This week’s article is a continuation from last week. 

(If you missed that article, you can find it here.)

And as I said before, it’s a bit of a teaser.

I say this, because I’m using various elements found in Nature to illustrate the Elements of Design – the so-called building blocks used to create just about any work of art – and  therefore the principal tools that designers, architects and all creative types invariably use in their craft.

So far, we’ve explored Color, Balance, Pattern and Rhythm.

Still to come?

Space, Line, Proportion and perhaps my favorite – Harmony.

So here they are….



See that wide expanse of sky?

If that endless space was filled with stuff, this scene wouldn’t look nearly as tranquil.

Which means Mother Nature got it right again, knowing exactly when to stop.

In home design, this translates to “Less is More” an oft quoted remark from one of the 20th century’s foremost architects, Mies van der Rohe.

When it doubt, a good rule of thumb is to edit the finished design by removing one item.

That’s when you’re done.


Line & Proportion

In Nature, line and proportion are pretty much perfect.

After all, who’s to say a maple leaf should have a different shape, or that a bunch of grapes should be less round?

We accept them for what they are.

A mix of lines and shapes is always a good idea for interiors, as well.

And knowing when to place a large sofa in a smaller room, or vice versa, is just as helpful.

Is the coffee table the right size for the nearby chairs?

What about the bed?

Understanding the relationship between all these different elements is key to a successful project!


Focal Point

This is your immediate field of vision.    

With a view like this, it’s easy to see what that might be.

The Focal Point is the one thing that captivates you, that is so spectacular, interesting or inviting that people can’t help but notice it.

It’s what we situate our homes to take full advantage – especially when there’s a gorgeous view.

Inside your home, this translates to either the fireplace, a bed or seating area, or even the television.


Which would you rather look at?



This is an easy one.

It’s what we achieve when ALL the Elements & Principles have been used together – well, harmoniously.

Just like in Nature.

If your home is feeling a bit flat and un-inspired, you can be fairly certain that one of these key elements is off, or missing altogether.


Today’s post is a bit of a teaser.   

While vacationing a few weeks ago in Eastern Washington, I spent a lot of time outdoors.

And on my bike.

While riding the scenic back roads, it occurred to me that much of what we see in Nature mirrors the Elements of Design – the principal tools that designers, architects and all creative types invariably use in their craft.

These Elements of Design include everything from color, space, balance, shape, line, proportion and much more – while lending interest and excitement to a space.

Just as they do in Nature.

Let me explain.



Imagine the natural world without color!  

It’s almost painful to think of.

Everywhere we look, on any given day, we are welcomed by a riot of color in our surroundings – both indoors and out.

Sometimes it makes sense to balance the colors of Nature outside your windows, with a soothing palette inside. A neutral palette can make strong colors pop – just as you see in the vivid sunsets shown above.

Other times, a desert landscape might call for bolder colors within.

Different colors dictate a different mood, and can lift our spirits.

In Nature, the most soothing colors are green and blue.



Balance in a room is achieved through Symmetry or Asymmetry in the basic layout of your furnishings.

The essence of Symmetry is this:

If you were to draw an imaginary line down the center of a room, dividing it in half – each half would be a mirror image of the other.

In Nature, we can find a perfect mirror image reflected in a lake, just like in this picture!



Have you ever made a trip to a furniture store to purchase, say – a bed – and you also bought the matching pair of nightstands?             

How about a sofa, along with an accompanying loveseat and a matched set of coffee and end tables?

Did you answer “No” to both scenarios?

Then I’m willing to bet that, if nothing else, you’ve probably purchased a dining table with a matching set of chairs. You likely did this simply because the furniture was sold as a designated set, a very common practice.

What if I were to tell you that you are in no way bound to buy matching sets of everything?

In fact, most designers, including myself, would far prefer to mix different styles rather than have everything ‘matchy matchy’.

Why is that?

Simply put, designers like to think outside the box, taking a more playful, ‘mix-&-match approach instead.

Don’t get me wrong.

I love symmetry. To me it speaks of order and calm, in a sometimes chaotic world.

I’m sure you’ve seen the look – matching sofas facing each other in front of a fireplace, with matched end tables and side chairs.

It comes across as formal, well-organized and perfectly balanced.



This past weekend, we visited the Farmer’s Market. 

Walking among the stalls, I was thrilled to see the colorful rows of fresh produce –a sure sign that Summer has arrived.

Later in the day, as I inspected my selection of fresh asparagus, baby beets, snow peas, and lettuces, I wasn’t sure how they’d be combined them for the evening meal.

We ended up with soup.

I just tossed everything in the pot – well, except for the beets and lettuce. (I don’t think beets would be a good idea–unless you’re making borscht).

So anyway, I didn’t follow a recipe. I didn’t need to.

The next day, as I was preparing a salad for a potluck dinner, I was following a recipe. That’s when I realized I was missing a key ingredient.

Oh no!

At first, I panicked. Then I decided to improvise with my  Farmer’s Market finds from the day before. It was strangely relieving.

That’s what made me think about Rules and Following Recipes.



“Negative space is a powerful drawing tool. It’s one of the secrets to learning how to draw.” Brian Bomeisler

To paraphrase Brian Bomeisler, negative space is a powerful tool.    

Plus, it’s one of the secrets to a well-designed room!

That’s because the negative space in a room is just as important as the positive space.

Hence the message:   “Less Is More”.

Negative space can be defined as the area in and around an object.

Positive space is the object itself.

Let’s look at your typical living room. The sofa, chairs, coffee and end tables, carpet and accessories all comprise the Positive space.

The empty space around all these pieces is your Negative space.