How to Create Balance in a Room

Have you ever walked into a room, and it immediately begins to give you a headache? As in life, when a room is lacking in balance, it makes us feel uncomfortable. You might not have ever thought about balance in the context of your home, but it’s always around you!

It’s easy to go wrong: a dark room, with all dark accessories, needs some light neutral colours to balance out the darkness. On the flipside: add too many contrasting colours to a bedroom, and it quickly looks like a children’s playroom rather than a bedroom. If we are to create interiors that feel balanced, then there are a few things to learn first.

Now, you’ll have to stick with me because we are going to get a bit technical. But, by following some simple steps to create balance in a room, you can make a massive difference to how your home or property looks and feels.

But firstly, what is balance?

In interior design, balance is the visual equilibrium we create by arranging elements of varying size, shape, colour and texture in a considered way. 

Every bit of colour, furniture, or accessory has what we call a ‘visual weight’. Visual weight is how much attention it draws when we first look at a room. We’ll often pick out any dark coloured accessories and large pieces of furniture first because these carry a heavier visual weight. We’ll tend to look at any neutral coloured items such as a wall in the background last because these have a lighter visual weight. 

When considering the visual weight of an object or a wall, we need to think about size, height, texture, depth of colour and how contrasting it is to its background. Think about accessories, lighting, artwork, window dressings or even just the material used on your walls. All of these will have a different visual weight and need to be considered collectively to help avoid a room feeling hectic and chaotic. 

So, what can you do to make your home or property feel more balanced and harmonic?

Balancing strong elements

As explained above, some elements will have a heavier visual weight than others (mainly large, dark or contrasting furniture pieces or accessories). When an item has a heavier visual weight, these are called ‘strong elements’. However, too many strong elements can quickly throw an entire room off balance!

You’ll need to ensure that weaker elements balance out these strong visual elements to bring balance back in. A great example of this is the use of feature walls. If we have a bright or dark feature wall, we need to balance this with larger neutral colour areas; that’s why you’ll often see one feature wall balanced by three neutral walls!

The same technique can apply to furniture (large piece of furniture balanced by several smaller pieces), artwork (large piece of artwork balanced with either smaller pieces in a gallery wall or with a neutral wall colour), and colour (bright cushions balanced by a neutral sofa).

A balancing act: ‘Heavy’ feature wall balanced by light, tall cabinets

Negative space

Negative space is the space between different elements or pieces of furniture in a room that is empty. It can be tempting to fill these spaces with plants and smaller pieces of furniture, but they play an essential role in how the room feels!

Leaving empty spaces in a room is a great way to balance out other more significant bits of furniture or heavier elements. Also, it helps to give our eyes somewhere to ‘rest’ as we take in the room – something we overlook, but we do naturally anyway!

Another great benefit of negative space is that it provides plenty of physical space to move around the room; this is called circulation space. Without this negative space, we would be climbing over furniture to get to the other side of the room (never a pretty sight). So, think about this when planning your layout for the room: what path will people take to get from one side to the other? Is there another room leading off from this one that we need to leave a clear path to?

Circulation space

Using symmetry

Back to school for a second! Symmetry is when something looks the same on both sides. The type of symmetry we are used to seeing is a mirror line down the middle, and everything is the same on either side of this line. However, we can also use radial symmetry, which is helpful in interior design; that is where we create symmetry around a central point instead of a mirror line. 

Using symmetry in our interiors is a simple way to create balance. The whole room can feel more balanced by arranging our stronger elements symmetrically around a line or a point (radially). For example, if you had a tall candlestick on one side of your fireplace, you would want to add another to the other side or a different object of similar height. 

You might want to choose a feature to help you place your symmetry lines, such as a window or fireplace, or take the midline of the room to work around. For radial symmetry, think about having a point somewhere in the middle of the room that you work around; this could be a fancy light fitting, a dining table or simply the very centre of the room. 

Creating radial symmetry from a dining table

Hint: The best way to test all of these concepts is to create a mood board to visualise the room beforehand. Try to put all of your elements together on paper (or digitally, if you prefer) in the same proportions you’ll expect in the room and see if you can apply the above strategies!

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