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How to Design a Room with the Golden Mean

Updated on November 3, 2015
The Golden Rectangle with the the circular arcs forming the logarithmic spiral.
The Golden Rectangle with the the circular arcs forming the logarithmic spiral.
Illustration showing the length of the human forearm to the hand follows the divine proportion of 1.618.
Illustration showing the length of the human forearm to the hand follows the divine proportion of 1.618.

The Golden Mean

What is the golden mean? Up until now, the golden mean has always been a secret to many as it hasn't been made its debut into popular culture; until Dan Brown mentioned it in his book The Da Vinci Code in the early 2000s. In the book, he mentions "Phi" the Greek letter and the famous 1.618 and the 10-30-60 ratio. How the cosmos and nature designs around this number is nothing short of amazing. For example, the length of our hand to our elbow follows the divine proportion, 1.618, as it is proportionally perfect. As we imitate art, we too try to design and create artwork, knowingly and unknowingly, around this golden number.

A planted tank that has a centered piece will have the viewer locked onto the middle drawing attention away from other plants strewn across the tank depth.
A planted tank that has a centered piece will have the viewer locked onto the middle drawing attention away from other plants strewn across the tank depth.
Design placed off center will cause the viewer to not focus on a single piece but look at the whole scene as a whole, balanced.
Design placed off center will cause the viewer to not focus on a single piece but look at the whole scene as a whole, balanced.

Example of Designing with the Golden Ratio

Using a fish tank as an example, we can really "dive" headfirst into this concept and truly understand how using the golden mean in design can prove to be essential.

In fresh water fishkeeping, keeping a planted tank is growing in popularity. Often times, the fish has become an accent while the tank's plants are the main attraction. When the whole tank is now in a canvas, design and placement is paramount.

When designing with the golden mean, it's clear that anything placed in the middle is considered unsightly and it's no different for a planted tank. Most often, the act of placing something in the middle will draw immediate attention to it. By doing so it's very hard to draw attention to other aspects of the tank. By off setting certain components, the tank becomes a more broader picture and everything else will get its chance to be placed in the spotlight. If one were to look at a tank full of plants and immediately feel like it is too busy, there is a fine line between being busy and having organized chaos. Being busy is often thought to be a negative connotation; while organized chaos means a lot is going on; however, by organizing the different plants in the tank will allow the viewer attention roam rather than fixated on one thing.

Integrating Hard Science with Art

Enough with Fish, How do you interior decorate with the Golden Mean?

The same principles do carry over. Like the viewer of a fish tank who can get eye strain from observing a busy scene or can be bored by the lack of movement; visitors to your house can definitely relate. Often times when friends visit, people are drawn to a specific area and typically will stay there because either there is not enough interest to draw them away from a specific space or quite possibly it's better to stay put because other parts of the room is too busy or cluttered. To provide your visitor and you enough visual and overall comfort, using the 10-30-60 ratio will help enhance a room.

The red square shows the space within a rectangle provided it is divided up by the golden mean. Like a room, that red area is the area where furniture should be allowed.
The red square shows the space within a rectangle provided it is divided up by the golden mean. Like a room, that red area is the area where furniture should be allowed.

How to use the 10-30-60

All room components can follow the golden ratio. Color, space, furniture, and even accents can adhere to the ratio for guidance. Taking the room dimensions will help with determining how much of the room can be used.

Time for numbers:

For example if we take a room that is 20' x 15' taking the 20' (feet) is 240" (inches) we take 240" x .618 (golden mean) = 148" (inches) divided by 12" (1' foot) which is 12'.

Then we take the 15' (feet) which equals to 180" (inches) we take 180" (inches) x .618 (golden mean) which = 111" (inches) which is about 9' (feet); we have an area that is 12'x 9'.

So, within the 20' x 15' room, 12' x 9' of it should be reserved for furniture

Notice we have not mentioned anything about placement just yet; by dividing the room first we can get an idea of what can be used to used for furniture.

When designing an interior space, what type of room size do you find easier to design for?

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The Room

The room itself should have 60% of the space reserved for things like furniture, windows, accents and what not. The point of leaving the rest is to first conform to the ratio, but two, leaving that much behind still allows for the room to be able to breathe and allow for flowing circulation.

White wainscoting on a light blue neutral wall.
White wainscoting on a light blue neutral wall.

Room Color

Following the ratio:

- 60% of the color of the room should be a neutral color.

- 30% of the color in the room should be a white color. For example, furniture and room ceilings can be used to fulfill this requirement. The sofa with the ceiling can add to the 30%.

- 10% remaining should be used to accent the room. What else to use than actual accents.

- Of the 10% - 5% should be invested into the color red to give it a pop of color.

- Of the 10% - the other 5% should be invested into the color torquise to tie the room together and accent the red.

(Optional)

If the budget allows for this, having wainscoting can divide the room into a large golden rectangle.

Example of Furniture Placement

Drawing some attention and tying the bookshelf together, the furniture placed in front of it allows for plenty of circulation and ample amount of seating. ** Notice the windows.
Drawing some attention and tying the bookshelf together, the furniture placed in front of it allows for plenty of circulation and ample amount of seating. ** Notice the windows.

Decorations

Selecting decorations for a room is the topping of the cake. When selecting the different components to add to the room, it's important to keep in mind how to arrange it to help conform it to the the ratio.

- Picture Frames: when selecting the frames it's best to select different sized frames that can be arranged from the largest to the smallest to create a pattern like the golden rectangle.

- Windows: when adding drapes and blinds to a window it's best to add drapes that cover about 60% of the window. Blinds can be set to cover about 60% as well. Using the window to create the rectangle.

The golden rectangle can get old, yes, but it's good to keep it as a guideline or a reference rather than repeating it over and over again. It's best not to overplay it but it's good to have it around. Whatever doesn't conform to you, you can always interpret it to fit your needs.

Decoration Examples

Accent sofa table featuring the differing rectangle sizes arranged in a seemingly similar golden rectangle pattern.
Accent sofa table featuring the differing rectangle sizes arranged in a seemingly similar golden rectangle pattern.

Have Fun with Design

It's important to have fun when designing a space. It's often a time when husbands and wives can get a bit tense; but, the design experience is always an exciting time. Taking out the old and designing something new can bring new life into a space or in a house. The important aspect of creating a room using the golden mean is to create balance and make a living space ever more comfortable. Be open to ideas, feel free to interpret, have fun when designing, and do what feels right for you. In the end, you will be the one that will have to live with the design.

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    • Crystals-view profile image

      Crystals-view 3 years ago from Colorado, USA

      Great hub! I love designing. I am currently in the process of moving around my space so thanks for sharing!

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