? A tall, vertical screen with the jagged edges of a low, spreading plant set in a basket beneath it?
  • Do you have only one large piece in the room, say a long sofa, with a lot of smaller pieces? Or just one tall object, say a long case clock, with a lot of low pieces?

Although there is definite contrast here, in both cases it is a rather awkward contrast.
It would look better to balance such a sofa with a big desk or a sofa or work table, so that you have several anchor pieces around which the rest of the furnishings could revolves.  Equally, a tall piece should be balanced by a bookcase or storage unit, an armoire, a large mirror, or a big painting, or a group of paintings that starts high on the wall. Do not, however, choose a piece of art or mirror that is actually bigger than the piece of furniture below (like a chest, side table or dresser) or the effect will be top heavy.

Mary Gilliatt Interior Decorating Blog: Scale & Balance

Mix styles for dramatic contrast. Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

  • Do you have just one lonely mirror or small painting on a large expanse of wall? If you do, try to expand the items into a group, or series of groups. A very large mirror or painting are fine on their own if the wall is not too large.
  • Are your pieces of furniture and accessories all one level or all on one scale? This can look needlessly boring. Always try to vary the height of furnishings. Have at least one or two taller pieces such as groups of art or a large painting or mirror as mentioned above, or a tall plant or two. You could offset a tall piece of sculpture or a screen in one corner of a room with a large plant, or a plant standing on a column or pedestal in another
Mary Gilliatt Interior Decorating Blog: Scale & Balance

Mixing scales and textures. Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Great Renovations and Restorations

Lastly, one fail safe way to make sure a room will work to its best advantage as far as scale and balance are concerned is to draw up the room to scale on graph paper, similarly draw to scale and cut out the various pieces of furniture and large accessories and move them around until you have found what you think is the best juxtaposition.


International Designer Mary Gilliatt


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