Welcome to our Interior Design Basics series, where we break down—you guessed it—the basic principles of interior design! The Basics are the building blocks of interior design that, though we don’t always talk about them, are what help a room feel more balanced, put together, and considered. Today, we’re talking all about symmetry and how you can use this design principle to create visual balance within your space.
Symmetry is a commonly used design principle that helps inform where you place furniture and decorative objects. It supports the larger idea of balance within a space, which makes a room feel more harmonious and inviting. (Other types of balance include radial and asymmetrical balance.)
Most commonly used with classic and traditional interior design styles, symmetrical interior design is used to achieve balance and order within a layout. It’s often used in conversational layouts in living rooms and, because of its mirror-imaging, it lends itself to more formal styles. (Though we definitely see the practice of symmetrical layouts across design styles.)
What is Symmetry in Interior Design?
Curious about where symmetrical design might show up? In a living room layout, it might look like two matching sofas facing each other, sconces flanking either side of a fireplace, or two pairs of chairs placed on either side of a coffee table. In a bedroom, two matching nightstands on either side of a bed is a common place for symmetry to show up. It can show up in wall art as well—either in a grid gallery wall or through two pieces of art from the same collection hung side-by-side. Symmetry is also quite common in dining rooms, where you have matching chairs on the sides and heads of the table.
Ultimately, symmetry in a room is anywhere that you have two halves of a design element facing one another so that their counterpart is equally balanced. This is achieved through the use of a single focal point, which guides how you create visual balance within the room. In a room with “perfect” symmetry, you could almost draw a line from the focal point and down the middle of the room, and each side would be a mirror image of the other.
However, symmetry isn’t restrictive—it doesn’t always mean two perfectly matching things facing one another. You can also achieve the balance that comes through symmetry with two chairs facing a sofa that are of equal or similar size and scale to the sofa, like in the image above. In this room, you can also see in the back of the room that there’s a mirror on one side of the fireplace and built-in shelves on the other. While not perfectly symmetrical, there is a sense of visual balance
Curious how you can create some symmetrical balance in interior design? We’ve rounded up some of our favorite examples to show you the many ways this design principle can come to life in your home!
Check Out 13 Ways Symmetry Can Be Put to Work in Interior Design
This layout has “perfect symmetry,” using the two facing chairs on either side of the sofa. The background, however, is laid out differently—with a bookcase on one side and a large plant on the other. It still achieves balance because the objects in the background take up equal (or at least similar) visual weight in the space.
This classically designed room features perfect symmetry, down to the flanked sconces on either side of the mirror and the visual weight of the objects on the bookcase. Rooms with fireplaces are very well-suited to symmetrical design, since you’re designing around a common architectural feature in a space.
This might surprise you, but symmetry in eclectic spaces is actually quite common. Here, the two chairs on either side of the sofa create symmetry in the primary layout of the room. The scene is grounded by the yellow statement sofa, while the background is balanced by the eclectic gallery wall and bookcases. (This helps create the sense of symmetry in the back of the room, even though the architecture of the space and the doorway itself aren’t perfectly centered or balanced.)
This room may seem perfectly symmetrical at first glance—and it’s pretty close. But you’ll notice that next to the left-hand sofa there’s a sizable side table, which is balanced out by the use of the heavier cabinet in the back right side of the room. Often, in layouts like this, the asymmetrical balance is struck by objects that are diagonal from on another.
While this room isn’t perfectly symmetrical, the scene is still balanced. The two chairs flanking the fireplace add to the “perfect” symmetry idea while the weight of the sectional is balanced out the wingback chairs just opposite of it. Of course, the architecture has some built-in symmetry, with the fireplace and two built-in cabinets on either side. If you have this kind of architecture in your home, embrace it rather than fighting it!
This living room has some serious symmetry—but also some definite deviations. But even where there are breaks in symmetry, there is still balance within the overall design. The pouf in the right foreground is balanced by the side table to the left of the sofa. And the large cabinet on the left is balanced by the oversized painting and baskets on the right. Also, a pair of matching square coffee tables (vs. one rectangular table) helps drive home the idea of symmetry in this space.
In this room, symmetry shows up not only in the layout, but in the use of patterns and colors. The symmetrically balanced layout is reinforced by the patterns of the armchairs, the table lamps, and the throw pillows on the sofas. And the pops of blue throughout the room help create a sense of cohesion. The bookcases at the back of the room ground the look and reinforce the idea of a more traditional take on symmetry.
This eclectic space is a great example of a more casual approach to symmetry. There are a lot of colors and patterns going on in this space, so you aren’t initially hit with the symmetry. But the layout is definitely driven by that sense of design balance. We love that the eclectic styling offsets the traditional aspects of symmetry in this space.
Flanking sconces is a common method for drawing attention or adding visual balance to an area within a room. Here, you see that symmetry and balance on a TV wall. But it’s also a commonly used approach on either side of a fireplace or bed—or even an entryway table or a dining room console.
This is a great example of traditional, perfect minimal symmetry being achieved through art, too. You can curate your art or gallery wall to be perfectly symmetrical to go along with your balanced layout.
The two chairs in the foreground create symmetry in this living room, with the focal point being the mirror between the two windows. Meanwhile, the plant on one side of the sofa balances out the lamp and side table on the other.
While this set-up isn’t perfectly symmetrical, the two art pieces play off of one another creating the idea of balance. Two art pieces that are the same size and either in the same style, with the same coloring, or from the same collection can give that sense of symmetry and balance without having two identical pieces of art side by side.
In bedroom designs, symmetry is really common—even down to the pillows on the bed. You’ll often see matching nightstands, table lamps, and art or mirrors above the nightstands. (Or sconces instead of art and table lamps.) And, often, on the bed you’ll have your pillows with shams, and perhaps two more matching decorative pillows and one lumbar pillow going down the middle. Even if the rest of your bedroom isn’t symmetrical, symmetry around your bed can give you a sense of peace!
Want to create some symmetry within your home?