Space is defined by construction and restricted by the functions of rooms, and we perceive it as we walk through spaces. Divisions and restrictions are the foundation of architectural planning. Interior designers try to create unequal space allotments within buildings for aesthetic and human needs. It is easier to place windows and furnishings in a more rectangular room in than a square room. There are rules of measurement used to clarify what fraction of length-to-width is best.
Small spaces can offer a more nurturing feel, adding a sense of security. It becomes easier to personalize a smaller space, since it lends a sense of ownership. But a small space can become confining very easily. I am a huge fan of smaller spaces in this time of population growth and aging baby boomers. I advocate for smaller homes and sustainable living and growth for our children and our grandchildren. If we all use less, in the long run we will have more; it won’t be in our landfills. This is called practicing stewardship.
Large spaces are needed as a byproduct of the confinement of the smaller ones. Wanting a larger space for whatever purpose can feed a need to be free; it can feel less restricting. At the same time, a larger space allows your mind and sensibilities to breathe; it can also make some people feel more insecure or enhance a sense of inadequacy. We can feel very small and insignificant in these spaces. Architects who have designed larger-than-life buildings allow us to experience just that, remembering we are part of a big world, or even bigger universe. This can be a very ethereal experience.
These issues can all be addressed by applying what we’ve learned to transform the space so it seems another way to us. I am a big fan of negative space, which is the use of nothing. How easy is that, right? But in practice, it can be very difficult to keep a space uncluttered when trying to achieve a certain functionality in a room. I adore negative space, as it lets the mind rest as your eye lands there. To create negative space, you leave a wall blank, or a counter top bare. You don’t fill a kitchen with cabinets everywhere; you leave some space unused. This concept filters back to the concept of stewardship for our planet. We don’t need everything – all the stuff, the clutter. By buying less, we slow the consumption of our natural resources.
Negative space also affords the mind time and place to rest. As it rests, it rejuvenates. You are able to think more clearly since your mind is not trying to classify or organize all it sees. Your mind can more easily process what is important. I think in small- to medium-sized spaces it is important to incorporate negative space, since those areas get cluttered quickly and easily.
Swinging to the other side of the pendulum, we can use positive space and fill it with color, texture, form and mass to alter a large space that is making us feel inadequate. We can use brighter, more intense colors since the space is larger and the color blends more easily with our surroundings. We can use wall treatments in a larger space and be overwhelmed with pattern or texture. The elements will actually make the space more comfortable, appealing and interesting. These should be balanced and proportionate to the space in which you are using them.
The element of space is a starting point that we add or take away to achieve a scheme or create a mirror of someone’s lifestyle.
Shape is the two-dimensional outline when we see a square or circle. Form is more how we would describe what we see as a three-dimensional object. There needs to be balance to shape and form, an angular table needs chairs that are rounded somehow. We use specific shapes and forms to achieve a feeling in a space. If we use of lot of curves and softer outlines, a room may feel more comforting or informal. The opposite would be true if we only incorporated thin lines in a wallpaper, or lightly scale furniture with no curves or pillows. They also need to be in proportion to the scale of the architecture to achieve the desired psychological effect, such as alert and attentive, or relaxed and secure.
We use shape and form in all we create to convey a statement of our attitude, or an idea. We can speak in terms of creating an organic effect, or use geometry to create more dimension. Using or creating geometric objects in a room or a painting adds interest and detail. I have to really think hard on what is appropriate for a space to be sure I am only adding a complement, not something that complicates. Use geometry sparingly, I think, unless that is the theme…
Space, shape and form also create the basis for the language we use when we imagine our lives. You and God are the architects and create what you want life to be. Whatever your imagination holds for you, for your work, establishes what is possible. You determine the shape or form your life takes on as you make choices and take action.