There’s no room that I design more often than living rooms. As a designer, living rooms and their more casual cousin, the family room, are the spaces that I’m most often hired to remake. Usually these spaces need to work as both public and private spaces, which means that they need to look good while also meeting the everyday needs of the people who use them. Good design should always prioritize function. If you want a TV in your living room, then you should put a TV in your living room (as I write this, I’m thanking the gods of technology that we no longer need those big-ass armoires that we used to hide TVs in the ’80s). And by all means, if you plan on spending time in the room, make sure that the seating is actually comfortable (and attractive, of course, I am a designer for goodness sake!). Once these questions of function are addressed though, there remain the questions of aesthetics and where to start. What makes a living room pretty? For me, there are certain design tenets that make the process easier and at the top of this list is my boon companion “symmetry.” This brings me to my main point:
Symmetry is good!
Everything looks better in a pair. If you have a console paired with a mirror on one side of your fireplace, you should see what happens when you add a console and mirror combo to the other side. Immediate coolness. Ok, maybe not coolness, but immediate interest — the room immediately becomes a little more interesting. It just looks better. I’m a believer in symmetry in all rooms (think matching nightstands and lamps in the bedroom) but living rooms in particular lend themselves to this design principle. Sofas, chairs, side tables, lamps, stools even accessories and art all look better with a partner. (If your sofa side tables are looking a little lonely, try putting matching pieces of art or mirrors directly above them. It doesn’t matter if your lamps are blocking some of them. They will look fantastic.) This is why I never ever buy just one of anything. Always buy even large accessories like mirrors in pairs. You put one mirror up, it looks fine. You stack a pair of mirrors or place one on either side of an empty doorway and they look spectacular.
Symmetry is pleasing to the eye!
Allow me to use my own living room as an example. This room oozes symmetry: the sofa side tables and lamps; the blue velvet club chairs that flank both sides of the sofa; the pillows on the sofa and chairs; the upholstered stools in front of the fireplace; and the side chairs, window treatments and asian bowls on either side of the fireplace. I’m still waiting on my backordered sconces that will go above the fireplace and will be (yes you guessed it!) symmetrical. In fact, the only truly asymmetrical note in the entire room is the fireplace mantle, which has an off-center, leaning piece of art surrounded by mismatched pieces of pottery and glass. And guess what? The asymmetrical mantle looks better because it is set against all the other symmetry in the room.
Symmetry is calming!
There’s a good amount going on in this room. It’s the room’s symmetry that prevents all of this color and pattern from becoming overwhelming. Symmetry allows us to have a large colorful piece of abstract art above a sofa with colorful, patterned pillows, next to tables containing large patterned lamps all sitting on a colorful and patterned carpet. Imagine how the room would look (and feel) if none of these pieces matched. It would be too chaotic. There would be too much going on. Often when clients hire me, it’s because they either want to add color and pattern into their neutral rooms without making them feel juvenile or chaotic or because they have already unsuccessfully added color and pattern to their rooms. And my friends the answer to both of these design dilemmas is (and let’s say it together shall we) symmetry.
Symmetry is the answer!