Design for the Rest of Us
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A Matter of Principles
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Issue: # 4 November/2009

Welcome to the Fall issue of
Design for the Rest of Us
Personally, I am glad to be writing this in relatively warm weather.  Wintry scenes look wonderful viewed from afar...the farther I get from my days of building snow men.
I caught this fall foliage up close and personal shortly before the "fall". 
Best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving.  For those of us with family, friends and peace we are truly thankful.
Upcoming Events
Revellion:  A Celebration of Winter
Along with three other designers I will be creating a vignette at the Grange Furniture Showroom at 200 Lexington Avenue (New York Design Center).  The preview party, combined with a sale of boutique jewelry, is on December 8th from 6 - 8 pm. 
RSVP to 212-685-9494 ext. 208 or by Dec. 4.
The displays will be on exhibit through January. 
Hope you'll visit!
Grange is a wonderful resource for fine French furniture and accessories.
A Matter of Principles
What makes Good design Good? Part 2.
Last issue (Newsletter #3) explored the elemental building blocks of design:  line, pattern, texture, scale, light and color.  The series of objective standards transcending time and culture (i.e. aesthetics) continues with the progression to the Principles of Design.
In contrast to scale, the relative size of an object to something outside itself, proportion is the relationships of parts within a whole.  In other words, scale involves external comparisons while proportion deals with internal relationships. 
Over centuries, mathematical formulas have been devised to quantify these ratios...such as the Golden Section (or Mean) of the ancient Greeks. 
More likely we instinctively judge whether something seems in proportion (and even more likely out of proportion). Words like "squat", "elongated", "stocky" or "leggy" describe observations of objects or people where something seems out of proportion.
Modigliani used unexpected proportions in his portraits as do furniture designers such as Andree Putman's proportions between lengths and widths of parts. 
Balance is the state of equilibrium which may be achieved in a variety of ways.  Typically, traditional balance is symmetrical with identical elements arranged around a common axis, also known as mirror image.
Asymmetrical balance, more difficult to create, results from nonidentical elements but with equal weight.  Skillful ploy of this technique, often used by stylists and merchandisers, results in quite interesting compositions.
As with musical notes, rhythm in design is achieved through a succession of elements in a pattern of repetition. The spacing between the elements may be regular and orderly or sporadic and irregular.  Think of a waltz compared to a jazz composition.
Rhythm in design may be created through a series of columns or windows or with positioning colors or motifs around a space.  The feeling is of traveling through space 
Opposites attract.  The degree to which we can tolerate or appreciate contrast depends not only on the person but the situation.  At what point does stimulation become tension?  While most will agree that variety is the spice of life,  the heat level may need to be adjusted to the situation and the person, up or down a notch.
As with the other principles, contrast may be achieved in several ways such as the difference between smooth and rough, small and large, light and dark, old and new, or with a variety of different hues.
Also known as a focal point  emphasis requires that something be dominant and command attention.  Not always the elephant in the room, so to speak, an object may be small in size yet mighty.  Perhaps it is the bright red chair in the otherwise neutral room or the only antique in a modern setting. Or in the case of this small sculpture, closer to the viewer than the Chicago skyline but dramatically silhouetted by lighting. 
This is the culmination of a designer's attempt to create a pleasing whole, the symphony of notes and chords.  As said in the movie Jerry Maguire, "you complete me."  It is that delicate balance between oneness and variety.  The sum is greater than the parts.  Unifying threads may be a color scheme, or similarity in shapes repeated throughout a space or a particular interspersed motif or pattern or a consistency in the levels of saturation of color used. 
Harmony may be simple or complex.
Send comments or questions to 
Susan Slotkis
Profiles - Personalized Interiors
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Until next month,