How to Use Math In Decorating Your Home

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A portion of Stonehenge.
A portion of Stonehenge. (Image: vencavolrab/iStock/Getty Images)

At first glance, it may be difficult to understand the correlation between math and decor in the home. But if you dig a little deeper, you'll learn the secret of using mathematics to beautify your space. To begin, look at the math applied to Greek architecture or the works of Leonardo Da Vinci. Consider the complicated simplicity of the golden mean as eloquently displayed at the heart of a sunflower, or the Fibonacci sequence as wrapped into the spiral of a nautilus seashell. What you will discover are numbers, ratios and equations as enduring as the universe itself, which, when used correctly, add appeal to your decorated space.

The Universal Language

Math doesn't change by culture or country; it is an international language of those versed in its equations, ratios and sequences. Even though you thought you'd never use the algebra or geometry you learned in high school, it's everywhere you look. Nature propels itself forward in mathematical series, ratios and spirals from the blossoming and growth of an embryo to the overhead view of a forming storm. And if you want to add a natural occurring balance to your home's decor scheme, just apply the golden ratio, which appeals to the eye, when selecting and arranging your furniture and decor.

The Golden Ratio -- Divine Proportions

In the Leonardo Da Vinci illustrated book written by Luca Pacioli, "De Divina Proportione," or "The Divine Proportion," the author writes of the mathematical proportions found in well-made art. The golden ratio refers to the Greek Phi or 1.618. The ratio of 1 to 1.618 is found everywhere in art, architecture and decor when objects are arranged in this sequence to each other. This ratio was used to build the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Parthenon and Stonehenge, among other world-famous architectural structures. When comparing two items side-by-side that match these proportions, the largest one should be about two-thirds larger than the smaller one. An ideally proportioned couch, for example, results in a couch roughly two-thirds longer than it is wide. You can apply the same rule with a table or bookcase. When in doubt, simply divide by three.

The 60-30-10 Color Rule

Interior designers and decorators have translated the "Divine Proportion" into the 60-30-10 color rule they use when decorating a home with color. Make 60 percent of the room a golden wheat color; allow 30 percent for a dark brown or gray contrast color and 10 percent for a purple accent, the complementary color to yellow. If you stick to the 60-30-10 color rule when combining colors in a room, as long as you choose colors of the same value and intensity, the color composition creates an eye-pleasing palette.

The Odds on Design

The same aspect applies to the number of objects used in a decorating scheme or when putting flowers into a vase; the use of odd numbers creates the best effects. Starfish, a pentagon and the pattern you see when you cut an apple in half all contain five arms, sides or elements. Five-pointed designs provide a pleasing balance, which is why three, five or seven flowers in a vase look better than an arrangement created with an equal number of flowers.

Decor and Furniture Arrangements

Besides adding the two-thirds to one-third ratios when arranging different-sized items on a shelf or in the room, use the spiral sequence in the cutaway view of a nautilus shell for an agreeable effect. These ratios and sequences create unconsciously satisfying results, but when the furnishing, decor or colors in a room don't bring math into the equation, a visual conflict for the eyes results, in the same manner that a symphony's discordant warm-ups affects the ears -- it's just simply unpleasant with too much noise.

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