The Golden Ratio

How to design your home harmoniously
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How is it that some images, buildings or spaces have a harmonious effect on us? What gives a nautilus shell or the leaf of a tree that quality of seeming perfection? And what, you might be tempted to ask, has this to do with interior design? Read this article and you'll find out!

1:1.618 equals harmony

The fact that harmony is subject to a law of nature was known to the Pythagoreans back in the 6th century BC. It was they who tried to express this "divine law" in numbers and thus to make it measurable – and then to take advantage of it, for example in architecture and art.

The Golden Spiral template for interior layout

The Golden Spiral is a handy template for your interior layout

The basis for harmony is the ratio 1:1.618. It describes the ratio of two lengths in relationship to one another – the Golden Ratio.

Look at the ratio between the length of your hand to the length of your forearm... There it is! The "divine proportions" are at work here too.

Motive guidelines

Harmonious image guidelines

There are several mathematical approaches to calculating the Golden Ratio. But don't worry! We don't need the 8th decimal place for the purposes of interior design. If you keep the ratio at roughly 1:1.6, you're already on safe ground. Need an example?

The image composition

The results of applying the Golden Ratio can be demonstrated well using landscape photographs.

Centrally placed mountain

Strong presence: A centrally placed mountain

This picture of a wide landscape with a mountain right in the middle of the image effortlessly draws attention directly to the mountain. The rest of the picture, to the left and right of it, becomes unimportant, almost a distraction.

A photograph of the same landscape taken in accordance with the principle of the Golden Ratio places the mountain in the right or left third of the image. The image now radiates harmony. Also, all the details of the landscape are taken in fully by the eye. The image is now balanced and exudes calm, ideal for a truly absorbed viewing.

That's what we want for our living spaces too – balance and tranquillity.

Mountains in the left or right third of the image

Harmonious: Mountains in the left or right third of the image

So where to place the sofa?

By following this principle you can easily find the best place for your new sofa and the rest of your furniture too. If you don't want to measure with a ruler to the exact centimetre, no problem. Just keep the ratio at approximately 2:3.

First divide the room into two areas – one about two thirds of the room size, the other about one third. The larger area will contain the most important furniture and will determine the main use of the room – in our case, a living room. The smaller area will serve as a place for shelves or as a second, smaller sitting room – or whatever you like.

Sofa in the interior layout

Where to put the sofa? The interior layout has to be right...

You should also work in accordance with the 2:3 ratio when choosing furniture – this achieves a harmonious all-round result. Ideally the new sofa should take up about two thirds of the length of the entire seating area, and the accompanying coffee table about two thirds of the length of the sofa.

Colour design in no time

In the interior design world it's also said that a well-designed space should include three colour components in a ratio of 60-30-10. First there should be a predominant colour, which should account for about 60% of the area – for example, on the walls and on the floor. The second colour, with a share of about 30%, is usually provided by the furniture. The remaining 10% should be taken up by a powerful colour that's reserved for accents – found for example in pillows, tablecloths, curtains and pictures.

Simple enough, really! But maybe you're not sure which colours go together? Or which combinations are really harmonious? Again, the principle of 1:1.618 can help you here!

Harmonious colour combinations

Harmonious colour combinations are no coincidence

Research has shown that colours placed apart from each other on the colour wheel in the ratio 1:1.618 often fit together perfectly. Now there are programs to determine these colour combinations easily, which are used by, among others, interior designers – such as the PhiMatrix Golden Ratio Colour Palette Generator, which you can use for free for 14 days when downloading the PhiMatrix 1.618 professional software (http://www.phimatrix.com). Without spending much money you can try a wide variety of colour combinations!

The icing on the cake – the decoration

Once a room has the matching colours and furniture, only the decoration is missing. A great photo on canvas, a beautiful photo on acrylic, some curtains on the windows...

Keep the two-thirds rule in mind. If you want to hang a large picture, first choose the wall where it will best come into play. Divide this wall in your mind into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. The wall now consists of nine equal fields. The middle of the field in the centre is the right place for your picture.

Tic-Tac-Toe from matches

Imagine your wall with nine equally sized fields, as in tic-tac-toe

If you want to hang several pictures on the wall, aim for the four intersections surrounding the middle field. Many galleries present their works this way. Varying the frame sizes can make for exciting wall arrangements.

Window decoration also has a protective, shielding function, and it's best if it covers approximately 60% of the window area. The result is the so-called "Golden Rectangle", representing the spirit of "divine proportions".

Exceptions prove the rule

There's no rule without an exception! This applies more than ever when it comes to design. Your taste and intuition should always take precedence, and these instructions should be treated as a rough guideline only. A good interior designer will always keep the rules in mind, but will also know when to break them.

Custom interior

Individual is beautiful

If you have, say, a centrally placed fireplace in one of the walls of your living room, then that's a central focal point that you can't ignore. If you have the feeling that a fourth colour is needed in your room, then listen to your instincts! Design, and especially the design of our living environment, should be fun! Sometimes the mathematics have to be left to one side.

Try it out...

Start right away and look at your own four walls – which rooms make you feel particularly good? It may well be that you have designed them, quite unconsciously, in accordance with the classical theory of harmony...

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