THE ELEMENTS OF DESIGN – PART 2

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….

 

Space

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.

Hmmm.

Which would you rather look at?

 

Harmony

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.

THE ELEMENTS OF DESIGN – WITH A NATURAL TWIST

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.

 

Color

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 

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!

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HOW TO ACHIEVE INNER ‘SERENITY’

“TO:  The Supreme Pontiff Julius II           

FROM:  M. Buonarroti, artist

RE:  Interior Decorating

Most Holy Father,

It grieves me that your Holiness is unhappy with the progress on the Sistine Chapel.

Admittedly, it’s taken a little time and we’re into a slight cost overrun, but Your Holiness must admit this isn’t something that can be done with a numbered kit.

It’s hard on the neck, too. And, while you don’t do the shopping,You must know the price of fresco colors is out of sight! A couple more years should do it.

Your obedient servant,

Michelangelo

P.S. I beg to point out to Your Holiness that there is nothing in the contract about scraping the sash in the Vatican Refectory. As I’ve said before, I don’t do windows.”

(From an ancient account in Rome’s Vatican Library. Date has been effaced, but is believed to be circa AD 1510)

 

Yes, you read correctly.

This excerpt was written by that Michelangelo, the one of Sistine ceiling fame.

I happen to love this quote!

It’s a page straight out of history, yet – despite the passage of 500 years – not a lot has changed.

It could just as easily have been written yesterday.

Truth be told, the first time I heard this was at a meeting, where the speaker read it aloud before a room full of interior designers.

You can be sure it got a good laugh.

However, I think just about anyone can relate to Michelangelo’s words.

For example, if you’ve ever taken on a project that ran into cost overruns, or was not completed on time, this letter will sound painfully familiar.

Then there’s the part about the “numbered kit”.

Did such a thing even exist back then? (Apparently so).

What Michelangelo was basically saying, was that painting the Sistine ceiling was not just any old work of Art.

His letter makes plain that this was part of a very involved process – one that could not be rushed.

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HOW TO BE A SAVVY DESIGNER

In the past few months, the hotel where I routinely stay in Asheville, NC, has undergone a complete overhaul – taking the newly remodeled lobby entrance from drab to “wow”!

At least, that was my first impression, upon entering the revolving front doors.

I thought the new décor was fun and vibrant, and instantly uplifting.

Later, I asked my fellow attendees what they thought, and the response was surprising.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said one person.

“It’s stupid,” said another. “It isn’t safe.”

I saw immediately what was going on.

“Ah,” I said. “That’s the thing – it’s the difference between aesthetics and function.”

As an interior designer, I had initially observed the lobby from purely an aesthetic viewpoint.

But for those who’d actually been lounging in the chairs and sofas, their discomfort level was intense.

“The ottoman is too small & squishy for a big person,” was the explanation. “You could roll right off it.”

“Not to mention the chairs in the dining room,” someone else chimed in. “They’re much too small!

She predicted they wouldn’t last more than a year.

I was then reminded of the previous evening.

While seated in one of the deep, cushy sofas in the bar area, I had been acutely uncomfortable – unable to lean back against the pillows without my feet dangling off the floor.

My back was tired.

In other words, even though the aesthetic – or visual – experience might be a huge WOW, if the design isn’t also working from a functional – or practical – standpoint, then it has failed.

As an interior designer, these are the things I know.

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5 WAYS TO SHIFT THE ENERGY IN YOUR OFFICE

A recent article on creating Harmony in ones’ work place, has inspired today’s musings.

If you’ve ever considered how you might improve the energy in your workspace – whether or not your office is in your home – these simple design suggestions will give you something to think about.

By no means are these ideas limited to just your office – you can apply this to any place in your home.

 

Do Aim for Clean, Uncluttered Surfaces

We don’t always realize how important it is to have our work areas impeccably organized, with a designated place for everything to be stored.

The tendency is to have little piles on our desk, each one representing a portion of our To Do list for the next day.

Do you really tackle each of those little piles on a daily basis?

I know I don’t.

And yet, I’m fearful of storing things away, being very guilty of an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.

Here’s the thing, though:  according to Chinese Feng Shui, having too many things on your work surface can impede the flow of energy, or chi.

There is a lot of truth in this ancient wisdom, so take heed.

Clear up your work surfaces, and find a home for all your knickknacks and unnecessary items.

Even better, be sure to extend the effort to every area of your home that tends to collect stuff – be it your kitchen, your favorite coffee table with stacks of magazines and clippings, or a bathroom counter.

Make it a habit to breathe new life into your living and work spaces, each and every day.

 

Don’t Turn Your Back on the Door

From a purely logical standpoint, it simply feels more comfortable to have a clear view of your office door, so you can see what is going on.

This one simple act can eliminate the sense of someone sneaking up on you from behind.

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DO YOU FOLLOW THE RECIPE?

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.

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SETTING THE STAGE

“All the world’s a stage”.  Shakespeare

 

Designing an interior is a lot like creating a stage set.  

A few weeks ago, I attended Pacific Northwest Ballet’s rendition of ‘Giselle’ – a truly lovely and engaging performance.

While gazing at the pastoral stage setting – meant to evoke a hot, summer’s day – I was struck by the similarities between stage designs versus home design.

The one is theatrical, strictly for show with the sole purpose of telling a story – with all its nuances and drama.

Yet our homes also tell a story.

The story our homes tell is about the people who live there.

These stories may not be as exciting or dramatic as theatre, yet there is still drama – just drama on another level.

With this in mind, please join me for a minute while we explore how our room settings are a little like a stage set.

The only real difference being they house REAL people, not characters in a play.

 

Scene 1:  Your Inner Stylist

When the curtain rises at the theatre, we are instantly clued in to the story that is about to unfold.

This is achieved through a number of devices, but the first thing we usually notice is the stage set, which – when truly successful – elicits a delighted gasp from the audience.

The setting for ‘Giselle’ was clearly traditional. I felt as if I’d been transported back to the 18th century, and landed in a pastoral scene straight out of a rococo painting.

Everything – from the set design, costumes and music – reinforced the traditional mood of the ballet.

Another performance might have resembled a gentleman’s study, with a multitude of books lining the shelves, a sturdy desk front and center, and perhaps a mini bar off to the side – well-stocked to accommodate any guests that might stop by.

Again somewhat traditional in feel, the message conveyed here is one of ease and comfort, in true gentlemanly fashion.

I’ve also been to ballets where the set design is extremely minimal, in order to convey a style that is sleek and modern. Sometimes there are no props whatsoever – just the dancers and the stage.

Of course, that might be a bit extreme for most of us.

Still, our homes invariably reflect the style that we are most drawn to – whether traditional, modern or somewhere in-between.

 

Scene 2:  Engaging Your Senses

This is where the Magic happens.

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WHERE’S THE MAGIC?

Do you remember the TV commercial from the 70’s – the one with the little old lady at a fast food joint, demanding to know “Where’s the Beef?”                       

Sometimes I ask “Where’s the Magic?”

I do this instinctively with interior design, whether flipping through a magazine or seeing a vignette that feels less than exciting.

It’s the same idea, really.

Both scenarios imply that something is missing.

Good design tells a story. It engages and envelops you. The excitement, the magic that I speak of is subtle, but it’s there.

It’s what puts a skip in your step, or makes your heart skip a beat.

It’s a sense of being taken care of, of feeling cocooned in your own home because it is furnished to reflect the lives – and loves – of you and your family.

Are you wondering how to achieve that kind of magic in your home?

Whether your style is minimalist, clean and orderly, or a more laid-back, ‘lived-in’ look –  rest assured.

Help is on the way!

I’ve just released my new FREE offer – 7 Ways To Create Harmony In Your Home.

A series of seven amazing tips delivered to your in-box over seven days, giving you time to absorb and implement each one.

It’s available IMMEDIATELY, by simply completing the Opt-In box to your right.

Congratulations – you’re on your way!

THE SYMPHONY IN YOUR HOME

“Symphony…is the ability to put together the pieces. It is the capacity to synthesize, rather than to analyze; to see relationships between seemingly unrelated fields”.

Daniel Pink, “A Whole New Mind”


Our homes are a lot like a symphony, the way the various parts come together like the parts of an orchestra.

Did you ever think of it that way?

The more prominent instruments, such as the violin or cello are like the basic pieces of furniture in your home.

Then you have the equivalent of a harp – ongoing background music that brings harmony to the mix, like the color palette that flows throughout the rooms.

In the distant background, we have percussion instruments –in your home, the musical equivalent of drums and cymbals are the accent pieces, the amazing artwork and collections that personalize your space.

As you can see, I like metaphors.

The other day, I happened to be listening to a symphony – a rare occurance, actually – and was reminded of Daniel Pink’s book “A Whole New Mind”.

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LIVING IN HARMONY

This is an exciting time for me as I’m just about to launch my new eZine ‘Live In Harmony’.   

Why the emphasis on Harmony?

Several years ago, when I decided on a new name for my design business, I was coming from a place of serenity because that is the kind of environment I like to create for my clients, as well as myself.

To further define my vision, I created the tag line: Clarity, Order, Simplicity. To me, it’s all part of the same thing.

The elements of design include everything from color, space, balance, shape, line, proportion and much more. These are the tools that an interior designer will work with to lend interest and excitement to a project. They are the same tools that an architect or product designer would also use.

In your home, when all the elements of design come together in a delightful way, the result will be harmonious.

Balance is a key component. If even one of the above mentioned elements is off kilter, it can throw the entire design off balance.

As an example, I’ll invoke the image of Alexander Calder’s mobiles, where even the tiniest detail is there for a reason. Nothing in his works is gratuitous. The mobiles are so carefully engineered and perfectly balanced, both literally and visually, that there is nothing to add or take away.

Home environments are the same way. When a room is relaxed and comfortable, is visually pleasing and serves your needs, there is nothing more to add.

As a side benefit, your energy and productivity levels will likely increase, as if a great weight had fallen by the wayside. Your life will seem fuller, richer.

In other words, by rearranging your home you can rearrange you life. What could be simpler?

To subscribe to my eZine, and receive a FREE copy of my ebook Living Green:  12 Simple Steps for Creating an Eco-Friendly Home, please visit my website at harmonydesignsudio.com .