Interior Decoration

In the west, especially, in the United States, Interior design has been accepted as a necessary aspect of living; but here in India, we still hold interior design as a glamorous subject, implying it to be a luxury, hence frivolous and so unnecessary. But now-a-days people are coming forward to understand that the pursuit and practice of interior design is useful, necessary, economical creating a better environment for all kinds of activities and promoting better quality of life.

Interior design and decoration, like the film making, is sum total of all the arts. Everyday of our life we are expressing our personality through the things we choose and we create things that will reflect our design awareness and taste. The changing nature of our times brings about changes in our design concepts. We are constantly faced with design decisions. Our better decisions will be reflected in the richness of our life. As we become more sensitive to color variations, textures and other design element we become more ‘in-tuned’ environment.

Our ability to evaluate design, interior decoration is a reflection of our sensitivity. What new ideas should we look for in designs? It is important to look at criteria that are used in evaluation of decoration or design.

Honestly in use of material is one evaluation point. Each material has certain natural qualities. Furniture or objects should create an honest decorative effect and should display the structure. The pattern of the wood grains should enhance the beauty and grace. Honest use of materials enhances the overall quality of each piece of design.

Good decoration should reflect our present knowledge and the use of modern tools, equipment and materials. The true taste of art is how it reflects today’s times. The shapes may stimulate exciting designs. There should be individuality and originality in each piece of art. The overall arrangement of the various parts or objects may be simple when the best combination of elements are present. One may have the right combination of textures but how do the colors affect the textures? What effect do the various shapes have on the textures? What effect do the various shapes have on the textures? Admittedly it is most difficult to evaluate a design that is almost right in application of design principles, lacks character, says nothing, and show little imagination. However, when the best arrangement is achieved in connection with honesty of materials, expression of today and individuality of the design on overall aesthetic quality is usually present.

The modern family requires a special kind of household that is planned and equipped to meet its needs, especially if the home manager is wage-earner. Here again, it is difficult to generalize about requirement because individual needs are so different, but the physical aspects of the home must be carefully considered. Furnishing and maintaining a house is actually a continuing process. Even the first home is not always completely furnished all at once and plans often provide for additions over periods of a few years. But the time furnishing is completed, some replacements may be necessary or we may be read to “re-do” a color scheme or a special area. Decorating the home includes planning for color schemes for different rooms, selecting good and comfortable furniture, furnishing including curtains, table linen; selection of accessories in home decoration and many other things. All new additions must be chosen with great care and skill. New fashions and fads in furnishings may entice you. While selecting things for decoration it is necessary to have knowledge of principles of art. These principles are Harmony, Proportion, Balance, Rhythm and Emphasis.


To the space arts of painting, sculpture, architecture, handicrafts, industrial arts and related arts, certain clearly defined principles of design and Art are common. These principles of design are not formulas for creating beauty, but they do help in determining why an object is artistically good or poor. Harmony, Proportion, Balance, Rhythm and Emphasis are the major principles of design. These principles of art can be thought of as the yardsticks with which we are able to measure a design or an object. These are bases for judging good design.


The dictionary meaning of harmony is ‘concord’ which means ‘union in heart and thought’ and to harmonize means, to bring in to harmony, ‘concordant’ means ‘friendly’ or tuneful. According to Goldstein and Goldstein V., ‘Harmony is the fundamental requirement in any piece of work in which appearance as well as use has to be considered’. According to Varghese, it is the principle which produces and impression of unity through the selection and arrangement of consistent objects and ideas. All objects in a group have a ‘family resemblance’ or ‘friendliness’.


According to Goldstein S. and Goldstein V., “Harmony is the Art principle which produces and impression of unity through the selection and arrangement of consistent objects and ideas”.

Here the word ‘consistent’ means constant to same principles, harmonious. Objects and ideas are selected and arranged in such a way, so as to produce harmonious effect or an impression of unity. When all the objects in a group seem to have a strong family resemblance, that group illustrates the principle harmonious selection and when these ‘friendly’ articles are so arranged that the leading lines follow the shape of the object on which they are placed, harmony has been secured in both selection and arrangement. In any situation it is always, decided that how much similarity or ‘likeness’ is to be sought and how much contrast can be created by using similar lines, shapes, sizes, textures and colors.

In both the fine and applied arts it is usual to think of the principle of harmony as having five aspects. These are harmony of

  1. Line and Shape
  2. Size
  3. Texture
  4. Idea and
  5. Color


It is possible to reduce the types of line a composition of three main groups : Lines which follow or repeat one another; lines which contrast with one another and transitional lines which soften or modify the others.

When a set of lines is drawn within a corner, following the lines of the corner repetition occurs. This is the simplest kind of harmony. When a horizontal and a vertical line come together as in a rigid angle or a corner, these lines are in opposition to each other and form a contrast. Any line that cuts across a corner from one opposition line to another to each other is a transitional line, but a straight line drawn across a corner, as in C, is so sudden and sharp a contrast that it cuts off the corner harshly. That type of line is called contradiction. Transitional line is an easy, graceful line which leads from one line or shape to another, giving harmony instead of contradiction. If a curved line were drawn would be modified and that effect is transition. The term transition is used to express a softening, modifying line that harmonizes opposing lines. It will be found that curved lines make an easy transition from one straight line to another and that when straight lines are used they are made less sever if combined with a suggestion of curve line.


Three types of lines are used to form shapes that are seen in combination with one another, it will be seen that shapes corresponding to one another are in perfect harmony. The most harmonious shape that can be put in to a rectangle is another rectangle of the same shape, and a circle makes the closest harmony within another circle. Lines that oppose or contradict each other form contrasts in shapes and are the opposite of harmony. Some of the examples of these contradicting shapes are triangles and diamond shapes within squares, oblongs and circles. Such combinations should be used only where extreme contrasts are desired. Transitional lines have a graceful, softening effect and have the power to bring together shapes which might in themselves be inharmonious.

This composition is the work of one of the greatest masters of abstract art. It is a study in extreme simplification. Here contrast – the most forceful of all the types of line or shape – is seen at its best. This is not just a square placed at right angles to the framework of another square. A study of the lines reveals subtle variety and interest.

In the abstract painting by Mondrian, we see a composition built within the most difficult of all forms – the diamond. This is an example of extreme contrast in line interpreted in the mind of a master. The sensitive adjustment between the lines and spaces in this composition would quickly be apparent to anyone who would experiment by varying either the width or the position of any of the lines.

The three types of shape are shown in the way the curtains have been hung. In ‘A’ there is shape harmony and the lines strengthen the shape of the window. This effect is the most desirable because the lines harmonize with the lines of the house, and all the shapes are consistent, ‘B’ shows lack of shape harmony, and the queer, unrelated shape that is left after the curtain has been pulled back in this fashion. When it is desired to have the curtains tied back, it is better to keep the lines transitional as in ‘C’.

In the doorway shown if figure, the three types of shape have been successfully combined. Horizontal and vertical lines repeat the main lines of the house, and the contrasting lines of the angle over the doorway are gracefully tempered by the use of the transitional curve of the arch.


In any arrangement where a number of shapes are used, there should always be an effect of organization. In other words an orderly arrangement should be there. If a sense of order is to result, shape harmony must be present. Large objects or masses should be placed to follow the boundary lines of the enclosing shape and only the smaller objects should vary from the general directions. To give variety some of the small objects may be placed at slightly varied angles. It should be remembered that too many angles that sharply contradict the leading lines result in confusion instead of variety.

In figure, there is a feeling of harmony throughout the room. The sofa has been placed parallel to the lines of the room. The objects like lampshade and chairs, curtain could naturally form transitional lines in the room. The curtain harmonizes with the tone of the furniture. Compare this room with the one in figure and note the difference in taste and understanding of design. The pattern of fabric is showing contrast. The design of the fabric pattern of cushions, curtains, window curtain, table cloth is different. It shows sharp contrast. The transitional lines of the cupboard are not in harmony with other shapes and sizes. All shapes too are inharmonious.

Figure shows how transitional lines can bring grace in to a flower arrangement and be used to harmonize the strong contrast between the vertical lines of flowers and a low horizontal bowl. In this arrangement the effect of transition is due to the varied heights of the three flowers and the curved line of the leaves.


Two design elements should be considered in a dress.

  1. The structural design
  2. The decorative design

Since a dress design itself is not considered as a complete unit, but as something to be worn on a human figure, its lines should suggest some relationship to the lines of the figure. Its outline should follow the form closely enough to have something in common with it, yet not so closely as to appear uncomfortable. It may suggest the beauty of the figure. The lines of the dress should harmonize with the lines of the figure. One must remember that the lines should not contradict with each other as well as should not follow the line too closely. The lines within the dress, such as the lines created by yokes, vests, collars, tucks and trimming are influenced very little by fashion.

The use of the any of the three types of line – repetition, contrast or transition – has a definite effect upon the appearance of the shape against which the lines are placed. The selection of the neck openings using harmonizing, contrasting and transitional lines affect shape of the face of an individual. One must remember that –

  1. If the shape of the neckline repeats the shape of the shape, it emphasizes it.
  2. If the shape of the neckline contradicts the shape of the face, it also emphasizes it.
  3. If the neckline takes a transitional line which neither repeats nor contradicts it modifies and soften the lines.

An important step is to determine where the decorative design should be placed. Since good decorative design harmonizes with structure, the placing of the decoration will be conditioned by the structural lines that have been chosen.


When sizes which are too different are used together they are inconsistent. The understanding and principles of proportion will assure harmony of sizes which is given in the chapter Principles of Design.


There should always be a consistency in textures of objects and furnishings. Textures of objects like furniture etc. should go well with the textures of draperies, carpets etc. Textures may be explained as the way a material feels when the finger tips are run lightly along its surface, the sensation of texture is suggested also through the eye. Fine textured material will never go with sturdy pieces of furniture. Materials like thin and fine silk, lustrous rayons, satins are out of harmony with coarse group.


There must be harmony in the ideas presented together. These should be consistency in the selection of furniture furnishing, accessories in a room. If one has selected traditional decoration as a theme he/she has to use traditional furniture in house. The doors, design of the panels, window design, design of furnishing, design of gate, compound wall etc. should go with that particular theme. The decoration must depict idea behind it. There must be harmony and sincerity in the ideas suggested by the furnishing of the house.

In order to illustrate harmony of ideas in the furnishings for the table, some typical designs and textures in China have been assembled in to harmonious groups. Those in figure ‘A’ are sturdy, domestic and informal in feeling. ‘B’ is the intermediate groups. ‘C’ includes those which are fine or formal and social in feeling; and in ‘D’ there is a collection of modern designs. The engraved glass and the plate with the conventionalized design could take their place among the fines textures.

Another very important application of harmony of ideas appears in the treatment of the decoration of clothing and for many objects used in the home.


Color harmony, the fifth aspect of the subject harmony is considered in the chapter on ‘Color’.

In short, harmony means a peaceful relationship of forms, either several forms, to each other bringing them in to a unified whole. By the correct use of proportion and balance, a harmonious relationship of forms can be achieved.

We have heard an orchestra “turning up” before a concert. When each member is concerned only with his own instrument and not with the total effect of all the sounds, the result is anything but pleasant. But the moment the conductor taps his baton, the orchestra becomes a unit and each member directs his notes toward the composite of sounds. So it is in design. The lines, shapes, colors and textures must blend to present a unified whole and each must contribute to the theme or the mood of the design.

It would be easy to achieve harmony by keeping all the variables the same. But using all similar lines, shapes, colors and textures would be monotonous. Variety must be introduced to provide interest. Too much variety yields to confusion says Stepat-de-Van.

Contrast is frequently employed to lend interest to a design, but here again, unless the contrasting elements are chosen with great discretion, it is easy to introduce a discordant note. Discord is produced when forms of conflicting interests are used. Some objects though beautiful in themselves, refuse to harmonize when placed next to each other thus creating discord.

In a compositional grouping of design elements should create though the variation of shape, size, color etc. devoid of overbearingly harsh contrast. It must be remembered that a restful psychological response is induced by stimuli evoking interest and suggesting harmony.

So, we may conclude that discord and monotonous repetition generally are extremeness to be avoided in selecting and arranging adjacent design elements. Quite simply, moderate elemental variations are conductive to harmonious relationships. Tranquility is suggested by somewhat subtle elemental alterations. Of course, a bold, dramatic effect is achieved by introducing sudden contrast. These concepts are illustrated in figure.


The meaning of proportion given in the dictionary is ‘proper relation between parts’ or ‘to adjust in proper proportion or relation’. According to Goldstein’s, the principle of proportion is sometimes called “the law of relationships”. They further add that there are three practical problems in proportion which confront us in every task. These are :

  1. How to achieve arrangements which will hold the interest
  2. How to make the best of given sizes and shapes
  3. How to judge what sizes may successfully be grouped together

There are definite means by which to solve these problems :

  1. In order to achieve arrangements that will hold the interest one must know how to create beautiful space relationships
  2. In order to make best of given sizes and shapes one must be able to produce a semblance of change in appearance, if it is desirable.
  3. In order to judge what sizes may be grouped together successfully, it is necessary to grasp the underline significance of scale.

The untrained person has a inherent sense of good proportion. The sofa is automatically placed against the “long wall” in the living room. The tiny woman avoids a huge hat and handbag that will overpower her. A letter typed without regard for margins on the paper is disturbing to the eye. These examples represent space divisions that are either pleasing or disturbing. Proportion and scale refer to the relationships of various parts of the design to one another and to the whole. In everyday life, we are constantly aware of scale and proportion, and we are often applying this principle of design even though we are not always aware of doing so, says Stepat-de-Van, in her book ‘Home-furnishing’.

According to Beitler Ethel and Lockhart Bill, “Proportion is the principle of design that involves a pleasing relationship between all parts of the design in relation to each other and to the whole”.

This principle may include the planning of the basic shapes within a design. Shall we use a geometric, free form, abstract or naturalistic shape? Besides the aesthetic approach, do we need to consider physical contact, such as the shape of a handle to fit the hand or the contour of a chair to fit the body? It may involve the scale of the forms within the design. Shall we use large forms, small ones, medium ones or a combination of these?

How shall we divide space for the overall design or each of its parts and/or group the various sizes together? How can we achieve beautiful space relationships where variety of shape, size and the general unity of idea are to be expressed?

How can we create satisfying optical illusions that will give the impression of beautiful proportions when, it is not possible or feasible to change the basic design?

Everytime two or more things are put together proportions are established, whether good or bad. Some people have an instinct for good proportion, and whatever combinations they plan are sure to please the eye. The best method is to adopt a standard and then, by comparing the results of the experiments with that standard, one will soon arrive at the point of having a true feeling for fine space relationships.

The ancient Greeks, after centuries for striving for beauty, arrived at the point where nearly everything they made exhibited good spacing. The oblong which they used as the basis of their space divisions is sometimes called “The Golden Oblong” and is a recognized standard for space relationships. This Greek Oblong measured approximately two units on the short side and three on the long.

Most people find this more beautiful than a square, because the equal sides make a square more obvious. The Greek Oblong has more beauty than a very long, narrow oblong, in which the breadth and the length vary so greatly that they do not seem to be related. Ancient Greek designers were masters of proportions, and their art and architecture have for centuries been considered the epitome of perfection in space divisions. Scholars who attempted to study these beautiful works realized that Greek proportions were derived from mathematical ratios that have been called the Golden section. These ratios were based on a series of numbers which progressed by taking the sum of the two previous numbers. The ratio for a proportion was formed as follows – 2:3, 3:5, 5:8, 8:13. Compare in figure, areas formed on the basis with areas formed using other proportion. Do you agree with the Greeks that these basic relationships are more pleasing to the eye than other special proportions?

Of course many artists have experimented with more unusual proportions and we find in the modern style a desire to depart from traditional space relationships. Some designers have produced results that are not only pleasing but stimulating and exciting. Others with less keen perception have used proportions that seem interesting at first but soon become tiresome. Most of us do not measure areas in our homes to divide the spaces according to mathematical ratios, but our eyes soon tell us whether or not the proportions are interesting and the scale is pleasing.


One of the most important problems faced by the designer is that of organizing the total area in to five space relations. Pleasing proportions, usually have some quality of “strangeness”. It may not be too evident that a space is divided in halves or thirds or quarters. On the other hand, neither should the divisions be so unusual that they are difficult to understand and appreciate.

Perhaps no art problem occurs so often as the one in which as space has to be divided in to two or more parts; when a name is written on a card; when the division of a wall space or the parts of a garment are planned; or when a group of objects is arranged or in countless many other situations where the same principle is called in to play. If the particular division is to be in to two parts, the most satisfying result is achieved. When the dividing line or object is placed at a point little more than one-half and a little less than two-thirds the distance from one end or the other. In short, when dividing a space avoid dividing the spaces into two equal parts. If both subparts are the same, then interest is lost and there is a danger of boredom. The design must attempt to develop two parts that achieve interest and are still related.

In example (B) although a great amount of contrast has been created between the two shapes, the contrast becomes difficult to handle successfully. Great contrast may be used to produce a dramatic feeling. Example (C) illustrates more interesting division of space.

Division of space into more than two parts might involve repetition of spaces, variation of spaces, or a combination of repetition with variety. The fewer divisions of space, the greater the variety there may be.

Division of space both horizontally planning progressively larger or smaller areas as in the whirling square. Or the eye may be used as a guide in creating a variety of areas that seem to harmonize or contrast with each other in a satisfying manner.

Diagonal lines create a dynamic effect in a composition. One should be careful, however, not to direct one’s attention more to a specific corner than to the structural shape. Compare the designs in figure (A) and (B) which show diagonal division of space. In ‘A’, the diagonal is right in the centre from corner to corner with the circle divided in the middle also. Are not the proportions of (A) more trite and uninteresting than the uneven division in (B)?

In figure, and uneven division of space has been planned with angular shapes. Note that the long diagonal does not cut the top and bottom sides at the same distance from the ends. There are large, medium, small areas developed by the diagonal, horizontal and vertical divisions of space.

According to Goldstein sisters, in the book ‘Art in everyday life’; dividing a space into more than two parts by means of lines or objects present three possibilities.

  1. All the spaces may differ : For example in the diagram all the stripes and spaces between them are different. This gives the greatest variety obtainable. This type of spacing is excellent for relatively small areas or for a few spaces, but there is a possibility that the effect may appear confused and inharmonious if a great many of these divisions must be seen and compared at one time.
  2. All the spaces are alike : In figure every stripe is the same width, and same width as the stripes. If carried too far, this kind of repetition makes for monotony. If such a plan is used, it would be well to introduce sufficient variation in the color or texture to supply the  interest that is lacking in the spacing.
  3. There may be variation in some of the spaces and repetition in others. In figure (C) and (D) a stripe is repeated at intervals alternating with a space from which it differs in width. ‘C’ and ‘D’ achieve harmony through the repetition of the same unit, but without sacrificing the agreeable element of variation.

While arranging objects on a shelf, one should attempt to secure interest in their height and in the spaces between them is a common place because of the equal spaces between the ends of the cabinet and the objects and between the units themselves. Moreover all three are too nearly of the same height. Substituting the larger basket and moving the objects has introduced variety, both in the heights and the spaces. Frequently one has to arrange groups of objects within a large group. Perhaps it is desired to assemble several pictures so that they will harmonize with a particular wall space. One may wish to group rows of braid or tucks within a given space, to place buttons on a dress; or it may be that an embroiderer wishes to repeat an interesting unit at unequal intervals on a band or a collar. Whatever the nature of the problem, it is generally true that if single units of objects in a group are to be viewed as units; they may be separated by spaces wider than the unit measure; but if objects are to be seen as a group, the spaces between them should be smaller than the size of the objects. If this group is to be related to another, near it, the space between the two should be smaller than the space occupied by other.

It must be remembered that odd numbers are more interesting than even numbers; and three objects grouped with three or two objects with three are likely to make a more satisfying arrangement than two and two, or two and four, or any combination involving even numbers.


To suggest a change in appearance of an area by means of proportion might involve the lengthening or broadening effects of vertical and horizontal lines. In general, we usually say that lines running in a verticals direction tend to slenderize and make an object appear taller, whereas lines running in a horizontal direction would make an object appear shorter and broader.

Figure shows two rectangles of exactly the same size. In one horizontal line has been drawn, and in the other a vertical line. Where the eye is carried across, the rectangle it looks shorter and wider and where it is carried up and down the effect is that apparently increasing the height and decreasing the width. It is often said that horizontal lines add width and vertical lines add height. While this is true, a second effect may be produced which must also be taken into account. Vertical lines can be so arranged that they will carry the eye from one line to the next, and while they still add height to an object they will also add width.

Scale may play an important role in creating optical illusions. In a small room many large or heavy pieces of furniture, figured upholstery, drapery, wall paper or floor covering may reduce the apparent size of the room. But place in the same room thin-line furniture, large areas of solid colors. Light in value, grayed in intensity with small accent’s of bright intensities of dark value and the room may appear much larger. The reverse may be true if we wished to make the room appear smaller.


The third aspect of the principle of proportion is called ‘scale’. And intelligent critic may say, “This building is excellent. All parts are in scale.” or “How well scaled this table is.” Scale, in this sense means (1) that the sizes of all the elements making up the structure have a consistent, pleasing relationship to the structure and to each other, and that the size of the structure is in good proportion to the different objects combined with it. A very small object never looks so small as when it is placed near a very large one. That is because the two sizes are not consistent. They accentuate each other by contrast and would be said to be “out of scale”. By following a consistent scale, it is possible to create illusions that cause astonishment when the actual sizes of objects are realized.

To be completely sensitive to beautiful proportions one must be familiar with the underlying significance between sizes within an object and those of other objects used with it. Scale involves an understanding of the principle of ratios.

We may observe that one rectangle is two inches wide and three inches long, it is the ratio of 2:3. Another rectangle is four inches wide and six inches long. It is also the ratio 2:3, therefore, it is the same proportion as the first rectangle, but it is twice as large in scale. The graphic artist is well aware of this principle when he plans art work for reproduction purposes. He knows that his final design, when reproduced, must be 2”x3”. But he wishes to make his inked rendering larger in scale so that any irregularities of line or fuzziness of edges will be less evident when the plate is reduced to the 2”x3” size. He knows that the inked rendering must only be larger in size but also have the same proportion. Therefore, if a line is drawn diagonally from corner to corner and projected outward, any rectangle that would be formed with this diagonal line bisecting the corner would be the same proportion as the 2”x3” form.

A large bulky piece of furniture is not necessarily comfortable because of its size. Chairs that are small in scale, thin of line, may be especially comfortable due to the rise of foam rubber under the upholstery. Several large, bulky pieces of furniture in a small room may appear entirely too large in scale, where as the same number of pieces in smaller scale might give a very pleasing effect.

Different sized objects and areas in relationship to one another determine scale. We are constantly applying our sense of proportion when we select and arrange the objects in a room; a rog on a floor, a sofa against a wall, a picture of group of pictures over the sofa, a table and lamp next to the chair. The size and shape of the room will certainly determine the amount of furniture and the size of each piece. A very small room crowded with heavy, massive pieces is not likely to be either pleasuring or functional. “If you put a large chair in a small room, you end up making the room look larger, says Baba Dewan in his article ‘Less is more’ in Routes – The Gateway magazine of Jan-Feb 2002.

In modern rooms, we tend to use a few pieces of rather small-scale furniture to preserve an airy, spacious, look. But again the design of the room must carefully be formulated to avoid having the furniture seem “Lost” and insignificant.

Color and texture play a significant part in establishing proportions. Remember that strong, brilliant colors are “advancing” and will therefore make a particular area more obvious. Textures that reflect light or patterned areas will also tend to increase the importance of an area. Strong contrasts of color and texture will emphasize lines and forms. Proportions, therefore, are subject to the types and amounts of color and texture in different areas.

The most modest house can have the essential character of Greek art without hanging a single so called “classic detail”, if it is based on Greek ideals of simplicity, fitness and fine proportions.

A small house strengthens the convictions that as a rectangle approaches a square it becomes less pleasing, and that the best results depend on being able to approximate Greek proportions. The use of the Greek Oblong and of Greek space divisions adds beauty to a simple room. Here, in this picture, where the windows and porch are themselves nearly squares, monotony results from the emphasis laid upon this aspect of the house.


Balance is the principle of design that gives a feeling of stability due to the illusion of equal tension or weights on both sides of the composition. Balance in design is so natural that one is not even aware of it when it is present, but when it is violated there is a sense of discomfort or annoyance.

Balance is rest or repose. This restful effect is obtained by grouping shapes and colors around a centre in such a way that there are equal attractions on each side of that center. Balance in art can be explained quite as simply as balance in weights. The only difference is that it is not so much a question of how much the object weighs as of how much attention it attracts; says Goldstein sisters. According to Stepat-de-Van, ‘The Principle of Balance in design appeals to our sense of equilibrium.’ It is more pleasing to the eye when weights are so adjusted around a central focal point is that they appear to be in state of repose. A feeling of unbalance is almost always disturbing and unpleasant.

Stepat-de-Van further says that the “weights” of the furniture and other objects in a room are determined by size, shape, color and texture. All of these elements must be considered in adjusting the balance. The see-saw may be applied to artistic balance. When two objects of equal weights are placed at opposite ends of the board, they must be equidistant from the central point is replaced by a heavier one, it must be moved closer to the centre to balance the lighter one at the other end of the board.

When applying this principle to design, remember that similar areas will seem lighter or heavier in different colors and textures. On the “visual see-saw” therefore, if two objects were the same size but one was bright yellow and the other gray, the brighter one would appear heavier.


a) Formal Balance (Symmetrical)

b) Informal Balance (Asymmetrical)


            According to Bapat S. V., symmetrical balance is achieved when the masses or the arrangement are planned symmetrically on both the right and left side of a central axis. According to Stepat-de-Van, ‘When objects on each side of the centre point are alike in every respect, there is no problem of balancing them.’ This type of balance is called formal or symmetrical balance. Goldstein sisters say that, ‘It has been seen that the center of the space under consideration is the point around which all attractions must be adjusted.’ If objects are alike or are equally forceful in appearance, they will attract the same amount of attention; and therefore should be equidistant from the centre. This kind of balance is known as formal balance. They further add that formal balance is called bi-symmetrical balance when the objects on each side of the center are identical and obvious balance when the objects are not alike but are equal in their power of attraction.

Formal balance is quiet and dignified. It gives a sense of precision. Beitler also says that Formal or Symmetrical Balance may be either bisymmetrical or obvious. In other words, same or similar units on each side of the design should be placed at equal distances from the center. The fact that the units are the same or similar will indicate that they give the impression of equal weights. Therefore, if they are placed at the same distances from the center, they will automatically be balanced. This takes for granted that the upper and lower portions of the design are so arranged as to give a feeling of balance.

Formal balance is sometimes referred to as a passive or static balance, because of the quiet dignity or stateliness and formality that is evident in its organization. Designs that are stately are sometimes quite active or dynamic in their impressions, however.


According to Stepat-de-Van, ‘Informal balance is obtained, when objects that are not similar are grouped around a focal point to create a feeling of equilibrium. It is also known as occult or asymmetrical balance.’ According to Goldstein sisters, If the object do not attract the same amount of attention, they must be placed at different distances from the center; the balance is known as informal, occult or asymmetrical balance. They further add that informal balance is more subtle than formal balance and affords greater opportunity for variety in arrangement. Its success depends upon training the eye to recognize a restful composition.

Anna Rutt says that informal, occult, or asymmetrical balance results when objects are arranged so that a large one near the center balances a small one further away from the center, like a large boy and a small boy on a teeter-totter. There are many variations of informal balance.

Balance influences eye movement. Lines and shapes have visual “weight”, or visual magnetism. As shown in fig. 4.29, a heavy line attracts the eye more than a thin line of equal length. To create a psychological sense of balance, the thin line would have to be extended to a point at which its total mass, or visual weight, equaled that of the heavier line.

Anna Rutt further adds that, formal balance is a matter of intellect; informal balance, of the intellect plus the feelings. Informal balance is more creative than the formal, because there are no rules to guide one in producing it. Formal balance is less difficult and less subtle, and also more passive, than the informal balance.

Formal, or symmetrical, balance is achieved when identical elements are positioned equidistantly from central axis, or line of vision. An algebraic analogy may be expressed in the formula: a + b = a + b. The factors are identical (on either side of the equation), and one side of the equation balances, or equals, the other.

Formula Balance

Informal Balance


Symmetrical. Asymmetrical.


Two objects which are alike. Two objects which are not alike.


Equidistant from the center. Not equidistant from the center.


Passive or static balance, less subtle. More subtle.


Called as bisymmetrical when both the objects are same. Called as asymmetrical and both the objects are not same.


Called as obvious when both the objects are not same. Called as occult balance.


It is matters of intellect. It is matters of intellect plus feelings.


Less creative. More creative.


The inexperienced person who is not aware of beautiful space variations may not at first succeed in creating a satisfactory example of formal balance, although it is relatively easy to center a picture, a doorway, or a flower arrangement for a center piece. One must be sensitive, however, to the ways in which one can employ the principle of formality so that the end result will not be trite and uninteresting.

In planning an informally balanced design, one has many more items to consider; the size and number of shapes or forms grouped on either side of the center; the distance from the center or the distance from the front or back of a design that each form is placed; or the way in which the dark and light, bright or dull, warm and cool forms of colors are used to give a give a proper feeling of balance.

The diagrams of the scales in figure may explain the principle of balance, especially in the placement of shapes in a design. In (A) the shapes are the same in size, shape and value of dark and light. They are placed on the same distance from the center and thus express formal bisymmetrical balance. In (B) the two shapes on the right (when combined) have the same weight as the one on the left. Thus, they also are placed on the same distance from the center and give a variation of formal balance which is not so monotonous. In (C) the object on the left is much larger than the one the right, but because it so light in value, it can be placed on the same distance from the center as the dark shape and still give the impression of equal weights on both sides. This also is a variation of formal balance. In (D) the large and small shapes are both dark, showing the impression of heaviness of the larger one so it pills the scales down on the right. In (E) by shifting the smaller shape to the left and bringing the larger closer to the center, proper informal balance is achieved.

In these examples, we see what happens when “actual weights” are used whereas in most art problems we are concerned more with creating optical illusions of equal weights. A number of different factors may cause a form to appear heavier : size, color, texture, decorative pattern or placement. Automatically, the unit that is made large in size will appear heavier. Actually it might be constructed of a type of material that would literally make it weight less than a small object.

Informal or asymmetrical balance is sometimes referred to as active or dynamic because of the variety of ways in which an area may be organized. It is more difficult for the person untrained in art to develop a sensitivity for the beautiful casual spontaneity expressed in informal balance.

Balance is by far the most important principle employed in furniture arrangement. Frequently the size, shape and other architectural features of a room will influence the way furniture must be placed and where it would be desirable to use formal or informal balance. On a wall that has identical windows symmetrically placed it would seem logical, although not always necessary, to place furniture in a formally balanced arrangement. When the structural features of the room are asymmetrical, an informal arrangement of balance is usually more attractive.

The theme or mood of the room will also influence the type of balance that should predominate. A large, elegant room that is formal in character could well stand several groups of furniture arranged in formal balance. Having all the groups arranged this way; however, would be monotonous and would in addition lend an air of rigidity that might be unpleasant. A predominance of occult arrangements produced a more casual atmosphere in a room, but one must be careful to avoid producing a feeling of confusion by using informal balance excessively.

Although formal balance has more static and stable qualities. It does not need to be dull and uninteresting. This type of balance may be achieved through arrangements in which the objects on either side of the central line are not identical but are of equal weight and importance. Occult or informal arrangements are more difficult, but when they are well balanced, they add interest and variety. There are some excellent examples in the work of Japanese artists who were masters of the techniques of producing fine occult balance.

Large pieces of furniture must usually be distributed around so that the walls and various areas of the room balance one another. All heavy pieces at one end and all light weight pieces at the other would certainly produce an unbalanced design. If function or some other reason dictates such an arrangement, color and texture can be employed to re-establish a more pleasing equilibrium. For ex. a dinning are at one end of a living room would probably have furniture that was lighter in weight than the heavier upholstered pieces at the other end. In such a case you might use a different wall color, bright accents of color on chair seats, or some emphatic center of interest to add importance of the dining area.

There is more intimacy in informal arrangements than in formal and a sort of chatty, conversational quality is likely to characterize a room where informal balance prevails. There is freedom and variation in the uneven groupings. It is not necessary that all parts of a room should agree in being either formal or informal in arrangements e.g. one might use a formal arrangement on the desk, an informal grouping on the bookcase, and a combination of formal and informal balance on the fireplace. This type of balance makes an impression which lies between the formal and the informal. There is more variety than if the same objects were repeated throughout, yet a certain dignity comes from the repetition of the objects.

In working for a balanced room, one should continually test both halves to see that one half does not present much greater attraction to the eye than the other. in arranging the room, the four walls, with everything seen against them, must balance. If one side seems too heavy, it is necessary to add a brighter color, a more striking shape or simply more material to the weaker side, and to keep adjusting the attractions until the whole room looks restful.

During the last generation there have been many changes in our homes. There has been especially great change from formal living to the more informal. This difference is not only evident in ways we entertain but in the way we live. Informality has also moved into business and other walks of life. People working in group dynamics have discovered that discussion takes place better in an informal situation than when the leader stands at the head of the room and all of the furniture faces the front. Informal situations have shown us that we feel more at ease, feel more a part of what is going on in informal situations.

This stress on informality has influenced the designer or may be vice-versa. In most situations we feel that informal design may create more dramatic situations. The design that is planned with informal design, then, has become more accepted and a part of present day living. Each designer must design if he wishes to produce formal or informal design. This decision must depend on the use of his design, as well as on the personality of the designer. As a new design student, you must also become sensitive to the fact that informal design is not just scattering the design haphazardly. Often the person who has not developed sensitivity to informal design may be guilty of making his design a hodgepodge. You must develop an awareness to both approaches to balance and then decide which you will use in each design problem.

The two pieces of sculpture shown in figure (A) and (B) illustrate suggestions of formal and informal balance. The “family unity” shown in (A) shows the parents placed on either side of the child. The figures are not identical but are similar enough to suggest formal balance. The “Environmental Jewelry” shown in (B) is a beautiful example of subtle balancing of units to suggest informal balance. The two figures on the left balance the one figure and the circular disc on the right. The rods at the base on which the figures are standing are placed at various points of overlapping to aid the feeling of balance and also to present more interesting proportions.

Just the painter arranges his composition on canvas, so the architect has to balance doors and windows, porches and dormers around the central axis of a building. Whether he uses formal or informal balance depends largely upon the following conditions :

  1. The spirit of the age in which he lives
  2. The use to which the building is to be put
  3. The type of people for whom the building is planned
  4. His own personality

Two houses are shown here to illustrate how formal and informal balance appears in a building. In comparing them, notice their difference in spirit as well as the means by which the effect is secured. If a line were drawn through the center of the house (fig. A) it would be found that everything on one side is repeated on the other side, and so this house is bi-symmetrical or formally balanced. The house in (fig. B) is informally balanced, as the architect obtained a feeling of restfulness by carrying out the principle illustrated by the large and small boys on the see-saw.

Balance in art can be explained quite as simply as balance in weights. The only difference is that it is not so much a question of how the object weighs as how much attention it attracts. If one wore brown sweater and another wore red, in balancing them against a background one would follow the same principle as for balancing unequal weights and would place the boy in red nearer the center of the wall, while the less conspicuous boy would be moved further away. The brighter the red sweater the nearer it would have to come towards the center line and duller the brown sweater the further off it should go.

In figure the dark doorway is near the center of the house and mass is formed by the dark door and the light gables is balanced adjusting the windows, the dormer and the light chimney at different distances from the center.

In the advertisement in papers and magazines the principle equal and unequal weights as related to balance is all important. The amount of margin left is an additional factor to be considered in the balancing of the whole layout. Whether formal or informal balance is used may depend upon the mood suggested by the material being advertised; or if specific cuts are to be included rather than drawings which can be any size or weight, the cuts may determine the manner of their placement. When a layout is balanced, it will give the impression that it would remain a horizontal position if it were suspended by an imaginary string.

The type of balance present in the interiors or houses helps to determine the emotional effects created. Formal balance is a room naturally creates an air of formality. Therefore, it is not the effect usually desired in a simple or small room or home, or in any place that should have a gay, young or casual air. Formal interior architecture usually requires some formality in future arrangement.

Balance is by far the most important principle employed in furniture arrangement. The halves of each single wall should usually be equally weighted with furniture or windows or doors. Opposite walls should be balanced against one another.


Rhythm is a very important Art Principle. According to E.J. Beitler and B. Lockhart, a sense of order, a quality of gracefulness, a feeling of easy movement’ – all lead to a principle of designs; which we may call “rhythm”. All of us may tingle to the tips of our toes when we watch the graceful movements of a ballet dancer. If she appears clumsy in her movements, it may be because of lack of skill, but it also shows an absence of a feeling for beautiful rhythmic movement.

Rhythm is related movement or this sense of leading the eye easily from one part of a design to another in an easy, flowing manner. We say that a certain design shows rhythm, but it is not in a individual shapes, but in the change from one line to another, from one dimension to another, from one color to another, one value to another. In music, it isn’t that each sound is rhythmical but rather it is the change from one sound to another with the proper amount of time elapse between each note, or the change in pitch of each note that creates the rhythm. Sounds like a drum beat can become rhythmical when the beats are rapid at times and slow at others, arranged in a semblance of order or a “certain time”. On the other hand, the notes might be all timed the same, but they may vary in pitch.

Anna Rutt says in the book Home furnishing that, ‘Rhythm is organized movement in continuity. It occurs in regular, repeated movement and also in variable transitional movement. It is important in art and in nature.’

Regular measured rhythm is the simplest and oldest way of producing harmony and order. It is the basic element in music, the dance and poetry, and it is important in architecture and interior design.

Variable rhythm is found in the regular intervals of dissimilar parts. This rhythm may carry the eye along smoothly flowing lines or it may force the attention abruptly here and there in order to convey the desired emotional effect. This type of rhythm is employed to attract the eye throughout a painting until it is seen as a whole. Such rhythm unites all the articles in a group of furniture and also connects each group with adjoining group of furniture and also connects each group with adjoining groups. Variable rhythm dominates in natural landscaping in natural landscaping and in flower arrangements of the curvilinear or diagonal types.

Dorothy Stepat-de-Van says that, “when the elements of a design are arranged to make the eye travel from one part to another, the design has movement. If the eye moves smoothly and easily, the motion is rhythmic.” This principle of rhythm is extremely important in producing unity, because it makes the eye sweep over the whole design before it rests at any particular focal point.

According to Goldstein H. and Goldstein V., ‘Rhythm may defined as a form of movement, it must recognized that not all movement in design is rhythmic’. Sometimes movement is distracting. In art, rhythm means an easy, connected path, along which the eye may travel in any arrangement of lines, forms or colors. Rhythm then is related movement. If perfectly plain space, there is no movement, there is simply a restful place and the eye remains quiet at any point where it happens to fall. The moment that pattern is placed upon that plain space and an object is placed against it, the eye will begin to travel along line suggested by the object or the pattern and at that moment movement is created. This movement may be organized and easy and thus rhythmic, or it may be very restless, distracting and lacking in rhythm.

There are three outstanding methods of obtaining rhythmic movement.

(1) Through the repetition of shapes

(2) Through a progression of sizes

(3) Through and easily connected or continuous line movement

According to Ste-pat-de-Van, several methods of producing rhythm in a design include :

(1) Continuous line                                               (2) Repetition

(3) Gradation                                            (4) Radiation


The principle of rhythm as it is gained through repetition is recognized when one is conscious of the swing of the beautifully spaced, regularly repeated columns which may in a way be likened to the strokes of a perfectly trained crew of oatsmen. When a shape is regularly repeated at a proper intervals, a movement is created which carries the eye from one unit to the next in such a way that one is not conscious of separate units, but of a rhythmic advancement making it easy for the eye to pass along the entire length of the space. The greatest enjoyment of rhythmic sequence is to be found in nature forms.

According to Beitler ‘A feeling of rhythm may be expressed by repetition of lines, colors and shapes, but in so doing we must also keep in mind the principles of proportion that deal with unity, with a certain amount of variety to add interest’. Shapes that are all the same size and shape with the same spacing between each would give us an example of repetition, but it might be very monotonous. In securing rhythm through repetition, one must be careful to avoid monotony in spacing, for good proportion is a necessary accompaniment to repetition if beauty is to result. Moreover, when intervals are too far apart the movement will lack rhythm.

There are number of practical applications of this principle of rhythmic repetition. Combined with good spacing, it makes for pleasing effects when one is e.g.: stitching rows of braid or tucks on a dress, placing groups of buttons, repeating dots, circles, squares, or any shape of spot in embroidery, or putting out rows of objects in a store display. It is interesting to remember that repeating a shape a number of times gives an effect of repose and sometimes a shape which is difficult to use as a single unit in design, will be successful when it is repeated at close intervals. A rhythmic effect is achieved in a costume when a suggestion of the tucks or braid on the skirt is repeated in the waist or a note of color is carried from the part of an ensemble to another.

Repetition in the visual arts concerns but one dimension, which is space. This is, the only difference between identical units is their position in space. The relationship, therefore, is one dimensional and is measured in terms of space interval that corresponds to the time interval between two successive, identical music tones. Intervals of space or voids between objects, are as much a part of visual design as intervals of time, or the silences between sounds, are part of poetic, and musical design.

It has been said that “clear and effective teaching consists largely of repetition – of first telling the students what you are going to tell them, then telling them and then telling them what you have told them”.

Exact repetition of a unit has a strongly integrated, clear and emphatic effect. In the space arts, exact repetition is used in wall papers, rugs, textiles, architectural ornaments, and advertising photography.


The second way of obtaining rhythm is through a progression of sizes. While a regular progression of sizes may be satisfying enough for scallops on lace and embroidery, one enjoys a more varied, progression when large objects are involved. Progressing sizes create a rapid movement of the eye, and they are often badly used. The example of this misuse is seen in the arrangement of pictures or other objects against a wall in a series of steps that carry the eye up toward the ceiling, and hence away from the part of the room around which one would like to have the interest centered. While a series of steps is undesirable because it leads the eye to the wrong place in the room, a group of objects in which there is no variation in height may be monotonous. In order to avoid both extremes, one should use a series of varied heights.

A gradual change in the length or thickness of lines may give variety says Beitler. But if it is so obvious that one is striving for graduation or progression it, too, become monotonous. Besides a gradual change in length or thickness of lines, one may seek variety in a change in spacing between lines or shapes, change in hue, value or intensity change in amounts overlapped in a composition, change in texture from smooth to rough, shiny to dull.

In figure, the ever widening circular movement of the structure of the shell produces a feeling of rhythm. Also the faintly radiating lines in the opposite direction lengthwise of the shell add a graceful delicacy as contrasted by heavy, stubby ‘fingerlike’ projections around the sides. Nature has a way of combining heaviness and daintiness in her own inimitable way. Look at the heavy trunk of the tree, the small branches and twigs and then the dainty lines of the veins of the leaves. And yet they all blend together to give a rhythmical harmony.

We usually think of rhythm as expressing the quality of lithesome grace, but this does not exclude the dramatic slashes of a voodoo dancer or the rapid zigzag of a lightening flash. These express other kinds of rhythm that show more speed, but they might still express repetition, gradation or continuous line movement. The shell illustrated if figure shows a graceful example of irregular gradation in the finger like projections at its base.

Gradation is a sequence in which the contrasting extremes are bridged by a series of similar or harmonious steps. Gradation therefore, is a particular combination of contrast and harmony. Gradation is clearly illustrated by the value scale; in which black and white, the contrasting extremes, are connected by a continuous sequence in which the adjoining grays are similar or harmonious. All scales are various forms of gradation, because any scale consists of a succession of graded steps. The word ‘scale’ derives from the Latin ‘Scala’ which means steps, stairs or ladder. ‘Scale’ in turn, is a kin to the still more ancient Sanskrit ‘Skand’, meaning to mount, rise or ascend. Gradation and scale are therefore, synonyms.

Gradation is a common and basic form of natural order. It exists in the ascending crescendo of sunrise and in the falling diminuendo of twilight slightly blending into darkness. The rising arch of a clear sky is a gradation of hue, value and color that progresses from the pale, warm-green horizon haze to the dark, cold blue zenith. All natural cycles, the waxing and waning moon, the ebbing and flowing tides, the slow measured passage of the season – all illustrate gradation in various forms. Gradation characterizes the flowing pattern of plant and animal life in all its successive, transitory stages from birth and death.

Because gradation implies change, movement, life it is a most valuable and useful instrument of expression for the artist. The painter also uses gradation of size and gradation of direction or radiation – that is, linear perspective – together with gradation of hue, value and chroma.


Composition that shows rhythm through continued line is likely to be made up very largely by curves says Goldstein sisters in their ‘Art in everyday life’. While all of the forms of rhythmic movement were seen in the natural pattern of the shell of the paper-nautilus, the rhythm to be found in the continued movement of a line is plainly shown in figure.

This enlargement of the spiral of a shell brings out the beauty in the sequence of its line movement and in the rhythmical gradations of its spaces. One finds many fine examples of this type of rhythm in Greek sculpture and in Japanese prints.

In some designs it is not evident that any elements are repeated or that there is a progressive change from one part of the design to another and yet we have a sense of easy movement throughout the design. The related movement may be literally having breaks in the line but spaces that are small enough so the eye still carries over to the next section of the line in the rhythmical manner.


Radiation is a method of obtaining organized movement. It is type of movement that grows out of a central point or axis. It may be observed in the diverging lines which form the pattern of snow crystals and some leaves. Radiation is used very commonly in designs for store display.

According to Ste-pat-de-Van, ‘diverging lines do not tend to carry the eye smoothly from one part of a design to another, they are sometimes useful in creating a particular effect’. Radiation is frequently employed as a basis of design in lighting fixtures, structural elements and many decorative objects.

According to Beitler and Lockhart, ‘Radiation means lines or parts of a design growing out of or extending from, a line or a point’.

Frequently, one finds an arrangement in all the kinds of rhythmic movement are used; such as room arrangements, exterior and interior of the house, designs for lace, and embroidery and other handicrafts. Sometimes show this combination.

The principle of rhythmic line movement comes into frequent use in the design of a house. Perhaps it can be recognized more easily if one starts from a point where there is no apparent movement. In the outline of a square house the horizontal and vertical lines are equal force and so they balance each other. Use of rhythmic lines is always seen in arrangement of furniture, small articles in the showcase, curtains, draperies etc. One place in house design where lack of rhythm is most frequently seen is the arrangement of door and windows on the side of the house. In working out a house plan one usually begins with the arrangement of the rooms and places the doors and windows in order to secure best light and air and wall space for furniture. Unfortunately these openings do not always look well in relation to each other after the house is built; say Goldstein sisters.

Rhythm is found in designs of floor tiles, a wall papers, furnishing like curtains etc. When the amount desirable movement for walls and carpets has been decided, one is free to think of the design of the furnishings. In a room with quiet walls they figured pattern of a drapery material may display a greater degree of movement than would be pleasant for walls and rugs.

Rhythm through continuous line movement can be observed in the selection and arrangement of small accessories in the showcase, arrangement of furniture pieces, use of wall hangings or wall frames on the walls, suitable design on the curtain, way of hanging curtains etc. All these should be kept or arranged in such a way that the eye travels from one corner to the other corner of that particular, room easily or rhythmically. Restful effect can be gained through proper use of all these decorative things. When a person selects furniture he prefers to have it suggest stability rather than movement and so he chooses either straight lines or restrained curves. It must be remembered that too much straight line will result in monotony and this becomes noticeable if many straight line pieces are used together, opine Goldstein S. and Goldstein V.

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