Do you have a room in your house that just doesn’t feel right and you’re not sure why? Most people have experienced this at some point or another.
Chances are that the room is missing one of the core design basics, and it’s making everything feel out of sorts. Fortunately, these principles are easy to follow, and don’t have to cost a lot of money to implement.
Read on to find our 9 design basics for decorating a room like a designer that will help you figure out what the problem is…and how to fix it.
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The first design basic for creating a happy, inviting room is to create balance. When a room is unbalanced, it feels uncomfortable to be in, like something just isn’t quite right.
This can happen if you have a lot of heavy furniture lined up against one wall and nothing on the opposite wall. Or if you have used a lot of tall furniture in one half of the room and all short furniture on the other half. Or if you have a really dark colored accent wall with nothing to balance it on the other side. You get the idea, if one side of the room seems visually “heavier” than the other, your room is not balanced.
There are 3 different ways to create balance in a room: Symmetry, Asymmetry and Radial Symmetry.
Symmetry is created when one side of the room is a mirror copy of the other. In the room above, you’ll notice that everything is exactly the same on both sides of the room…right down to the plants and candlesticks!
Because everything is duplicated, symmetry is the easiest way to create balance and it is often associated with Traditional style rooms.
Asymmetry provides balance by using furniture and accessories that have equal visual weight but aren’t actually the same. In this picture, you’ll notice that there are 2 chairs opposite the sofa and a large mirror over the sofa that balances out the window. The two lamps on either side of the sofa add some height that mimics the curtains.
Asymmetry can be a little trickier to pull off since you need to figure out which pieces will balance each other out. However, when done right, the result is can be more interesting than the standard symmetrical approach.
Radial Symmetry provides balance around the center point of a room. In this room, the coffee table is the central point, and the four chairs revolve around it.
It is used often in dining rooms where the chandelier provides the center point over the dining room table and the rest of the room evolves from there.
Define The Focal Point
Every room needs a focal point that is visible as soon as you walk in the door. It is the one thing in the room that captures your attention and draws you in.
It could be a fireplace (like this picture), a large set of windows, a large piece of artwork or a feature wall…pretty much anything that commands your attention.
Once you have decided what it is, make sure that it’s highlighted in the room by adding accessories and lighting.
Add Some Rhythm
Rhythm in design terms means repetition of a pattern, shape or color that helps to tie the room together. It leads the eye into and around the room and directs the visual path that you want people to take.
In this home office the same blue velvet is used in the desk chair, the ottoman and the piping on the white chairs. A similar color of blue is repeated in the flowers and the vase on the desk. This repetition of color draws you into the room and provides a visual pathway that keeps your eye moving from one place to the next.
Contrast is the arrangement of opposite elements to add drama and excitement to a room. Most people think of opposite colors as an example of contrast, but it is not limited to just color. You can also use differences in texture, pattern or size…anything that grabs your attention.
In this picture, the coffee table has built-in contast between the white leather sides and the black glass top, but it also provides textural contrast with the shag rug and velvet sofa in the room.
Scale and Proportion Appropriately
Scale simply refers to the size of the items in the room. Proportion is how well the size of those objects mesh with each other and with the size of the room.
If you have a very large room with lots of tiny pieces of furniture and artwork, the room will look cluttered rather than designed. And nothing will stand out from out the crowd.
Similarly, using pieces that are too large for a small room will end up looking cramped and uncomfortable.
Vary the Heights
If your eye goes all the way around the room and doesn’t have a reason to look up or down, you will perceive the room as monotonous. Varying the height of the furniture, art and accessories will make your eye move up and down and help to prevent that.
In this room, the column moldings in the corner and large pictures behind the bed add some height, while the bench at the end of the bed adds a low element to the room.
Note: It is very easy to make the all-one-height mistake in a bedroom, so pay extra attention to make sure you are adding some tall elements.
Light It Right
Lighting can make or break a room…so it’s very important to make sure that you have lighting that functions well in the room and looks good.
Generally this means having more than one type of lighting in a room (like the overhead general lighting and under cabinet task lighting in this kitchen). You could have overhead lighting, lamps, task lighting and mood lighting all in one space, depending on how the room is used.
Less Is More…Or Not
There is an ongoing debate in the design world about how much “stuff” should be put in a room. You will often hear people say “Less is More” when it comes to “proper” design.
And if a clean-lined room (like this dining room) is what makes you happy, then it’s true!
However, if you happen to like more embellishments in your rooms, then go with the “More is More” philosophy instead. It’s your house and good design is all about doing what makes you happy in your home.
Add Your Personality
At the end of the day, your house will only feel like home if it has elements of your personality in it. Don’t follow trends just for the sake of being “in style”. If you don’t love it, you won’t end up with a room that you are happy with.
So…if you like to travel, include trinkets from your trips. If you like to garden, use floral prints. If you love all things glam, bring on the gold and white fur. In other words, go with what makes you happy.