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In interior design, we always strive to strike the perfect balance: between hard and soft, casualness and formality, form and function. Think of balance as a state of equilibrium that may be achieved in a variety of ways.

For example, an obvious balance exists when both sides of a room are arranged in symmetrical, mirror image fashion. However, a room can feel similarly balanced and casual when arranged asymmetrically by using different shapes, sizes, textures and placement of things so that the “visual weight” appears balanced. This latter approach is more fluid, dynamic and informal and creates a soft, comfortable feeling.

I believe that the secret to creating that warmth starts with two things: the finishes and the way you let your personality shine through.

The finishes you choose can add textural variety to the surfaces in your space. Wood paneling, beamed ceilings or dramatic arched tresses can be bold statements. Industrial materials such as corrugated metal panels seen in a lot of retail and restaurant settings these days present as colder, but can be warmed up through the use of paint and lighting. The texture of a surface is a sensory experience, whether through sight or touch. Keep these things in mind when trying to strike the right sensory balance.

Collect things and put them together. Warmth is derived from showcasing your personality. There is no better feeling than to be in a place where the owners have lived there for years and layered in objects of interest, pieces from their travels and stacks of books. The use of comfortable furniture creates casualness and is inviting, too.

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Understand volume, scale and proportion. Length, width and depth of both the room in question and the pieces that inhabit it must be balanced relative to each other. The use of scale and proportion can be an important contributor to whether a space evokes intimacy or impersonality. For example, the length of a sofa can be anywhere from 54 inches to 84 inches, and obviously, which one you pick in relation to the room can be the difference between feeling crowded and just right. And the size of a print on a fabric can make a big difference based on the scale of the chair onto which it is upholstered. A densely patterned fabric on a small-scale chair may still appear too large for that use.

Maximize the use of contrast in your room. Contrast is often expressed in the difference between light and dark, curved and straight lines, near and far, old and new, smooth and rough, plain and ornate, and small and large. Contrast can also be achieved by mixing expensive and inexpensive pieces. The hunt for the latter can be very satisfying when you find the right counterpoint to an expensive piece.

Create harmony by putting a scheme together before you start to decorate your space. Balance the need for cohesion with the principals of contrast and variety by deciding on a color palette, similar shapes, patterns or motifs (such as florals) to create a harmonious feeling.

Finally, if you would like help in striking the right balance, assemble a team. Talk to experts such as antique dealers, carpenters, architects, builders and, of course, an interior designer. If you educate yourself, you will be able to create a space that is welcoming, composed and comfortable to be in.

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Deborah Macdonald is the owner of Textured Design Napa. Contact Deborah at 707-255-0246, deborah@textureddesignnapa.com or TexturedDesignNapa.com.

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