Design Principles: Unity & Variety

15 02 2010

Picking up where we left off last week with harmony, variety shares a common thread in creating visual interest.  Harmony when carried too far in the use of elements with similar traits can result in a unified but uninteresting composition.  Variety, on the other hand, when carried to an extreme for the sake of interest can result in visual chaos.  It is the careful and artistic tension between order and disorder-between unity and variety- that enlivens harmony and creates interest in an interior setting.

Adding variety, but maintaining unity is as simple as :

  • Varying size
  • Varying orientation
  • Varying detail characteristics
  • Varying texture
  • Varying color

Here, the designers, Garcia & Lavin used similar content in a variety of frame sizes to make an impact along an entire wall, showing a mix between harmony and variety.   The spiral layout helps to reinforce the unity of the entire collection.

In the picture above, John Hix (designer) used pictures of bubbles to create unity within the art pieces, but chose to offer a variety in the orientation.  This style could have caused visual chaos like I mentioned before by changing too many elements, but he kept a consistent size and content which helps to keep harmony within the pieces.  I also like that he used variety when picking pillow fabric, but kept them unified by keeping them the same size as well.

The collection of pottery from Heath Ceramics shows how small detail characteristics make a big difference within interior accents.  While the overall shape of each vase is circular the height and openings are different adding visual interest through variety.

Variety doesn’t just come in different shapes, it can also come in textures ranging from acrylic to wood.  All the display boxes show a variety of textures available at CB2.com.  If you put some of these on a wall and varied a couple of them to a different texture it would add a lot of visual spice to any wall.

In the art above, the backgrounds change color, but they find unity in their square shape and building content. The stacking of 3 sets really helps to fill the wall and balance out the window to the left of the paintings.

You can also check out what we have covered so far in our design principles series by clicking here.  So far what is your favorite design principle that we have covered?  How do you use it in your home to make the space feel unique?  Look for our last installment of the series next monday when we cover, Rhythm & Empahsis.

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