Design Principles: Balance & Harmony

8 02 2010


Balance in a space is not that far off from balance in our lives.  When our balance is off personally, we can see it, feel it and fix it, same goes for in a space.

The Definition: Each element in the ensemble of interior space has specific characteristics of shape, form, size, color and texture.  These factors along with location and orientation help to determine the visual weight of an element, thus showing us the attention that an individual element will attract.

According to Ching, characteristics that enhance visual weight of an element and attract our attention are:

  • Contrasting shapes (ie. circle vs. square)
  • Contrasting textures (smooth vs. rough)
  • Unusual proportions
  • Elaborate details

There are 3 types of balance: symmetrical, radial and asymmetrical.

Symmetrical balance works off of an axis (which is an invisible line that runs down the middle of a room) where both sides of the axis are exactly the same (similar to the way a palindrome works ie: racecar.)

Radial balance results from the arrangement of elements positioned around a center point.  This produces a centralized composition which stresses the center as a focal point.

Asymmetry is the lack of correspondence in size, shape, color, or relative positioning among elements.  By using visual weight of individual items we create balance in the overall room without having to duplicate items.  Asymmetry is not as obvious visually as symmetry, but since it is capable of expressing movement and change it is more flexible and can readily adapt to any room.


I am sure we have all witnessed a harmonious moment such as 3 kids in the back of a car on a long trip that all get quite and start playing the license plate game.  No fighting, just pleasing agreement.  This is exactly what it is like in a room as well.

The Definition: consonance or the pleasing agreement of parts or combination of parts in a composition.

While balance achieves unity through the careful arrangement of both similar and dissimilar elements, the principle of harmony involves the careful selection of elements that share a common trait or characteristic.  Examples of these are:

  • Common size
  • Similar colors
  • Common shape
  • Similar materials

Harmony, when carried too far can get pretty predictable quickly so by adding variety we carefully add interest.  The prints on the wall display this well.  Next week we will cover unity and variety as we continue in our Design Principles series.

So what kind of balance do you prefer?  Can you guess which I do?  I do have a favorite but before I share I want to get your take on which you like and why.




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