Rhythm in interior design is something every home decorator should know about and use. It is my passion to break down these design concepts and make them easy to understand and do! Rhythm is one of the easier concepts once you know what it is. Let’s see how to use rhythm in our homes!
This is the sixth on a nine-part series THE ELEMENTS OF GOOD DESIGN. Make sure you check out the bottom of this post for links to the other ELEMENT posts.
WHAT IS RHYTHM IN DESIGN
In this series, we often talk about how our eyes connect with our brains and how through them we perceive beauty.
To understand rhythm in interior design and how important it is to create a beautiful home we need to keep our eye/brain connection in mind.
Think about rhythm as our eyes moving throughout a room. Did you know that our brain is always trying to make sense of what it sees and one big way it does that is by something we call rhythm?
Our brains also like to be organized. So we perceive that a room is attractive when our eyes can move from one thing to another in a room and see some patterns and repetition.
Rhythm is all about the organized movement of our eyes around a room. Our brain picks out repeated elements like the same color or the same shape or the same item and finds it organized and pleasing!
So here’s a good working definition of rhythm in interior design…
Rhythm is the idea of creating organized movement around the room by repeating elements in a space.
It’s all about that eye/brain connection. Our eyes actually bounce around the room at lightning speed going from one thing to another. And when they can find like objects, shapes, and colors, for example, it helps them to get around the room seamlessly!
There are several ways we can create rhythm in a room but one of the most obvious and easiest ways is through repetition!
Yes, repetition is the easiest way to create the organized movement our eyes/mind loves!
Repeating color in a room is a great example of repetition.
That is why a room’s color palette is so important.
A simple interior design rule is that 60 percent of a room should be the dominant color, 30 percent should be a secondary color or texture and 10 percent should be an accent or pop of color.
Repeating three colors in this ratio makes it so easy for our eyes to find repeated color and our brains perceive it as beauty!
If a room was all the same color it would look boring! Adding a secondary color or texture and an accent color lets our eyes look for and see repetition!
Adding texture to a neutral room and using varying shades and tints of a color makes it feel calm, interesting, and beautiful!
Other repeated elements in a room can be…
The Curlacue buffet in the great room has lots of repeated elements. Color and round shapes are the most notable.
Round mirror, round baskets, round plant pot, round wooden riser, round lampshade, round dots in a pattern on the front of the chest, and round drawer pulls.
Here’s another simple example of repeated elements in my dining room. I’ve since tweaked my dining room but I think this image shows great rhythm.
Can you pick out the repeated elements?
Again, color and round elements. I seem to have an affinity for round things!
The dome basket lamp and the large planter mimic each other. Did you notice the nail heads on the chairs?
See, the design concept of rhythm is not that hard although it is very subtle!
And it’s hard to miss the purple pop of color for a dose of contrast!
Speaking of contrast…
CONTRAST AND RHYTHM IN DESIGN
I think it is important to understand how repeated design plays a huge role in creating beauty in a room.
Once you have a handle on how repeated elements create rhythm in a room, it’s now time to talk about contrast!
While repeated things in a room help our eyes move about the room, too much of a good thing is bad!
Our eyes love repeated elements but they can be fickle and get tired of the same-old-same-old. So to wake them up and add something new we should add a bit of contrast to our room.
That means if you have a round table and a round lamp on the table and a round vase break the roundness up with another shape!
Or if you have a smooth sofa and smooth pillows add a textural throw to add contrast.
Repetition is amazingly good but always throw in a bit of a contrast!
Let’s look at the chest in the great room again…
Yes, our eyes love repeated elements but it is a good thing all the “roundness” is on a rectangular chest! There are textural rectangular burlap books and a cube beaded box on the chest too. And the line of the lamp, although sort of rounded hints of an hourglass shape.
Contrast can be achieved through color, shape, line, pattern, material, and asymmetry.
Think of contrast as mix-and-match.
Repeat elements and then mix in something a bit different. And repeat that difference at least once or better yet three times around the room! Remember there is magic in groups of three.
But don’t go overboard. Yes, our eyes love contrast but too much contrast confuses our eyes and our brain will perceive it as cacophony!
PRACTICE WHAT YOU LEARN
I believe in the saying “see one, do one, teach one”.
Now that you know about rhythm and have seen a few examples here now it’s your turn to put what you see into practice in your own home!
Here’s an example of a great “do one” exercise you can do at home.
Here are two super easy vignettes. Let’s say the repeated element is a round shape.
Which vignette looks more pleasing to your eye (brain)?
I like the vignette on the left. The round shape of objects in the vignette really helps to give the vignette a cohesive look and the rectangular basket has enough contrast to make the whole thing more interesting!
Why not play with a vignette! Put the design element of rhythm into practice! The more you “do” the more confidence you will feel about using rhythm in your home and the better decorator you will be!
Start small. Put together a small vignette that has great rhythm!
THE BOTTOM LINE
There is actually more to the interior design theory of rhythm. But for our home decor purposes knowing about and using repetition and contrast will go a long way to helping us be better decorators.
Rhythm plays an important part in creating beauty. And the good news is most people already use the theory of rhythm when decorating and really don’t know it. Our eyes are hardwired to see repetition and to love contrast in small doses.
But if we are aware of this element of interior design we can be a bit more purposeful in what we choose to put together in a room. And this will create a greater sense of harmony and beauty in our homes.
OTHER ELEMENTS OF DESIGN YOU SHOULD KNOW
Check out these other ELEMENTS OF DESIGN. They break down important interior concepts into easy doable actions!