Imagine a boat where all of the weight was shifted to one side. What would happen to the balance of that boat?
Balance in a room is the same thing.
It’s affected by two things:
The size of the furniture
The placement of the furniture
If most of the furniture is either very tall, very short, top heavy or bottom heavy, the room will be off-balance vertically.
If most of the furniture is on one side of the room, the room will be off-balance horizontally.
While balance in a room is also determined by and affected by the color, texture and style of the furniture, as well as the use of and color and style of art and decorative accessories, we will limit this discussion to furniture size and placement in a living room.
1. Start with the big pieces first. By this we mean sofas and loveseats. Assuming you already have a sofa and/or loveseats, place these first in the room, near to the focal point so as to emphasize it and not block it. A focal point can be a fireplace, an entertainment center, or a window with a view.
If you don’t already have one, then a sofa and/or loveseat is the first item(s) to purchase since it will determine the style, color, and size of all of the other pieces in the room. Also, take measurements of the sofa in case you intend on purchasing chairs, rugs, artwork and cocktail, end and sofa tables.
You should also be aware that the style of the sofa/loveseat will determine its visual weight. For example, a sleek modern sofa with straight lines, legs instead of a skirt, and straight arms, will have less weight than a sofa with a curved back, rolled arms and a skirt along the bottom.
2. Add Chairs. The simplest way to achieve balance is to add two matching or color-complementary chairs to the sofa or loveseat seating arrangement.
Upholstered chairs, whether club style or slipper style, provide better visual balance to a sofa than a pair of wooden chairs.
But make sure that the height of the chairs is no more than 5 inches taller or shorter than the height of the back of the couch/loveseat.
In the illustration below, the furniture arrangement highlights the fireplace, the focal point, and is also balanced. The fireplace is balanced by the large picture window on the opposite wall.
3. Add Tables: The next items to add to the seating arrangement are the end tables and cocktail table.
End tables should be no more than 2 ½ to 3 inches higher or lower than the arms of the sofa or chairs to provide balance.
Also, if the couch has its legs exposed rather than being skirted, then this visual lightness can be balanced by an end table with small legs or one with no legs, such as a cube, a small chest with drawers or an end table with shelves.
A cocktail table should take up 2/3 to ¾ the width of the couch. A sofa table behind the couch is optional, however it too should not exceed 2/3 to ¾ of the width of the couch nor be higher than the back of the couch.
4. Tall bookcases, armoires, entertainment centers, wall units. These are the items that can have a dramatic impact on the balance of the room, and because of their height and mass, must be balanced out.
For example, an armoire or single large bookcase, both of which are taller than they are wide, can be balanced out if there is a fireplace with a piece of art or a mirror hung over the mantle on the opposite side of the room.
A tall and wide entertainment center or a bank of bookshelves can be balanced out on the other side of the room by adding some vertical and horizontal weight to either side of the fireplace. This can be accomplished by adding a chest and artwork hung over it to both sides of the fireplace.
In the picture below, the fireplace is balanced on the opposite side of the room by the console table with two lamps and a piece of art over it. Further balance is achieved by adding chests and artwork to either side of the fireplace, rather than leaving these walls empty.