This is the picture that started it all. A minor obsession with symmetry, that is. There’s something about the symmetry of the exposed rafters, the shutters, matching consoles and round mirrors that speaks to me. It’s cool, calm and collected – an effect that’s further enhanced by the all-white palette. Complete order and I love it.
Symmetry has been used in design for millennia, and it’s still one of the easiest ways to pull a room together. But, as a technique, it’s suffered a bit of bad rap because it can look so formulaic and characterless. So, I decided to look into what makes a successful symmetrical arrangement. How do you apply symmetry without killing the personality and warmth of a space?
This room pretty much sums it up: There’s symmetry in the architecture (paired windows) and in the way the chairs and pillows are arranged. But there are also elements that hint at symmetry but are somehow ‘off’ – like the three irregularly-grouped but similar urn-shaped vases on the mantelpiece. Then the striking rug, blue walls and mock antlers lift the space out of the sphere of the ordinary.
This living room, from Ellen Pompeo’s house as featured in Elle Decor, is much more understated. But the symmetrical arrangement is given a focal point in the form of an oversize moorish-style mirror. A single statement piece at the center of your symmetrical set-up can change the look from predictable to powerful.
Another technique is to use offbeat pieces to create your symmetry. Just one of these cane sofas would be eye-catching enough, but using two against a relatively simple backdrop is truly dramatic.
Here the symmetry of the room’s architecture is subtley drawn out with the use of two unusual red chairs in an otherwise neutral scheme. There’s actually no other symmetry in this room – the chairs are enough to create a sense of order.
Twin beds naturally invite a symmetrical arrangement. Unusual shapes and a strong monochromatic palette keep things interesting.
Sometimes symmetry can be found in the smallest details. These symmetrical shelves are a sweet way to ensure a sense of order in the kitchen without creating a wall of uniform cabinets.
So what do you think of symmetry? Design by numbers or a perfect balance?