Balance in Interior Design

When designing any interior, it is vitally important that all aspects of the design are carefully considered. These include the scale, colour, proportion, rhythm, emphasis and harmony, but balance is one of the most important elements of interior design.

Balance can be defined as a state of equilibrium of the visual forces in a composition. It results from the interaction of inter-playing forces, attractions and weights. Balance is achieved by placing equal weight on opposite sides of an imaginary central axis. This axis is always vertical because balance is related to the force of gravity.

Balance is dependent upon the visual weights of architectural and interior elements. This visual weight is determined by the psychological impact an element makes on us and the attention it demands. This can make an object appear heavier or lighter than others and will effect the overall balance of the room. Large objects, bright colours and rough textures have heavy visual weights, whilst small objects, cool colours and smooth surfaces are visually lighter.

Balance strives for a state of equilibrium in order to create a sense of tranquility and this should be evident when viewed from all sides. Good balance creates stability and is vitally important when dressing a room, either in furniture arrangements, the hanging of art or the accessorising.

There are three types of balance - symmetrical, asymmetrical and radial, but the two main methods are symmetrical and asymmetrical balance.

Symmetrical balance - This is the arrangement of identical elements about a common line (axis). It creates a mirror image from one side to the other and occurs when the arrangement can be divided in half and both sides look exactly the same. This type of balance is abundant in nature, e.g. flowers, leaves around a stem etc.

Symmetrical balance can connote feelings of formality, security and stability due to its predictability. It can add rigidity, even a sense of stateliness or dignity to an interior. However, symmetrical balance is generally static and demands little attention from the observer. This, if not carefully considered, can lead to dull and lifeless interiors.

A symmetrical arrangement is the easiest way of creating balance. Inevitably, a room, which is precisely balanced, has a strict formality and this type of design is common in traditionally styled rooms. The use of careful symmetry was a generally accepted rule during the Renaissance, resulting in formal and classical appearances. This method of balance can be used to focus the viewer's attention on something important, creating a focal point, usually on a centre line.

Asymmetrical balance - This occurs when the centre line or point of the object is ignored, but there is still a visual balance. Items are not placed at equal distances from the centre. This is also abundant in nature, e.g. flowers, tree branches etc.

Asymmetrical balance creates a feeling of equilibrium by using different objects of the same visual weight on both sides of an axis. These visual weights may differ from their actual weights and there is no rule of thumb for achieving this balance. Designs, whose visual weights are equivalent but not identical, are said to have achieved asymmetrical balance.

Asymmetrical balance is very expressive and informal, suggesting movement and spontaneity. It tends to be more interpretative and can also be peaceful. It is less obvious than symmetrical balance, and stirs interest and curiosity, provoking thought. It has a greater appeal aesthetically than symmetrical balance, as it is never static or dull, but it is also more difficult to achieve. More contemporary designs use asymmetrical balance for its excitement and movement, but also for the flexibility and individuality it can provide. Each scheme is entirely different with asymmetrical balance being created through variation in shape, colour and pattern.