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symmetrical balance in interior design

Interior Design Basics: How to Create Symmetry and Visual Balance in a Space

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.

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symmetrical balance in interior designThis 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.

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symmetrical balance in interior designThis 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.)

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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.

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symmetrical balance in interior designWhile 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!

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symmetrical balance in interior designThis 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.

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symmetrical balance in interior designIn 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.

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symmetrical balance in interior designThis 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.

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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.

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symmetrical balance in interior designThis 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.

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symmetrical balance in interior designThe 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.

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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.

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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!

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Creating an Entryway Inspired by Jacqueline Kennedy’s Blue Room

An elegant space, Jacqueline Kennedy’s 1962 Blue Room is as much a piece of history as an icon of interior design.

If you love the look of American traditional interiors, or if you want to imbue your space with some Kennedy-esque elegance, read on to learn how you can style your home like Jacqueline Kennedy’s Blue Room.

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How to get Jacqueline Kennedy’s Blue Room look:

 

1. Start with a Traditional Base

Jacqueline began her work in the Blue Room with an old and worn console table. This was the first authentic piece of furniture she restored for the project.

  • Recreate the look with a piece that has the same traditional elements. We opted for the fluted legs and simple carved wood of the Antiqued Gustavian Console (Wisteria).

Jacqueline wanted to use only authentic period pieces in her renovations. Alongside the console table, she placed blue and gold chairs that were originally ordered by President Monroe for the White House in 1818.

  • We couldn’t find any 19th century chairs at a reasonable price, so we looked for pieces that evoked the same classic formal elegance. The Bixby Chair (Anthropologie) feels stately, while the velvet gives it a modern edge.

2. Create Your Color Palette

The pairing of cream and blue was Jackie’s color palette of choice for the Blue Room. She covered her walls in cream satin and used blue silk for the window treatments.

  • You can update the look by choosing a modern wallpaper with the same colors. We love Anthropologie’s For The Trees Wallpaper in stone.
  • Bring the blue with some statement drapes. We picked indigo to give our space a little drama. Try the Belgian Textured Linen Drapery from Restoration Hardware.

3. Add Elegant Accessories

Gold accents are the final piece of the puzzle. These will give your space a touch of presidential grandeur.

  • Chose updated or whimsical pieces to keep the look from feeling overly stuffy. We can’t keep our eyes off that Golden Deer Mirror from Wisteria.
Jacqueline Kennedy's Blue Room

Photograph of Jacqueline Kennedy’s restored Blue Room, 1962, via White House Historical Association

 

In 1961 Jacqueline began her effort to transform a shabby White House into a venue that would accurately showcase America’s cultural heritage with pride.

Our heroine pushed congress to pass legislation which allowed her to hire a full-time curator and designated the White House as an official museum.

Knowing the importance of scholarship, Jacqueline created a White House that celebrated a historical past alongside the progress of current and future administrations.

Check out a few of our interior projects inspired by other leading ladies.

Get the London Loft Look: Three Takes on a Conversational Layout

2144_design3_reg_dogAt Modsy we know that living rooms, just like snowflakes and people, come in all shapes and sizes. We know it can be a challenge trying to find a layout that works for your unique space. To help, we rearranged our London loft and created three different takes on a conversational layout.

Today we are taking shelter from the rain inside this enchanting London loft space. The refined shapes and classical forms are the perfect pairing for this industrial living room interior.

For the Casual Conversationalist: A Layout that Flows

For this version of our living space, we created a layout that is all about the flow. We floated the sofa in front of the windows where it faces two chairs, angled inward. In the middle, we opted for a rectangular coffee table on wheels. The larger surface area puts everyone within reach of the coffee table, and the wheels allow you to move it easily, either within the seating arrangement or out of the way completely. This layout is conversational and encourages easy movement through the space. Great for both entertaining and every-day living, it is a layout that quite literally lets you talk the talk and walk the walk.

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For the Dinner Party Host: A Fiercely Formal Layout

If you find yourself craving a traditional look, we created a second layout for you that colors inside the lines for a fabulous result. Symmetrical and balanced, this space offers more seating with two sofas facing inward and capped by two armchairs at the end. We selected a trunk coffee table, which unlike our more portable glass table, conveys solidity and underscores the formal symmetry of the space. This option offers you a living room that is structured and facilitates conversation, even as it creates a space that feels formal and intentionally designed.

For the Multi-Tasker: A Flexible Layout

Less formally designed, our flexible layout is a great way to open up your living space and use it in different ways. One of our favorite interior design tricks is creating the sense of rooms within rooms. Here we placed the sofa in the middle and used it as a divider to create two distinct spaces within our living room. The seating area is now smaller, and feels more intimate and personal. We chose a round coffee table because the organic shape easily snuggles into the asymmetrical conversation nook. Behind the sofa we created an open storage area, but you can also use the space for a home office, dining area, or yoga studio. A great way to make your space feel more open, this layout is for the dweller of small spaces who wants to use their space in a creative way.