Home Decorating and Staging
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Interior Decorating and the Golden Mean

Interior Decorating and the Golden Mean

There's a mysterious balance in all of nature. You can observe it on a scale as grand as the stars, or in small leaves and shells. It's reflected in the Parthenon in Greece, the Pyramids of Egypt, timeless music, and every genius work of art. It is brilliant in its design...it is the blueprint of life.

The Greeks called it Phi (pronounced "Fee"), the formula for the perfect ratio of 1 to 1.61803399. We call it the Golden Mean.

Understanding how it works can help you create a beautiful room. And more importantly, it can give you the clues you need to fix a room that feels "off." It's easier to come up with a solution when you know what's wrong.

Phi is often represented by the Golden Rectangle. This is what it looks like when you draw a rectangle whose sides are in proportion to Phi, then divide it again and again according to the same ratio.

If you then draw a curved line that touches the sides of the rectangle at the points of division, you get a spiral that looks like this. Remind you of a sea shell? The curves on a classic piece of furniture? The break of an ocean wave?

Phi is important in interior decorating because room design, furniture layouts and color and accessory placement will be more appealing if they fall in line with these principals. Frequently a room that has lots of beautiful things in it, but somehow feels "off" has violated the Golden Mean. If you can isolate what's wrong, the solution is usually simple.

You can make sense of the Golden Mean mathematically, but I find it easier to understand it intuitively. Think of a spiral that spins from large to small in a smooth continuous progression. That's exactly what you want your room to do. This progression is frequently referred to as the 60-30-10 Rule.

This Rule applies to:

  • Your room as a whole
  • Furniture placement
  • Color
  • Accessories

Image House Beautiful

This room pulls you in, invites you to sit down, get comfortable, explore the books. Notice how your eye moves continuously around the room from ceiling to floor, around the fireplace mantle and then to the coffee table.

Analyzing this room according to the 60-30-10...Rule

  • The room as a whole - Approximately 60% of the room is filled with furniture, windows, plants, both on the floor and extending up the walls toward the ceiling. But there's still enough "empty" space to allow the room to "breathe"
  • Furniture Placement - Furniture grouping takes up approximately 60% of the floor space and is pulled away from the walls
  • Color  60-30-10...
  • 60% of the room is a pale neutral background color (walls and ceiling, sofa and chairs)
  • 30% of the furnishings are dark (brown and black)
  • 10% of the accents are orange and warm the space
  • 5% of the accents are red and give it a pop of color,
  • Less than 5% would be the touch of turquoise (pulled from the painting) creating a superb accent
  • Accessories - Accessories on the mantle and coffee table spiral down from tall to small giving your eye a smooth arc of interesting things to look at

Interior Decorating and the Golden Mean and Your Home
If your room feels "off," and you don't know why, try experimenting with some of these principles and see what happens. If you're staging your home to sell, use these principles, but simplify as much as possible. Arranging furniture to make your room look spacious will help you sell your home.

Improve an Off-Balance Living Room
Interior decorating and the Golden Mean can give you clues to help you improve an off-balance living room.

The Golden Mean and the 60-30-10 Rule with Color on the Walls
Here's how to pull together a fabulous room with color on the walls.

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Interior Decorating and the Golden Mean

Alex Hinst is the author of Home Decorating and Staging and owner of Alex Hinst Designs, located in Denver's Historic Highlands.

Alex Hinst Designs has hundreds of success stories in both private and investor home renovations and is dedicated to helping you create your perfect home.