You know every so often, I get an idea in my head, analyse and mull it over for weeks and then post it here as a long rambling blog? Well today is one of those days….
For a while i’ve been musing the concept of Left to Right and its use in Interior Design.
What’s that then?
Firstly, it’s the way that we write, as in we start at the left side of the page and scrawl across horizontally to the right. A lot of languages are written this way admittedly, but in this country we also drive on the left hand side. So it’s pretty hard wired into our lives to look left and keep left.
Here’s my hypothesis:
Because of our propensity towards the left, our eyes naturally scan from left to right (in this country anyway). Apparently, when us Brits go into a store, we subconsciously wander over to the left too… Weird!
So what’s this got to do with anything?
Well, i’ve noticed that when I layout a space or style a room afterwards, because my eyes scan left to right. I tend to set a piece to the left first to anchor the room and then work across.
The left hand side of most of my images have something large or dominant, and I think this is because we start our sentences with a capital letter. So again, we’re used to seeing something with more visual weight over to the left. Are you still with me here everyone? Am I blowing your mind or sending you to sleep? Well whatever, I’m absolutely fascinated by this concept…
Try it. The next new spaces you walk into, try and catch yourself, what did you clock first, where did you walk first? Genuinely, let me know!
A few more images to take a look at and discuss….
My eye here goes straight to the table lamp and then kind of radiates outwards. There are more pieces of interest placed around the left of this music nook to make the piano less of a big rectangular object. By adding the gorgeous teal lamp on top of a tall plant table, the lamp stands tall, acting as the capital letter at the beginning of a sentence, as it were.
Ok moving on…
Mantle pieces, were traditionally “styled” symmetrically, (but sorry, symmetry is sometimes the most boring thing ever) where as I prefer work with asymmetry. Styling a mantle piece like a “shelfie” gives a more casual look. It’s more creative to play around with different heights, surfaces and shapes and generally much more interesting to look at. I’m a sucker for adding some kind of trailing plant to every mantle piece, and there’s a reason for this, it’s a) to add green, every space needs some and b) to soften the edges of a very hard edged feature. They’re nearly always on the left hand side…
…because I want you to look at that first and then scan right.
To me, the image above is pretty balanced. The monkey on the hearth, bottom right counters the trailing ivy top left. And the rest of the styling is a relaxed mix of opaque and transparent reflective surfaces. Something all dark rooms need.
Now watch what happens when I do this:
I don’t know if you’re responding to this the same way I am… but looking at this image is making me feel lob-sided and very weird indeed. To me, the balance is all wrong and it doesn’t work at all. My eye keeps going left but it’s not hooking onto any one thing.
Let me try another….
Now onto a room with no mantlepiece at all….
I’ve already spoken about this image in the post “How to Choose Art“. I hung a small piece of art to the left of the fire. I didn’t want anything central on the chimney breast wall as I wanted the frieze and cornicing to be the feature, that and the gorgeous House Doctor Molecular light. The reason I placed a piece of art, to the left was to hold your gaze slightly longer before it finally scanned right to the TV in the right hand alcove.
Let’s flip it again and see if it messes with your mind as much as I know it will mine.
Oh my god, I feel drunk just looking at it. Anyone else feel discombobulated?? Or am I alone in this left sided bias?
I absolutely love digging down into the reasons why some things look right, purely on instinct. You might not always know why you prefer something one way over another, but it might just be because of the way your eyes take in the information.
If anyone is still reading, and you don’t think i’ve completely lost my mind on this one, i’d absolutely love to hear your thoughts on my rather wacky theory. I might even do another post on this looking at countries that write right to left and top to bottom to see if this too informs the way their eyes scan and therefore the way they take in more visual information through design, photography etc.
I love discovering the reasons why one thing works and another doesn’t, and for me this explains a lot about my instincts for layout and placement of pieces; both within a room and within an image. Please do share this with your design-y friends. I’d love to get a bit of a discussion started on this as i’m genuinely fascinated. Photographers and interior stylists in particular, i’d love to know how you perceive and read an image.
Over to you…