Could You Love Scandinavian Design?

Could You Love Scandinavian Design?
Could You Love Scandinavian Design?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Creating Rhythm in Design

When most of us hear the word rhythm, we think of music.  The most basic is the steady beat, like the pulse of our heart beating.  Rhythms can divide the beat into shorter groupings, and stretch the sound into notes that encompass more than a single beat. Interior design utilizes the same concept in a visual sense.  In design, rhythm carries the eye along a path at a pace controlled by the components that illustrate it.  Without it, a space can look disjunct, unplanned and disorganized: the eye doesn't stop anywhere to rest.  
Rhythm can be found in the repetitive use of colorpatterntexturelineshape or style.  Architectural details such as stairs, window panes, and moldings all illustrate rhythm.  There are five types of rhythm:
1.       Repetition and alternation
2.       Progression or gradation
3.       Transition
4.       Opposition or contrast
5.       Radiation
Repetition establishes a continuity and flow of a rhythm, as well as providing unity (which is a component of harmony.)  The simplest form of repetition is the systematic positioning of the same element in a linear path. Columns on a building can create a simple pattern that provides a nice backdrop rhythm.

Progression or gradation is seen in shapes progressing from large to small (or small to large) such as steps leading to a piano nobile (raised entrance) in classic architecture.  Examples in today’s designs include a set of nesting tables, a collection of various sized boxes, or a candelabrum. Progressive rhythm can also be seen in the value of color in a color scheme where the ceiling is crème, the walls are tan, and the flooring is darker brown.

Transition is a rhythm that leads the eye without interruption from one point to another.  It can be established with a continuous line such as crown molding or a carpet runner.

Crown Molding creates a transition.

A chair rail creates a transition in this hallway.

Opposition or contrast is an abrupt change that forms an attention-grabbing, repetitive pattern and can be seen in three varieties. 1.) It can be viewed as repetitive 90˚ angles such as window frames or in built-in units (like cabinetry or coved ceilings) or as the corners of angular furniture or framed artwork. 2.) It can be seen in patterns: open and closed, patterned and plain, light and dark combinations of textiles. 3.) Forms can be placed to contrast in a pleasing rhythm, for example round shapes next to angular ones.

Organized Spaces Closet in Kirkland, WA

Radiation is closely related to Radial Balance that I discussed last week.  Rhythm is established by radiating concentric or spoke-like lines can be dramatic and impressive.  It’s most often utilized in large spaces such as custom floor coverings in lobbies or ballrooms or in grand ceilings that create a radial effect.  Radiation can also be used in pace settings at a round (or oval) dining table. 

The concept of rhythm in our spaces is a simple reflection of nature.  Think about the beauty created in the leaves on a tree varied only slightly by size and hue, the tidal action of the ocean, the repeating song of a bird, or the stones carving the bottom of a river bed.  When we seek out nature, whether it's a vacation at the beach, a walk in the woods, a hike in the mountains, or a barbeque with friends in a backyard, our blood pressure goes down and we relax.  Who wouldn'twant that feeling in their home or office!?!? When we reflect nature in our designs, we’re creating good feng shui in our lives.  
I’d love to hear from you on this subject! What questions do you have related to this or other Principles of Design?  I’d love to receive your photos of a room that feels (or never feels) just right.  As it comes to a close, has this series of entries helped you in your own designs?  I'd love to hear from you, as feedback is the breakfast of champions.  Check out my website at if you need help with your space.  I always make time for my readers.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Creating Emphasis in Your Designs

Focal point is another name for Emphasis- an area of visual importance in relationship to other objects within a space.  The focal point should draw and hold the attention of those who enter a space.  A beautiful fireplace, a wall of dramatic art, an amazing sculpture or vase on a table top, an important piece or grouping of furniture, or a view from a window are examples of emphasis.

Multiple focal points are sometimes placed in a room intentionally, but need to progress from most to least influential in order to avoid conflict.  As a general rule of thumb, smaller areas can handle fewer focal points, unless it’s an art gallery, where each piece of art is given uniform chance to be a point of interest.

When planning for varying levels of emphasis the dominant one could migrate.  In the spring and summer, the view into a garden or other beautiful view might be the focal point.  In late fall and winter, the fireplace is a logical point of interest in many living areas. 

Arranging furniture groupings to face the focal point can give it more emphasis.  Grouping other objects to give more visual weight to a focal point, or using a dramatic color can give a piece more emphasis, too.

So, did you imagine that there’s so much to designing a space?  I hope you’ve started to consider other ways of arranging your furniture, art, rugs, etc. in at least one room of your home.  What questions do you have related to this or other Principles of Design?  I’d love to receive your photos of a room that feels (or never feels) just right.  Next week we will focus on Rhythm, an important component of design.  Check out my website at if you need help with your space.  I always make time for my readers.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Creating Balance in Design

One of the most fundamental principles of interior design is balance.  Balance in a given space is equilibrium, or the arrangement of objects physically or visually to reach a state of stability.  We all need balance in our lives, and it allows our actions and movement to flow confidently from within.  We naturally seek balance in our interiors because of this desired state of being.  There are three basic types of equilibrium or balance we can achieve in our spaces: 1.) symmetrical (or formal) balance, 2.) asymmetrical (or informal) balance, and 3.) radial balance.

Symmetrical balance
…is also known a bisymmetrical, formal or passive balance.  It creates a mirror image through the placement of items that are exactly (or proportionally) the same on both sides of a central point.  

It can be as simple as placing two floral arrangements on either side of a painting above a mantel, or two identical nightstands holding matching table lamps on either side of a bed.  Symmetrical balance implies moderation, sophistication, organization, and formality. 
Klausner, Designer
Because formal balance is predictable, it infuses a feeling of stability and durability to interior design.  There’s a sense of history, as it was used from the Greeks and Romans through the Renaissance, Baroque and subsequent periods.  Although often easier to achieve, it is usually more challenging to create a visually interesting room using this type of balance.
Asymmetrical balance
…is also known as informal, active, or optical balance.  It can be achieved in two ways:
  1. Dissimilar objects can be placed at varying distances from the center point.
  2. Objects of similar visual weight and form may be balanced at equal distance from an imaginary central dividing line.
The difficulty occurs when one must find items that are harmonious yet diverse enough to be interesting, and then arrange them to achieve a sense of equilibrium.  This informal balance demands patience and sensitivity, characteristics which aren’t abundantly found in everyone.  Asymmetrical balance can require a great deal more thought on the part of the designer, but it appears symmetrically balanced and effortless from first glance.  In a bedroom, one might use a nightstand and table lamp on one side of the bed, and a floor lamp and painting or mirror hanging on the wall on the other.  The term “active” is used because it requires a keen trial and error approach in order to get it just right.  The term “optical” results from one judging the artist composition of the room’s contents with the eye.  Informal balance does not have a set of rules, so it can be elusive or even mysterious.  It is taken from Asian cultures’ observations of nature and its sense of Yin and Yang.

Radial balance
…is a state of equilibrium that is based on the circle.  It is seen in chairs surrounding a round table, circular furniture arrangements or on the face of a clock.  Unless you have a round bed, it is difficult to arrange pieces radially in a bedroom.  However, in a general sense, you can place furniture around the bed radially and evenly throughout a square (or nearly square) room.  A spiral staircase can create a somewhat different type of radial balance within a room, as can the spokes of a wheel, or pie shaped wedges of a round tabletop on a pedestal base.
Charles Rogers Furniture

So, what are your Balance preferences?  I’d love to hear from you on this subject! What questions or comments do you have related to this or other Principles of Design?  Next week we'll discuss Emphasis, another principle of design.  I’d love to receive your photos of a room that feels (or never feels) just right.   Check out my website at if you need help with your space.  I always make time for my readers.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Creating Great Scale and Proportion in Design

We're embarking on a series of entries on the Principles of Design, because we can all really benefit from understanding these when planning or installing our designs in our homes.  These are abstract concepts have been important to great architecture, art, furnishings, textiles and hard surface for centuries, and form the theory of design.  They include:
  • Scale
  • Proportion
  • Balance
  • Rhythm
  • Emphasis
  • Harmony
There is a close relationship between scale and proportion: Scale usually refers to 2 or more pieces of furniture, fixtures or equipment and their relative size in comparison to one another.  Proportion refers to the size relationship of the components within a piece to one another and the whole.  The secret to scale and proportion is a mixture of different heights, shapes and sizes to help the room look good: not too stuffed and not naked, either.

One of the objectives in interior design is to choose furnishings that are in scale with one another.  This implies a similarity of objects in overall dimensions or in mass (density), in pattern, or in other forms of visual weight.  When items within a space are not in scale with one another, they are not appropriate or harmonious selections. Scale deals with actual and relative size and visual weight.  It’s generally categorized as small (light), medium, large (heavy), or grand (extra-large.)
Although the actual dimensions of two pieces may be similar, one may be visually heavier in scale than the other because of its weight or mass and the selection of material.  For instance, a “ghost chair” (below left) and a similarly-sized upholstered dining chair made of wood (below right) are not considered the same scale, because one can see through the chair on the left, thereby visually scaling it down by comparison.

Pattern and ornamentation also visually determine scale.  A pattern with large motifs may appear visually heavy or even grand, while a pattern with the same overall dimensions filled with small motifs and empty spaces between them will appear smaller-scaled overall. 

Color can also affect our view of scale.  Bright bold colors will appear larger than light or pastel ones.  To a lesser extent, warm colors such as yellow, orange and red and pink will appear larger than cool hues such as blue, some violets and aqua even when their tint, tone and shade are equal in value.

The scale, or mass, of architecture will often determine the size of furnishings: smaller scale furnishings are used in smaller interiors and large-scale furnishings are used in large or lofty interiors.  This guideline can be ignored when one desires a dramatic or exciting affect, like a large sectional in a small living area.  It also makes the space feel even smaller, however.  Using a small scale in a large interior space might look tailored and may visually expand the space even further.

Probably the most important matter when selecting pieces is that both very large and very small scale often makes people feel a bit awkward.  Scale is most appropriate when it fits and complements the average human form.  If you feel like Edith Anne, the character Lily Tomlin played years ago on TV, then the chair is too big.

On the other hand, if you feel like the piece of furniture you are trying to sit on belongs in a child's playroom, “Houston, there’s a problem!”

Another arrangement is needed here!

Proportion also deals with the shapes and forms and their dimensions.  When a sofa’s seat, arms, back or base are in appropriate size relationship to one another, it is said to be in good proportion.  The evaluation of proportion is based on ratios, and the final test is function: can you and others sit comfortably on the couch?  If a dining room table is more than 42” wide, it becomes difficult to pass food across it.
Much of our beliefs about pleasing proportions have come from the ancient Egyptians, and later the classical Greeks.  Golden proportion refers to a line (horizontal or vertical) being divided in two unequal parts somewhere between one-half and one-third.  Examples include a chair rail on a wall, a tie-back on a drapery.
A golden section (or the Fibonacci spiral) refers to proportions of more than two parts in a given piece.  The progressions: 3 to 5 to 8 to 13 to 21 and so on are considered pleasing ratios or proportions.  Much of what we learn about proportion comes from studying historic architecture, furnishings, and great works of art.  

Here's an example of 3 to 5 ratio.

So, did you imagine that there’s so much to designing a space?   What questions do you have related to this or the other Principles of Design?  I’d love to receive your photos of a room that feels (or never feels) just right.   Next week we'll discuss another principle, Balance. Check out my website at if you need help with your space.  I always make time for my readers.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Design Colors for 2015-16

Good news!  Pantone has released the color predictions for Fall, 2015 and Winter of 2016.  While interior design colors used to follow colors seen in fashion by about 1-2 years, they often now occur (almost) simultaneously.  
Unlike fashion, where you can choose to buy an ensemble in a particular fashion-forward color and wear it for a season or two, often our selections for our home's design need to last for nearly a decade... sometimes more.  The good news is that virtually every primary hue (red, blue, yellow) secondary color (green, purple and orange), along with neutrals of black, white, brown and gray are included in this forecast.  Take a look at the versions of these hues that will be more plentiful in the near future.  Why should you care, you may ask.  Because these will be the "versions" (tints, tones & shades) of each hue that will be plentiful in textiles, accessories and more in the seasons ahead.

Black is a prestige hue in 2015-16, and is the "pulsating force" behind the forecast.

White is showing up as cool (with a bit of blue added) and warm (with a bit of yellow added) to feature other hues within the palette.

Gray is another essential neutral again as a cool (with a bit of blue added) and warm (with a bit of yellow) muted and/or intense.

Green can take on one of two directions- a more yellowish and warm green to cool and Nordic.

Yellow is important because of its warming affect on a surface.

Orange shows up as spicy showing influences of caramel, cinnamon and saffron.

Purple is an important influence in 2015-16, in a variety of berry colors, such as blueberry, mulberry, raspberry, and even black cherry.

Blue is giving off a more sophisticated vibe, often infused with gray or green in the coming seasons.

Brown is an important influence, from tan to nutmeg to red infused winey browns.

Warm browns w/green infused blues.

Red is a safe choice when you want a pop of intensity, because it's well-received in clothing fashion as well as interior design.

Pastels arrived as nuanced neutrals to stronger and more assertive colors.

Metallics remain important and show up as more pragmatic as they are decorative.

Colors in Feng Shui
We look at the ba-gua, and lay it on top of your floor plan to find the 8 different areas (or gua) in your home.  Each has an associated color that can help to bring you what's missing (or askew) in your life:
  • Black: Career
  • White, metallics & pastels: Children
  • Grey, black & white combo: Helpful People
  • Green: Family, Health
  • Yellow, orange & brown: Health
  • Purple & blue: Wealth 
  • Red: Fame & Reputation
In conclusion:
One way to use a color scheme is to have one main hue, one secondary and one minor accent color you use in a given space. If you decide that you want to use one hue as an accent color, then use it repeated throughout the space in small ways.  Need help?  Check out my website,
and contact me.  I alway make time for my readers.