Monday, September 24, 2007

Day 3.1 80/20: A Matter of Proportion

Don't be confused. Maxwell's 80/20 rule is not about colour. Colour does not exist. Colour is all about perception. And so is Maxwell's rule.

Consider this photograph, by Dana Gallagher, from Real Simple: The Organized Home.
It is, fittingly, a simple example. For a room to be broken down into 80/20 you have to consider what takes up the most visual space.

What do we have?

The largest bit(s): the envelopeWalls: browny gold. A warm neutral
Floor: Golden oak: A warm neutral
Ceiling: not visible. Probably a pale neutral.
These three things make up the "shell" or the envelope of your room. Keep these neutral and you're well on your way to 80%.

The next largest bit(s): the furnitureThe sofa: white or cream. White would make it cool; cream, warm. In any case, it too is a neutral.
The rug: dark brown. Is this a neutral? This is one of those odd cases where it depends upon the context. I think that here, in this room, it is. In an all white room, however, it would be so different it would "count" as a colour. Here, it acts as a neutral.
Chairs: Here, it's a ghost chair. A non-entity. A similar chair in dark wood would retain the 80/20 ratio just as well. (But not in a light wood. See below).
Tables: again, neutral.

**a note about curtains. Depending upon the size of your windows, these could either be neutral or a dsah of colour. A look I love is to use a neutral and then band one edge of each panel (or the area from the sill to the floor) in a colourful fabric. How decorative your curtains "should" be all depends upon the size of the room, the walls and floor. It's a question of how much compared to everything else.

The least largest bits: the accessories
lamps: neutral
Ottomans, blanket and pillows, art: and here we have the colour. All warm. All fall within the acceptable 20%. Of course, this is a photograph. The ottomans loom rather larger here than they would in the context of the entire room in order for the photograph to look good.
Now, look again at this photograph in black and white. How does the 80/20 rule apply here?

The first thing to notice is that this is not a successful black and white photograph. Why? Because, simply, there's too much sofa. In the contrast sweepstakes, the white sofa wins--it takes up about half the visual field. But again, imagine this as part of an entire room. In terms of contrast between light and dark, the sofa and the lamp and the art would likely take up the full 20% of the room, but no more. That is, of course, if it is well designed.

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