Why Knowing About Visual Weight Will Make You A Better Decorator

A BIG CLOCK OVER A WHITE BUFFET

Let’s talk about visual weight! It’s a very important concept to know when you are decorating your home. Knowing about visual weight and how to use it will help you create beauty and balance in your home. Here’s what you should know…

I love sharing decorating tips and ideas that will help you be a better decorator! I use the design concept of visual weight in my home every time I decorate! And what a difference putting this designer concept to work makes!

So what is visual weight and how will it help you be a better home decorator?

WHAT EXACTLY IS VISUAL WEIGHT

Our eye/mind connection is a wonderful thing!

As we pick up information and our brain reads and interpret the information and then tries to make sense of it.

Our eye/mind connection is interpreting everything it sees at lightning speed! And this connection has everything to do with beauty in our homes!

Sometimes our eye/brain connection understands the information it sees as beautiful, cozy, restful, welcoming, attractive…

And sometimes when our eye/brain cannot make sense of what it sees or brains interpret it as disjointed, confusing, cluttered, uninteresting, and more!

One thing our eyes deciphers is visual weight. It’s all about understand visual weight!

When we talk about visual weight we are not talking about how much something actually weights. No pounds or ounces or grams etc.

It is all about how heavy or light something “feels” to our eyes and brains.

Here’s a good example…

LARGE BUT LIGHT BLACK PLANTERS

These planters are on my front porch. Do they look heavy or light? Don’t analyze … just answer.

Yes, they look heavy. They are big and black and have some heft to them. They are VISUALLY HEAVY.

As far as actual weight goes, they are really very light. Both are made of a lightweight material!

Our eye/mind connection plays a huge role in all things decorating!

WHAT MAKES THINGS HEAVY, LIGHT OR IN BETWEEN

Here’s the easy answer…

Things that grab our attention in a room are things that usually have more visual weight! Think of them as the stars of a room!

Things that recede and/or play a supporting role have less weight.

Easy right?

Now let’s get a bit more specific…

COLOR

One of the easiest ways to add weight or lighten decor up is by using color.

Here’s an good way to think about color and visual weight…

The darker, moodier, more saturated and warmer a color is the more it weighs.

The lighter, cleaner, less saturated and cooler a color is the less it weighs.

Here’s an example: Look at the squares below. They are precisely the same but one is light gray and the other one is black. Which one will have more visual weight?

Yes, the black is visually heavier! Much heavier.

Why is this important when you decorate?

Because you should think of the mood or how you want a room to feel. Do you want it to feel light and airy? Or moody and cozy? Do you want to create a sophisticated room or a casual, laid back one?

Your color choice will make a big difference in the feel of any room you decorate!

Look at the two bedrooms below. Which one has more visual weight?

WHITE BEDROOM

So easy, right?

Now, can you tell what object in the room looks the heaviest? What is your eye drawn too?

The chairs, right? My eyes want to look around the room but seem to be immediately stopped by the heaviness of the chairs! And it’s hard to get beyond them!

This room is very neutral and looks light and airy but the chairs add a lot of visual weight to a room. Actually, too much visual weight all in one place!

THE GOOD AND BAD ABOUT USING COLOR

This is a great lesson! There is both good news and bad new when we talk about color and visual weight.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way so we can concentrate on the good.

If a room is too visually light and there are no other design elements in the room, our eyes will have a hard time moving around from one thing to another. And that room will often be perceived as boring.

But here’s the good news!

A neutral room can become more interesting by adding things like a “pop” of color or lots of texture to give it more visual weight. So something darker in a neutral room grounds or keeps the room from “floating”. A little bit of color goes a long way!

PATTERN AND DECORATING

Patterns go hand in hand with color. Here’s how to think of patterns when you think of visual weight.

The bigger and busier the pattern the more weight it has. The smaller and less busy a patter the less weight.

Look at these two patterns. The circles size and the colors are the same but the patterns are difference. Which one seems visually heavier?

Right, the one with the busy flower pattern.

So how do you take this information and use it to be a better decorator?

Look at these pillows. How would rank them by visual weight from heaviest to lightest?

Did you say the brown patterned lumbar pillow has the heaviest visual weight? Then the beige geometric pattern is next and the white pillow with the hemp trim has the lightest visual weight?

Every pattern you put in a room has a visual weight.

HOW MANY PATTERNS TO ADD TO A ROOM

Adding a few (two or three) patterns to a room is a good thing if you remember to mix the size and the busyness of the patterns in the right way. Our eyes see patterns as something interesting.

Too many patterns though are confusing because it is hard to make sense of them especially if the patterns are about the same size! Pattern overkill confuses our brains and creates rooms that look overdone and awkward.

Too little pattern or texture creates a room that has little interest because we cannot make sense of it!

Adding patterns to a room is a balance! It’s wonderful if done with a curated hand and terrible if not done right!

I tend to like a light, airy, neutral look but too much light and airy can seem boring or unsophisticated. Adding a visually heavy pattern to a room creates beauty and interest!

And I often do this by adding visual weight with pillows. No wonder I love pillows so much!

TEXTURE

Texture is one of my favorite decor concepts to talk about! I love texture and the way it can add so much beauty and interest to a room.

Here’s an easy way to think about texture.

First, every room should have a combination of textures. Smooth, rough, shiny, dull, bumpy, smooth and more!

When we decorate and talk about texture we usually talk about textures that have more visual weight. Bumpy, bulky, fuzzy, rough, granular, grainy, raw, and more.

And how does texture work when we decorate?

Look at these pillows. Which one jumps out at you?

The one with the fluffy pom poms all over it. Granted it is in front of the other pillows but it is an attention grabber.

Even though it is white, it is visually heavier than the other pillows.

Let’s look at my home. Because it’s very neutral I call on lots of texture to give it some visual weight and create beauty.

Here’s my Curlacue chest with a stack of baskets on it and a white textured pot of greens.

Even though everything is very, very neutral there is tons of texture here.

The chest has been covered with grasscloth and then painted over. There is a bumpy dot design on the chest, the baskets are rough and bumpy and the white container holding the plant is dimpled.

Texture equals interest! It keeps our eye/brain connecting busy!

Just as some texture is amazingly good for a room. Too much is too much. Especially if a room has color and pattern in it!

The more neutral a room is the more texture you can add.

SIZE AND VISUAL WEIGHT

When it come size and visual weight here’s an easy way to think about it.

The bigger, bulkier and more space an object takes up the more visual weight it usually has.

Which ball looks heavier?

Yes, the one on the right! We see it looks bigger, it is bulkier and it takes up more space. We perceive this even though the ball on the left is made of lead and the ball on the right is a beach ball. Get it? Good!

Look at the picture below. Wow there is a lot going on in this room! There are layers of visually heavy objects in the neutral wall color room!

But look at the sofa? Heavy or light? Wow this is one visually heavy sofa!!!

Now that you know the concept let’s translate it into what that means when you are decorating.

Let’s say you want a room to look open and airy. What kind of sofa would you choose?

Probably a neutral colored sofa with a more slender profile.

I needed lots of seating in our small sunroom so I chose a big wide sofa with a low and slender profile in a light color with skinny legs. Can you imagine an overstuffed brown leather sectional with a lot of bulk in the sunroom? Overpowering right?

I’m on the hunt for another chair to replace the one in the right foreground. It looks a tad too heavy. But like everything decorating is a process!

SHAPE AND VISUAL WEIGHT

I think this is so interesting! Shapes like squares, rectangles and triangles have more visual space than curved shapes and irregular shapes!

Which shape has more visual weight?

The square.

The shapes are the same height and width but the circle has less weight because it looks like something has been taken away from it. So cool, right?

Now, how does that affect the way you decorate?

Let’s look at my foyer. I know there are a lot of other things in this image that speak to visual weight but just try and concentrate on the mirror.

Because of its irregular, round shape, it has less weight than a rectangle mirror of the same size here.

I purposely hung this mirror in the foyer so it would not seem “heavy”.

Honestly, there is no exact way to really measure visual weight. It’s all about perception!

I bet you already have a pretty good eye for visual weight! It’s hardwired in our brains.

The decorating magic happens when we take what we’ve learned about visual weight and apply it to every room in your home!

OTHER INTERIOR DESIGN CONCEPTS TO KNOW…

Have you ever wished you could create beautiful rooms like designers do? Have you wished you knew their secrets and trick for decorating?

No problem! I love love love taking complex interior design secrets and breaking them down into easy to understand, simple to do lessons for home decorators like me and you!!!!

Here are basic design concepts to learn and use in your home!

THE MAGIC RULE OF THREE

HOW TO CREATE A BEAUTIFUL VIGNETTE

BALANCE AND INTERIOR DESIGN

THE IMPORTANCE OF COLOR IN DECORATING

HOW TO USE SPACE IN INTERIOR DESIGN

SCALE AND PROPORTION IN DECORATING

LESS IS BEST DECORATING

31 Comments

  1. Wow! Thank you! This is why I don’t like my living room. We are in the middle of extreme makeover 2020 in several other areas so new furniture will have to wait. All my furniture is dark…curtains are dark! Guess I’ll start with pillows, lol!

  2. Yvonne, I never knew why decorating books always say every room should have something black in its decor Now you have explained it to me with the importance of weight. In our familyroom I have classic brass table lamp that never looked quite right till I added a black shade. Now I love it and with a black horse sculpture used under it in a vignette, it looks even better. Thanks for the lesson on weight. No matter how old I get ,it is never to late to learn!!

  3. The way you present a decor rule/guide and then break it down into understandable visual examples creates an opportunity to go forward with an idea or vision but with guidance to achieve a comfortable, functional, styled and an expression from ourselves. Thank you. I really enjoy your posts for entertainment, ideas and know I’m “getting” right. It is so rewarding to have taken on projects and then read your posts and confirms I’m on the right path.

  4. Hi Yvonne, your article is simply fanstastic. It’s the best article. Comprehensive, easy to understand and many visual examples. Thank you for sharing with us.

  5. Thank you a million times over. You are the best!
    This article sealed it for me! No big brown leather sectional for my room. It’s going to be 2 white leather couches!
    Them I’m inviting you over so I can finish!’
    Happy New Year

      1. Thanks so much Yvonne. I’m in the process o some major redecorating and you’ve no doubt saved me tons. Of money.
        Visually I’m going to get a cover for that dark chair until it’s replaced.

  6. I am brand new to your blog but I am already a huge fan! :0) One question: does the pattern on a rug count as one pattern? I’m trying to figure out if I should count my rug as a heavy pattern and only use neutral pillows. I love how you use different pillows but don’t want to be too noisy. Thanks so much.

  7. Yvonne, thanks for your wonderful post! This has definitely come at the perfect time. We have decided to replace our dining room chairs and we had decided to go with a dark blue. However, after seeing your illustration with the navy chairs, I have certainly changed my mind! I now realize that I would not have been happy with these chairs! Thanks for your help!

  8. This is so good! The example with the dark chairs in an otherwise neutral space was eye opening for me. Thank you!!

  9. Dear Yvonne,

    I have a question involving visual weight. I have three pieces of oak furniture in my dining room: one is a China cabinet that is tall and wide, the other is a glass front bookcase with drop front desk in center and last but not least, a dining room table and usually 6 chairs. The table can go out to108 inches when need be and chairs are also oak. I get lots of compliments on my home but am wondering if the three pieces are too much equal weight. Should the chairs be lighter, or perhaps the table?

  10. Sooo helpful! Is this why a room full of brown stained wood furniture is depressing or, also one with a large brown or black leather sectional sofa? I learned something today! Wonderful! My style leans to white and very neutral.

  11. This is a fantastic post! A treasure trove of information. I’ve pinned it for future reference, and I know I’m going to be “weighing” everything everywhere I go now, haha! This answers so many questions about why something looks right or wrong. Thank you so much!

  12. Love your blog. It’s my favorite with all the information you share about decorating. I’m renovating a condo and I’m using all your tips and articles.

  13. The same weight idea also is something you
    see when trying to wear certain clothes. I
    haven’t been able to bring home those loud
    big flower prints, too much weight to hang
    on this old body! Seems a small print or
    solid does a much better job. Decorating
    a room and decking out a body have lots
    in common. Go figure!

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