Saturday, January 23, 2010

Is Your Decor In Tune?


“Design is the method of putting form and content together. Design, just as art, has multiple definitions; there is no single definition. Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that's why it is so complicated.” - Paul Rand, graphic artist and legend


to make or fashion after or according to a pattern
-to plan and fashion artistically or skillfully.
to form or conceive in the mind; contrive; plan:

I admit it.

My last post was somewhat out there. It made sense to me, though. Perhaps I ought to just get rid of the word "why" from my personal dictionary. The whole idea of design in general is so intriguing to me that I get carried away sometimes. It applies to the universe as much as it does to the choices we make in creating our personal living spaces.

But as I am often reminded, "Analysis is Paralysis".

Oh well. Okay.Not that anyone condemned me about that regarding my last post. My inner voice is simply nagging at me to focus. Therefore,  I'm bringing it back to basics.  Instead of getting distracted with the intangibles, I am redirecting my energy to the stuff we can wrap our heads and hands around. After all, this is a blog about decorating and design. To not offer some solid nuggets of "real" information would be remiss of me. I really have been a student of design and art and its history since I was like, ten. And I really have actually created and constructed and designed and decorated lots of stuff from personal projects to "Wow, they actually pay me to do this"  kinds of stuff.

Anyway - I have a series of articles I had written in another life that guide and instruct the reader how to decorate/design their living spaces. The first one starts off from the perspective of driving down their street and how their house comes across to the average passer-by  (or prospective buyer if that happens to be the scenario in question).  I even have them pass their house, turn around and approach it from the opposite direction. I do. It's important. After covering dozens of  topics, the reader literally exits the series through their home's back door. I don't cover a whole lot about outside stuff. I'm not a landscaper or hardscaper although I do have opinions and a fairly good eye for what works. Outside of basic considerations, I defer most of those topics to the appropriate experts.

I will be tweaking and posting this series here and hope it offers some helpful tidbits for readers of all backgrounds.

However, before passing "GO",  it's kinda important for there to be a baseline of knowledge so a reader can create a frame of reference.  With that in place, s/he is in a better position to be able to take in the information  and place value on it for themselves- or not. Whether you fall under this category or are already a design/decorating veteran, let's begin at the beginning, shall we? Please feel free to comment here or contact me as we move through this series with your questions, corrections, additional info, personal experiences- anything that strikes you.

Rhythm refers to the sense of movement provided by its elements. Rhythm applies to your living space as much as it applies to music. You don't have to be a trained musician to know if a song works or not, right? Rhythm in a room helps the viewer understand and appreciate the room's design as a whole.

When there is no rhythm, our focus is immediately drawn to one spot only. Usually this spot is the eyesore of the room, or the huge decorating faux pas element.

Talk about your decorating faux pas..Yikes!

Rhythm is the mother design element. She has lots of babies. And the babies have babies.

So, what elements in a room contribute to its rhythm? There are many and can be neatly categorized into the following:

REPETITION of any design element creates flow and a 'pulled together' look. Color, shape, line, texture or patterns are all design elements. Often the repetition of one of these will also help to create a theme or style. For instance, under the umbrella of texture,  wood can give an earthy, warm and, depending on the color and treatment of it, an informal look to a room.  Luxurious, rich colored fabrics lend themselves to a sense of  opulence. Lots of  stainless or chrome creates an instant contemporary edge. So you see, texture, as just one design element, can achieve more than one result. The repetition of color throughout a room will keep the eye moving around the room. This movement creates rhythm just like the rhythm in music which is created by repeating a pattern of musical notes. A particular arrangement of repeated notes and beats will determine the style of that music. A rock and roll rhythm uses all of the same musical principles as classical music. Same elements. Same forum. Different results.

GRADATION is the gradual flow from a low point to a high point. In music, think of  a crescendo where the rhythm and the volume start slower and softer and gradually build up to being loud and bold with the crashing of cymbals. Visually, think of a mountain range and all of the different peaks and valleys. Successful rhythm in a room gently leads the eye from the lower placed furnishings and accessories to the higher placed ones. This is done by mingling the various heights so that one area in the room is not full of the low pieces and the opposite side is full of the high pieces. Or a low-lying side table is placed next to a 7 ft. armoire which is next to a basket plopped on the floor. Up. Down. Up. Down. Pass the Dramamine, please. It wouldn't look right. And it certainly wouldn't feel right.  Again, think of gently rolling hills and the ease in which one hilltop flows into the next. This type of curvilinear flow leads us to.......

TRANSITION is the ease in which your eye travels from one element to the next through the use of repetition or gradation. Nice and easy does it!


RADIATION is when a pattern of elements surround a center object. Just think about your dining room table and chairs. Some people prefer to have the chairs that surround their table be identical to one another. Others like a more eclectic look by having each chair be a different style and/or color from the next. Both approaches are opposite yet they use the same principle of radiation. Your crystal chandelier utilizes this element in a very basic approach. The more crystals that surround the center of the light the more presence it creates. The less that surround it, the simpler it is. Tablescapes are another example. Often, the place settings on a dining room table designed around the style and placement of the centerpiece. All of these provide different looks and feels to a room. Just as a musical composition can be short and sweet and written in a very basic scale of notes. Or it can incorporate more complex scales and tempos. Regardless, both are centered around a key note.


OPPOSITION can be very successful if done properly. The use of black and white is quite common and makes a bold statement. Yet, it doesn't leave the viewer feeling confused or wondering  "what were they thinking?".  Combining traditional and modern in one room has become popular and can be very striking as long as there is, once again, rhythmic placement of these pieces and at least one element, such as color, that ties them together to create flow. A variety of textures compliment each other very well. A soft, fuzzy throw blanket over the arm of a smooth leather chair balance each other nicely. A stainless work island can be successfully placed in the middle of a rustic kitchen as long as there is at least one key element that ties the opposing elements together.


As you can see, one element rarely, if ever, exists without the other. By using one element one way you create another. Use it another way and it can lead into a totally different look and feel. That is why design is so exciting. The possibilities are literally endless!

As I always remind myself and others -just have fun with it. It's not rocket science. It's not life or death. Pull in an expert when necessary. Otherwise, trust your gut. In the end, you know what looks and feels right for you.

 **** for photo credits - right click each image


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inspiration is all around even where we least expect it