In Interior Design, positive space is the space taken by your furniture and decor, on the floor or on your walls. Negative space, conversely, is the empty space around and in between those pieces of furnishing. And the word “empty” is important: we didn’t say invisible! And because it is not invisible, it has, like everything else in your home, a big impact on how you feel in your living room or bedroom and how you experience them. So here’s what you need to know about negative space and how to make the best of it!
1 - Why it matters
I think we can all agree on one thing: your home should be comfortable, right? But how do you define and recognize a comfortable space? Is it just about how plush your sofa is? Not just! It’s also about how comfortable you feel when you are moving around or through the room. So no matter how fluffy your cushions are, your room should also feel comfortable when you’re not sitting down. And this is where negative space comes in. Do the exercise and sit in your sofa for a minute but close your eyes. Does it feel nice? Probably! Now open your eyes. Do you feel as relaxed? Well chances are, if you have lots of things on the walls and lots of decorative pieces on the furniture, it won’t feel quite as peaceful. By giving your brain lots of things to look at, you get it to work which goes against any feeling of relaxation!
2 - How it really works
When you put up a new print on your wall, your brain doesn’t just register “new print on wall”: it analyses it like there’s no tomorrow! Is it rectangular, is it framed, in what material, is it a painting, is it a photography, what are the main colours, is it abstract, do I like it? And it won’t just do that the first time, it will constantly verify that information and add to it whenever you look at the wall. Now that doesn’t sound very relaxing! Negative spaces create a break for your brain. Like a comma or a full stop in a sentence. The opportunity to just stop and enjoy the moment! As a result your room will feel more balanced.
3 - How to take advantage of it
Because your empty space has a shape, you have a good opportunity to change how your room feels. Let’s say you just bought a corner sofa. Visually it’s made up of two rectangles but it also created a negative space in the shape of a triangle in front of it. Now two rectangles and a triangle feel very angular and a little rigid so without knowing it, you just made your space less comfortable. But place a round coffee table overlapping that empty triangle and the negative space is now much softer, hence giving a more relaxed feeling to your room! So have a look at the floor plan of your rooms and clearly draw what the negative spaces look like, you might learn something!
4 – How to implement it
On top of being careful with the way you place your furniture, it’s also about becoming a curator. That means being more selective with what you put up on your walls, on your sofa, on your shelves and consoles. One big piece of art on a wall for example will create a simple negative space around it, easier to process than that created by lots of pictures. Buy less, but buy better! It’s not necessarily about being minimalist but let’s just say this: we have not yet seen an Interior Designer create a very cluttered room! They know their negative space!
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