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Design Dilemmas: Fearful Symmetry

12/10/2010

via - House of Turquoise

As a design element, I find Symmetry – the arrangement of paired decor items – both seductive and frustrating. When it is done well – as in the above photo – it lends drama and structure to a space. But when done poorly (as in the case of one of my living room incarnations) the space feels unfinished and drab.

Stylish, symmetrical design has less to do with cashmoney and more to do with careful study of three basic design elements: scale, color and texture.

  1. Scale
    The glass and iron console table require lamps that provide a strong counterpoint without upstaging the table. In this design vignette, the mirror is actually the focal point and it well served by substantial pieces, which are also visually “light”. The objects don’t even have to be twins, provided they share the same “visual” weight. In fact, the only thing I find kind of boring about this vignette are the matchy-matchy lamps! I would probably have done different bases with identical shades and the effect would be equally as chic. Possibly even more chic and realistic. I believe (like eyebrows) lamps should be sisters, but not necessarily twins.

  2. Color
    One of the easiest ways to create symmetrical design is by limiting the color palette. The colors aren’t as important as the ratios in which they are utilized. Strong use of gold, black, cream with a single pop of turquoise in the center, unifies all the elements, in spite of the use of different patterns. Another sweet trick to add instant symmetry is use of strong graphic elements such as black and white combos. The “Beetlejuice” effect can be avoided by opting for a bit of Zebra print, though this is just my opinion. Zebra print can certainly be polarizing, but it’s one of the few prints that can function in a variety of spaces and reflect a variety of tastes – from haute couture to hot tub – based on the way in which it is used. To de-cheese it, go for cream/black rather than stark white/black versions of the print. Even two handmade pillows can tie a space together!

  3. Texture
    The best way to connect seemingly unrelated objects is via texture. The metal on the console table talks to the metal frame of the mirror. The gold talks to the gold on the bench. The glass lamps are chatting up the glass in the mirror and on the table. While even I wouldn’t think to put these object together in the same space, they do work together to create a striking vignette!
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