By Lauri Ward
Author of Home Therapy: Fast, Easy, Affordable Makeovers
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Think about it. Have you ever worn a sandal on one foot and a boot on the other? No? Then have you tried wearing a black leather glove on one hand with a red wool mitten on the other? Okay, probably not. Since our bodies have lots of pairs we tend to feel most comfortable when we wear matching pieces of clothing or accessories. Doing that gives our physical appearance the symmetry to which we all innately gravitate. The same concept applies to our homes. Every room looks better and feels more balanced if it is decorated with matching pairs.
One of the most common complaints I hear from my clients is, “My home needs help. Nothing feels pulled together!" The reason is simple: Most people aren't aware of the importance of balance when it comes to interior decorating. They may obsess about finding the perfect paint, the furniture style that truly represents their personality, or the fabric that will wear best on their sofas and chairs. And yet, it never occurs to them that adding pairs to their house or apartment will make the space feel less chaotic.
And it is not just my clients who are seeking more tranquility. All across the country the trend toward creating a more Zen-like environment has been gaining momentum over the course of the last decade. People are paring down their possessions in an attempt to create a more relaxing environment. They want to be able to roll out their yoga mat and stretch, and then sit down comfortably to meditate without being distracted. They want to be mindful of their breathing, not the decorating dilemmas that make them uncomfortable in their own home.
If you think your rooms are not as good-looking as you would like but you haven’t been able to figure out what is wrong with them, chances are your place is off-balance. Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can fix this common mistake without spending money.
Start by reuniting any pairs you have separated. Just remember: couples belong together. If you have separated pairs of any kind -- for example, putting one in the living room and the other in the bedroom -- get them back together in the room where they will look their best and be most functional. And don’t be afraid that if you add lots of pairs, your room will be boring. I have used up to twenty pairs in a very large room and they looked fabulous. Just remember "Imelda's Rule:" you can never have too many pairs. (And, no, displaying lots of shoes doesn’t count!)
If, for example, you have one standing metal lamp next to the sofa in your living room and its mate is in the den, bring the pair of lamps together and place them at either end of your sofa. Or, if you have a pair of table lamps, that have been separated, display them on matching end tables. Doing that will automatically make your room look and feel more balanced, will improve the general lighting, and will provide an additional place for someone to sit and read comfortably.
Keep in mind that any pair, no matter what kind it is, will help balance a room. If you don’t happen to have any to work with, you can sometimes create a pair. For example, if you have two different brass lamps and you want them to look like a pair, simply add new, matching shades. The fresh shades will fool the eye into thinking they are a pair. And if one lamp is a bit shorter than the other just place a few large art books underneath the shorter one until the tops of both lamps are level with each other. Voilà, you have a pair!
Some other ways to add pairs: Flank a sofa with a pair of chairs to create a balanced and intimate U-shaped conversation area or place the chairs side by side across from the sofa to provide an easy, face-to-face place to chat. Display a pair of urns or a pair of vases on top of a fireplace mantle or add balance with a pair of prints, framed identically and hung side by side. Pairs of figurines, candlesticks, bookends -- you probably have lots of pairs around your house that you can use to add balance to your rooms.
Remember Noah who was told by a higher authority to get two of every kind of animal for his ark? Well, take it from the top: Bring the pairs you already have together and you will quickly and easily make your house or apartment feel balanced and more restful without having to buy new furnishings.
Copyright © 2005 Lauri Ward
Lauri Ward, the author of Home Therapy (September 22, 2005; Putnam; $34.95US/$49.00CAN; 0-399-15296-2), Use What You Have® Decorating and Trade Secrets from Use What You Have® Decorating, is the founder of Use What You Have®, Inc., and the Interior Refiners Network®. She has appeared frequently on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Today, and ABC Evening News, among other programs, and on HGTV, the Discovery Channel, and Fox television. Ward, who has been featured in The New York Times, House Beautiful, Elle, Inspired House, and other magazines and newspapers, lives in New York City and Boca Raton, Florida. Visit her website at www.redecorate.com.