Design Balance in Room Decorating

Creating a Harmonious Space

Decorated living room with teal walls and bookshelves
Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

If you’ve ever been to a funhouse, you know what it feels like to walk through a room that is unbalanced. But many times in home decorating, design balance is something that is an afterthought. After all, unless you’ve got serious foundation problems, I doubt your floors feel anything like those in a funhouse.

But design balance in decorating is something that should be considered at the beginning stages of room design. Without proper balance, a room can make its inhabitants feel uncomfortable and anxious.

In fact, balance in a room is as much about emotion as it is about good design. Good design balance gives off feelings of stability and wellness. More specifically, balance is a part of the design that invokes a feeling of wellness in a room. Nothing feels weird, lopsided or unstable.

So how does one achieve good design balance in a room? Creating a balanced and harmonious space depends on three things: furniture and décor placement, use of color and texture, and the scale and proportion of furnishings and décor.

Below are tips for creating a balanced room:

Furniture and Décor Placement

  • Vary the heights: A room where all the furnishings or décor are the same height will lack interest. When you place your furniture into your room, put tall pieces next to short pieces. If your sofa has a low back, add a piece of furniture that is tall like an armoire or bookshelf. The same rule works with small décor. With small décor, use the ratio of 3:1. For example, three vases of varying heights grouped together and balanced by a single larger décor object on the opposite side of the mantel or shelf make a striking design.
  • Balance your heavy or bold pieces: Imagine a seesaw in your room. If one side gets weighed down with heavy furnishings or décor, your room will feel off balance. Add something on the other side to put the eye over and around the room. For example, if one wall has a tall bookshelf and tons of wall décor, make sure you balance that wall with something tall or bold on the opposite side of the room. If you have a heavy sofa against one wall, pair the wall opposite the sofa with another foundational piece of furniture.​
  • Less is best: Don’t set up an obstacle path with your furnishings and don’t cram a room too full of small decorative objects. A room needs “breathing space.” (FYI: The most common mistake amateurs make is to add in too much small décor.)

Use of Color and Texture ​

  • Don’t match but blend: One sign of an amateur decorator is a room where everything matches perfectly … too perfectly. Don’t go for perfection but strive for ambiance. For example, balance a bold color with a large pattern that blends but doesn’t match exactly, or balance a bright warm color with a textured cool color. Or choose colors that are the same hue but vary in intensity and scatter them evenly around your room.
  • Play up contrasts: Homes look professionally designed when new elements are mixed with old, smooth contrasts with rough, polished is balanced with nubby. You get the idea.
  • Spread the wealth: Don’t make one side of the room color heavy or only use one color for the whole room. Choose two to three main colors for your room palette, and then be sure to spread these colors throughout your space. This will carry the eye throughout the room and keep things interesting.