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Furniture Layout and Home Decor Ideas: Balance and Symmetry

Posted on January 22, 2019 by KylieMawdsley

 

How to Decorate Using Balance and Symmetry

Creating a furniture layout or decorative display without balance or symmetry is like writing a blog post without drinking wine. While one requires a measuring tape and the other a straw, it’s all necessary to create a finished product that has flow and purpose.

Living room, gray stone fireplace, round wheel chandelier, white built in bookcases, Stonington Gray paint colour. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color expert

The two chairs are a GREAT example of symmetry in action

What’s the difference between balance and symmetry when decorating?

Balance = One side is the same ‘visual weight’ as the other, although the pieces are different from each other

Symmetry = The anal-retentive sister to balance where one side is the mirror image of the other

Eating nook, dining with black farmhouse furniture, Powell Buff paint colour Benjamin Moore and white wainscoting and trim. Country Decor. Kylie M E-design and virtual colour consulting

In the above image, the artwork represents symmetry (even though the prints are different), the buffet display represents balance.

  • A balanced space can be a bit more casual and relaxed and is a fave of the ‘eclectic’ home as it allows more room for creativity and spontaneity (definitely had to spell-check that one)
  • An arrangement with symmetry can often look a bit more formal, but it TOTALLY depends on the type of decor used

Why should symmetry and balance matter to you? Well, knowing your preference will help when it comes to the following:

Let’s do a little case-study of a photo that’s a great example of balance and symmetry in action…

Home staging in living room with balance, navy blue accents. Similar to Sherwin Williams Sandbar. Kylie M E-design

Darker colours carry more visual weight than lighter colours

In the above photo, it would be best if the two accent chairs have dark cushions on them (although we won’t EVER know). Without dark cushions, the visual weight of the sofa would be MORE than that of the two chairs and the far side of the room would look heavier. Because not only are the decor pieces adding balance/symmetry to the room, the large furniture pieces ALSO need to add balance or symmetry to the room as a whole, so that one side of the room doesn’t feel overly heavy compared to another (it’s hard to do this with some rooms/layouts, so don’t stress about it).

Dense objects carry more visual weight than shiny/reflective objects

Because solid, non-shiny items reflect light, they carry more visual weight compared to reflective items that bounce light back into the room. While the toss cushions and lamp bases in the above photo are the same colour, the cushions carry more visual weight than the lamps via their lack of sheen.

Main furniture pieces also offer balance or symmetry in how they relate to each other

You’ll see that the two chairs opposite the sofa are also adding balance to the room, while the two chairs themselves are symmetrical in how they relate to each other – they’re the same! If the two chairs were different from each other, they would (hopefully) still offer a balanced look when compared to the sofa. If there were only ONE chair, the room itself would be off-balance with the weight heavily on the sofa side. You can give a furniture piece more or less visual weight using toss cushions that are light/dark/shiny/matte as well as by adding side tables/baskets/etc…

A few more things to notice…

  • The side tables and lamps are symmetrical as they are the SAME on either side of the sofa
  • The artwork is adding symmetry. If it were more of a random gallery wall, there would be balance, not symmetry
  • A round ottoman in the center would really anchor the space

Let’s look at a few more examples of balance and symmetry in action…

In this next photo, the left side of the mantel has the same visual weight as the right side – even though the objects are all different from each other. This shows balance. It’s also a GREAT example of decorative triangles.

Benjamin Moore Arctic Gray in bedroom with fireplace, old antique mantel, pine flooring. Country decor. Kylie M E-design

Read more: 4 Easy Tips to Decorate Your Mantel

Next up, the two sofas carry the same visual weight as they ARE the same. They also have the SAME toss cushion layout, so the two pieces are totally symmetrical to each other, even though they aren’t opposite each other.

living room south facing, Navajo White Benjamn Moore greige furniture. Before Kylie M E-design

In this next example, you’ll find symmetry in the two framed photographs on the wall, but the furniture layout is an entirely eclectic, but balanced look. Even balanced looks can use a little bit of symmetry to add some calm.

Family room furniture layout using symmetry. Kylie M INteriors Edesign

In this next photo, the two chairs WOULD represent symmetry if they a) were balanced evenly on the rug and b) both had the same toss cushion. Right now they are somewhat symmetrical but off-balance as their visual weight isn’t the same, although the pup adds a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. Hey, put HIM on the right-side chair and you’d be that much closer to symmetry!

Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige paint colour in open layout with brown leather furniture. Kylie M E-design, online colour expert

This next bedroom shows a beautifully symmetrical display…

Sherwin Williams Dorian Gray, linen headboard. Kylie M E-design, online paint colour, decorating consultant

  • Side tables and lamps are the same (the book throws it a bit, but it’s a small detail)
  • Toss cushions are perfectly symmetrical on both halves of the bed
  • The throw adds a touch of whimsy to break up the more anal tendencies of this symmetrical display

Need some help?

Check out my E-Books and Online Colour Consulting packages

Home staging e books, Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color consulting and advice blog

Chat soon,

Kylie M Interiors, decorating blog, e-design, online colour consulting expert. signature

READ MORE

Furniture Layout and Decorating Ideas: Balanced and Symmetry

4 Easy Steps to Accessorize a Mantel

The Right Height to Hang Artwork and Mirrors

Originally written in 2016, updated in 2019



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Comments

  1. WOW! You just wrote the most concise basic rules of symmetry vs balance. Finally a decorate that speaks to the layman. I got it! Thank you.

  2. I have a large great room with a fireplace in the center. Unfortunately the tv is on the walk beside the fireplace next to a wall of windows. How do I place 2 sofas and 2 chairs?

    1. Post
      Author

      Hmmm, with this kind of thing I usually need to look at photos (via my e-design) so I can see windows/doorways/size/etc… off the top of my head I almost wonder if you have too much furniture??? My best thought would be to have a chair on either side of the fireplace and then the 2 sofas on the 2 open sides – but I’d really have to see the space. Sorry!

  3. I wish I read this before purchasing a couch and loveseat-which I unfortunately can’t return the loveseat-I tried!
    My living room is too narrow to configure the sofas in an “L” shape, so I am forced to put the full size sofa on one side of the room, and the loveseat on the other. Now, my problem is, how do I balance this out!? I am at such a loss and am kicking myself for not getting two exact sofas for symmetry.
    Now, one wall is longer than the other and has two windows, so I figure the full size sofa should go on that side? And then if I put the loveseat on the opposite shorter wall directly across from the sofa, would simply putting a side table on the end ‘balance’ it out? And then some picture frames over the loveseat to balance out the opposing windows?
    I would appreciate any advice! Decorating is definitely not my forte. Thank you!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Andrea, YES, absolutely, putting a side table with the loveseat will help a lot to balance things off – you’ve totally got the right idea!

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