Lines on Design: the room seems off? Take a look at the balance

In this coffee station of an Airbnb rental in Newport, Kentucky, there are examples of symmetrical balance with an asymmetrical twist. The table and chairs are symmetrical, as are the frames above. The work takes an asymmetrical turn. Because the size and placement of the animals in the outer frames are similar, it has a symmetrical feel without strictly following the rules. (Erin Owen)

Imagine cutting a piece down the middle and placing the halves on a double tray scale. Would one side weigh on the other or would they be equal? This week is dedicated to the principle of balance.

Interior designers can use symmetrical, asymmetrical, or radial balance to configure furniture in a room. They start by identifying the focal point of the room, usually a fireplace or a work of art. This is the axis around which the part rotates.

A symmetrical layout creates a more formal space. Think of a room with a fireplace on the south wall. Full length mirrors stand on either side of the fireplace. In front of the fireplace is a rug and a coffee table with sofas parallel to the table. A side table with a lamp sits next to each sofa. One side is a mirror image of the other. Everything is orderly and calm. That’s why the symmetrical design is pleasing to the eye.

Symmetry as a design tool dates back to the ancient Greeks. Due to its longevity, it can be paired more with classic or traditional styles. It is applicable to other styles depending on the choice of furniture and materials.

Some interiors may not lend themselves to symmetry. Consider a room where the window is not centered. The window wall has been painted in dark charcoal to balance the brightness of the opening. A platform bed with an asymmetrical cantilevered headboard sits mostly in front of the dark wall. A long dresser on the other side of the bed balances the elongated headboard.

Although the elements may not be identical in their asymmetrical design, they will have equal weight and visual interest in the room. Asymmetry in design creates a more relaxed environment and can create a visually exciting room.

Radial balance is less common. Think of a dining room in an old house. There is a chandelier suspended in the center of a medallion on the ceiling. A round dining table below with an array of matching chairs creates radial balance.

The design radiates outward or inward from the focal point. Hotels and office buildings, which have larger interiors, can use drop ceilings or light fixtures to center a design. Flooring patterns may show an outward undulating pattern.

Although I describe the types of balance separately, it is possible that they coexist in a room. A strictly symmetrical room can seem stagnant after a while. Adding asymmetrically placed accessories will liven up the room just as symmetrical elements can compensate for the unexpected in an asymmetrical arrangement.

It may take longer to create an asymmetrical balance, but it will seem right to you just by looking at it. No ladder required.

Erin Owen is a graduate of the interior design program at Kirkwood Community College. She has worked as a commercial and residential interior designer. Feedback:

Abdul J. Gaspar