Principle of Design #1 - Balance, Scale and Mass

I love learning about the "secrets" to design... so I thought I would do a series on the Elements and Principles of Design.

Principle #1 - Balance, Scale and Mass
(Image from

Balance and scale are used to create mass, or visual weight, in design. When a visual equilibrium is met the room will feel composed and completed. Careful consideration should be given to the placement of objects throughout the space. For example, if one side of a room contains several dark, heavy or large pieces the room will often feel off-balanced.

You can create balance in a room with symmetrical (mirror image) placement of objects from a central point. Typically, symmetrical balance will create a more formal feel.

(Image from

Balance can also be achieved asymmetrically by placing varied objects around a central point. Often asymmetrical balance will create a more informal or casual feel in a room.
(Images from Country Living, A Kitchen Full of Color)

A third way to create balance is through radial placement. Objects are placed in a circle around a the center point of the design.
(Image from House Beautiful, "Dark Dining Room")

Some helpful points for achieving this visual equilibrium are:
* The visual weight is more important than the actual dimensions or size of an object...

* It is important to factor architectural elements - such as a fireplace or large window - into the "balance equation"...

* Massing furniture or objects together can create a heavier visual impact. For example, a sofa may be balanced with two smaller chairs...

* You can balance a little piece with a bigger piece by placing the large object closer to the central axis and the small object further away...

* Lighting can effect arrangement as it will create a visual impact of its own...

* Achieving balance is intuitive...

"The desire for symmetry, for balance, for rhythm is one of the most inveterate of human instincts."
--Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman, Jr. (The Decoration of Houses)

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