Why Rhythm Matters in Home Décor

And the beat goes on. Master the five elements of rhythm in interior design to up-level your decorating performance.

By Ande Waggener


You know music has rhythm. But did you know your room styling does as well? Rhythm isn’t one of those interior design skills commonly talked about. Even if you’ve heard about scale and proportion and balance, you might not know about rhythm. Rhythm is one of those high-end designer tools used to create polished, supremely put-together rooms. If you put this tool in your designing bag, you will be able to kick some serious interior design ass.


So let’s take a look at  how rhythm works in your rooms.


In music, the beat is what ties together all the aspects of a musical piece. Without rhythm, notes would all fall together and music wouldn’t be music. A similar thing happens in home décor. Every design element in a room is a note, if you will, in the composition as a whole. Rhythm in the room is the thread that ties all those notes together. Its function is to keep the energy flowing throughout the space. If your room feels like a jumble or feels disjointed, rhythm just might be your problem.


Here are the five main techniques you can use to consciously and confidently use rhythm when you design your room.



Rhythm in room design has a big part to play in how a space is perceived. When you use repetition to create your rhythm, you develop a connected pattern within a part or the whole of your room. This pattern will create a sense of stability and balance in the room.




Repetition can be created in a number of ways. You can have a pattern that is repeated in several textile elements in your room. You could have repeating architectural features like a row of identical windows or a line of columns. You could have a repeating texture like wood paneling or flooring. Or you could get very literal with rhythm and create repetition in how you display room accents.



Whereas repetition sets a sort of secure foundation for your room, gradation is responsible for a flow of energy in the space. When you use gradation in your room design, you establish a kind of visual pathway that takes the eye by the hand, so to speak, and leads it from one end of the space to the other.




Stairs are the most common form of gradation in interior design. The steps literally move the eye from one level to the next. Introducing an ombre color scheme, which progresses from light to dark, can accomplish the same thing. You can also position shelves, pictures, or room accents in a stair-step formation.


Setting up nesting furniture in an expanded way, stepping up from smallest to largest, is an additional gradation technique, one which can make a room seem cozier.



Transition is another rhythm technique that leads the eye. If you’ve ever entered a room that made you feel out of balance or agitated, the room probably lacked transition. When our eyes aren’t led in an organized way, thought, because it’s linked so intrinsically with our visual input, can become muddled.




Curves are the transition elements in interior design. Curved furniture can work, as can placing furniture in a way that creates a sort of curved walkway through the room. A more powerful transition technique is curving the room’s walls or imbedding a curved motif in the floor.



Because rhythm in interior design determines whether we perceive the room to be functional and aesthetically pleasing, it makes sense that contrast is an important rhythmic technique. Contrast is a rhythm technique that is kind of like the bass drum of your room. It is the attention-getting rhythmic element. It moves the eye back and forth between objects.




Contrast, of course, is the proximity of opposing elements. Without contrast, a room’s components so merge together that they lack an aesthetic at all, and they can even become nonfunctional … you don’t want to have to play “find the sofa” in your living room.


The most commonly known contrast is color contrast, which is colors that sit opposite from each other on the color wheel. You can also introduce contrast into a room via design styles or materials, mixing wood with metal, for example.



Radiation is a technique in which design elements join to rotate in balance around a central object. This technique is like the central rhythm of your room. It gives the space a hub around which all energy and design interplay moves.




Radiation commonly shows up when furniture is placed in a circle around a central object. The radiation effect will be quite strong if the furniture itself curves to fit the circle it forms.


However, you can still create radiation with more angular furniture, if you group it around a circular central element.


Using the above five techniques isn’t an exact science. You can’t get out a ruler to see if you got rhythm right. It’s something you have to feel. When you design your room, try incorporating some or all of the above interior design ideas. Then check out your result. If the room feels connected and your eye easily moves around the space, you’re done. If something feels off, keep the above techniques in mind as you move items until the room feels “right.”


If you take some time to implement these rhythm techniques, you’ll be amazed at what a substantial effect you can get from just a few simple shifts.


Images used with permission, courtesy of www.shutterstock.com

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