Sweet Notes

Maintaining harmony in the home

If you’ve ever sung in a choir, you know that it only takes one off-key voice to throw the whole thing off. You may not be able to identify a source of the sour note, but your ears will certainly feel the resulting discomfort. On the other hand, the result of many parts clicking into place can be euphoric. Harmony in design is that sense of “rightness” that occurs when there’s aesthetic agreement among visual elements. At their best, even the most visually dynamic spaces should produce a certain feeling of calm. You see contrast and interest, but not competition or discord. To put it another way, a visitor to your home should be able to walk through the rooms and feel certain that they embody the style and lifestyle of just one family.

A palette of sea, sand, and sunset colors combines with lots of natural texture for visual harmony in the above condo by Carrier and Company. The main living area plays vivid corals and yellows off of sandy beige tones, which makes for striking contrast to the ocean view. You’ll also notice the abundance of natural texture. Although it’s everywhere in this space, no single material is repeated: rattan chairs, a live wood coffee table, geometric jute carpet, and cork on the lampshade simultaneously present unity and variety. In the den, on the other hand, we see neutral walls, but in a distressed natural wood. More texture appears in the bunching tables and daybed, but there’s no repetition of the exact elements seen in the living room. Here we also see accents in blue, and peachy echoes of the living room’s coral tones in the painting.

If you view the full project on Carrier and Company’s website (Gulf Shore Naples Retreat), you’ll notice that they’ve recycled the same elements in the condo’s additional spaces. The master bedroom is done in an allover azure tone, while the additional bedrooms use bolder versions of the existing colors to distinguish the spaces from one another. This project also exemplifies another crucial aspect of harmony. This is a beach home, and although everything is impeccably done, none of it looks too precious. Elegant carved wood furniture in a high sheen finish would be completely out of place here, a definite sour note in the composition. Likewise, the spaces in your own home should be harmonious in purpose and mood. It can be a very fine distinction between contrast that is interesting and unique, or just plain wrong.

As with understanding any other principle of aesthetics, the best way to educate your eye is by viewing a lot of good design. In this case, make a point to explore whole projects in the portfolios of designers you admire. Pay particular attention to shots that show you a glimpse of the next room, and you’ll get an idea of how spaces connect to one another visually. This is particularly important in small or open-plan homes. You may not necessarily choose a consistent color palette for your own home; that’s only one way to do it. It is important, however, that there be threads of commonality running through your space.

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