Rhythm and Hues – Decorating with Rhythm

Rhythm and Hues – Decorating with Rhythm

Have you ever found yourself tapping your foot along to a song? Rhythm is the result of a repetitive or organized pattern, and this pattern creates movement. Even if the movement is just in your foot, your reaction is innate. According to the American poet Maya Angelou, “everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances”. 

This includes interior decorating. Although you may never have overtly noticed it, rhythm is the “subtle pattern that takes all of your individual design elements and ties them together”. Just like with music, decorating with rhythm not only creates a successful design, but it also creates movement.

Rhythm designs a path; it encourages your eyes to move around a room in an organized way. By utilizing patterns, rhythm “satisfies the anticipation that your mind and eye automatically search for”. In this sense, it can calm your mind and allow your visual trip around a room to take place at a comfortable pace. 

Rhythm can also bring a sense of variety to your home; it can keep your eye interested, allowing you to eagerly take in every part of a room’s design. Decorating with rhythm does not need to begin and end within a single room either. In fact, utilizing rhythm throughout a home can lend a sense of unity and connectedness to the individual rooms.

Why is rhythm in design so important?

There is actually a psychological reason why your brain craves rhythm in interior decorating. According to Gestalt Theory, when the human eye looks at a group of objects, it will see the whole before the individual parts. As it tries to make sense of what it is seeing, it will attempt to simplify and organize the complex images. If within the whole, there is a repetitive or organized pattern, the individual design elements will come together to appear more connected, coherent, and complete. 

The human brain is built to see patterns in order to better understand its environment. By purposefully providing rhythm within a space, it encourages your brain to simplify what it is seeing. This simplification makes your brain happy, which results in an aesthetically pleasing space.

How can you create rhythm?

There are many ways to create rhythm in interior decorating. Each principle has its own unique qualities that will help you to create movement, and make your space feel cohesive, lively, interesting, and most of all, appealing.

Repetition:
Rhythm with repetition is based on similar lines, shapes, forms, textures, colours or patterns. According to Gestalt Theory, when pieces in a space are similar to one another, the human brain will see them as part of a pattern or group, creating a single appealing image. In addition, repetition leads the eye around a room, tying the individual elements together. The movement that it creates, gives a room a sense of stability and cohesiveness.

Examples:

  • Colour can be introduced and repeated with a variety of layers and textures.
  • Matching lamps can be placed strategically throughout a space.
  • Organizing books by colour will tie the entire bookshelf together.

Gradation/progression:
Gradation is the gradual sense of progression that directs the eye in a particular manner. The movement can be from the top of the room to the bottom, or from one side to another. The rhythm created by the gradual progression, encourages your brain to make sense of its environment, thereby creating an aesthetically pleasing space.

Examples:

  • Gradation or progression can be achieved by changing the size of the same objects in a room, such as candles or pillows, from small to large.
  • Gradation can also be achieved using colour. By progressing a single design element, such as a wall’s paint colour or drapery panels, from light to dark or cool to warm, the eye will automatically move from one end to another.

Transition:
Rhythm through transition leads the eye in a continuous, uninterrupted flow from one area to another. According to Gestalt Theory, the eye will be drawn along this path or curve, helping the brain to organize the complex images. Like repetition, this soft, visually pleasing rhythm, will tie not only individual design elements together, but rooms within a home.

Examples:

  • Curved pieces of furniture, or curved furniture placement, can work to create a transitional rhythm as it gently encourages the eye to travel around a room.
  • Using the same flooring or moulding throughout the home can create a seamless transition.
  • A runner in the hallway can lead the eye in a continuous manner from one room to another.

Contrast:
When shapes or colours directly oppose one another, it creates contrast. Alternating these opposites in a pattern will create visual interest. As the brain’s tendency is to try and make sense of the individual elements, using contrast can create a sense of movement that simplifies this process. “Rhythm can be applied in bold statements that make an obvious suggestion about a path of travel”.

Examples:

  • Colours on the opposite ends of the colour wheel will create a strong visual impact. When using contrasting colours, one is normally the dominant colour, while the other is the accent. Neutrals can also be added, as this will give the eyes somewhere to “rest”, as well as provide a quiet background for the contrasting colours to pop out against.
  • Contrast can also be achieved using opposing patterns, shapes, and textures, such as wood and metal.

Radiation:
When design elements are balanced around a centre point, it creates an uninterrupted flow in the room. Radiation creates movement, encouraging the eye to travel around the space, making the individual design elements appear cohesive and connected.

Examples:

  • Placing furniture in a circle around a central object, such as chairs around a dining table, creates a radiating rhythm.
  • Angular furniture or stairs can also create radiation if they are grouped around a central element.

Rhythm creates movement, both in music and design. Your innate reactions may differ, but the result is the same: a happy brain. By purposefully creating patterns, your eyes are encouraged to travel a certain path. Decorating with rhythm allows your brain to make sense of what it is seeing, helping you to create an aesthetically pleasing home.

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