The Psychology of Interior Planning: Layout

In Part 2 of my psychology of interior planning series, I explain why symmetry is so important to the human brain and how we can achieve it in our room layouts.

In part 2 of our series on interior planning I’m going to share the rules for creating a room layout that have helped me tremendously in my interior practice. This basic spatial understanding has helped me create spaces that look bigger than they really are by simply adhering to the principles of symmetry and balance. I really hope you will find them as helpful as I have.

Psychology Insight: Symmetry

As humans we are naturally drawn to symmetry, because it is biologically important for us. Our brain interprets a symmetric face as having a good genetic basis. Given the size of the part of our brain solely used to process faces, it seems that faces are probably the most important environmental stimulus we have. Though the link is unclear, it’s conceivable that our brain generalises our preference for symmetry in faces to apply to other things. Symmetry helps us distinguish between living organisms and non-living organisms.

Grundvigt Church Copenhagen
Grundvigt Church Copenhagen
Walden7 by Ricardo Bofill via Condé Nast
Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa in Interlaken
Dorothée Meilichzon is the queen of symmetric headboards (pictured here: Henrietta Hotel London)
Palazzo Experimental Venice (featuring Dorothée Meilichzon's signature symmetric headboard)

Lesson 1

Layout

When deciding the layout of a room, it helps to divide the space by dividing it by two crosses. In this constellation, the right angle lines are considered the “good” lines, while the diagonal lines going from corner to corner are the “cheeky” lines.

    Right Angle "Good" Lines
    Diagonal "Cheeky" Lines

Symmetry

Your primary step should be to try to arrange your furniture along these right angle lines. Placing furniture on the right angle lines will allow you to create symmetry.

  • Your key architectural features such as windows, fireplaces and doors tend to be on the right-angle lines. Your furniture should support and enhance these architectural features.

    Via Lulu&Georgia
    Banda Property
    Via Le Sunday
    Via Belle Vivir

Balance

To achieve perfect symmetry two sofas of the same size could be placed across from each other. Alternatively, if you can’t achieve symmetry, aim for balance.

  • You may prefer to complement your sofa with two armchairs. While you can choose two completely unique armchairs, make sure that their size reflects each other and that when put together, the size of both armchairs reflects the size of the sofa.

    James Stroke Photography
    Olivia Stutz Design Via Living Etc.
  • Balance is particularly important when putting things on the diagonal lines. If you put a piece of furniture in a corner, make sure to balance it in the opposite corner. For example, you might place a storage piece or an armchair in one corner. This could be balanced by a plant or a standing lamp in the other corner.

    Table by Studio Twentyfour Via AD Magazine
  • In the image above, the large storage piece in the corner (diagonal line) is balanced by the chair in the opposite corner of the room (also on the diagonal line), while the small stool balances the smaller cluster of side tables and sculpture on the opposite diagonal line.

Avoid Wall Hugging

If possible, try to move the furniture off the wall and into the center of the room, allowing enough space to pass behind them. This does not apply to furniture that is meant to be on the wall, such as cabinets and sideboards.

Televisions

In lesson 1 we discussed focal points and their importance in deciding a room layout. The use of televisions as focal points is an interior designer's worst nightmare. I’d like to propose two alternatives instead (unless of course the television is smartly camouflaged).

  • Place the television on the straight line opposite the focal point (ie. the fireplace, window, credenza, etc).

  • Place the television in the corner on the diagonal line and balance it in the opposite corner (with: eg. armchair, plants, standing lamp, cabinet, sculpture, pedestal, etc.).

Kelly Wearstler's Living Room

Wondering how you can apply the psychology of interior planning in your space? DM me a photo with a brief description on Instagram — @atelierakuko — and I'll happily send you some suggestions. Free of charge, of course!

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