The Beauty of Shapes

“Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.”

– Albert Schweitzer

I closed last week’s blog about pattern with my favorite mantra – good design repeats itself – and that’s where I’d like to start this one about shape. Repetition of shape is one of the most important elements of design. It should be something your eye doesn’t necessarily notice as it does color, but carefully combined shapes can create harmony and balance that you feel more than see at first glance.

Creating Harmony with Shape

This photo is compelling to look at, yet it consists of very little except the repetition of a few similar shapes and a small burst of natural light. The analogous contours of the light fixture, the hand-carved wood balustrade, the softly curved nicho and the ancient figure of St. Francis of Assisi have a subtle but unmistakable affinity for each other. You feel the harmony before you can define its individual elements. Even the shadow of the balustrade on the wall plays a role in this serene spectacle.

A picturesque pairing of shapes and shadows.
A picturesque pairing of shapes and shadows.

Geometric and Organic Shapes

A quick primer about shape. Shape is defined as the form of an object’s surface, as opposed to the object’s color, texture, or material composition. There are two kinds of shapes, geometric and organic. Basic geometric shapes are the ones we all learned in school, e.g., circles, squares, rectangles, trapezoids, triangles, diamonds, hearts and stars. Organic shapes are those that occur naturally, not man-made with straight lines and compasses. Certainly, many natural organic shapes are perfect examples of man-made geometric shapes as well.

Nature’s Mastery with Shapes

Nature is the master of shapes.
Nature is the master of shapes.

Think about every unique snowflake that’s ever drifted to the ground in winter, or the turquoise starfish you floated over while snorkeling on your last beach vacation. Once again, nature gets it right. When we do our module about shape in the Eye for Beauty e-Course in the fall, we will be focusing on the organic shapes that we find outdoors, and then relating those shapes to the way they make us feel and how we compose them in our homes. It’s so fascinating to begin to recognize the pattern of shapes each of us responds to over and over.  I am so looking forward to experiencing this process of discovery with those of you participating in the e-course.

Good Design Repeats Itself

My client’s Picasso is rightfully the focal point of their living room, and we wanted to show it to its best advantage. We repeated the large almond shape and stark white of the eyes in the whimsical, pointy-toed ceramic high heels on the mantel, and mimicked the many curves on the woman’s face with two modern vases and long-stemmed tulips.

The accessories create a balanced vignette without distracting from the brilliant painting.

How to primp a Picasso.
How to primp a Picasso.
A symphony of shapes sing together.
A symphony of shapes sing together.

The living room of my Mediterranean-style home in California is a virtual cornucopia of shapes that all repeat and balance each other. The sensuous curves of the pink upholstered sofa and the giant bulbous pear sitting atop the shapely legs and carved edges of the hand-painted table present a warm welcome to the room. On the far wall, the painting repeats shapes from the antique buffet. On the buffet’s marble top, a pair of not-quite-triangular lampshades relate to the pointed hat on the boy in the painting.  Even though this portrait comprises many different shapes, the overall composition is neither busy nor overwhelming because of the relationship and continuity among all the elements.

With a little practice and observation, we can all learn to come from our hearts and pay attention to what they tell us. You can live in the beauty that is your own by following your true self and nature’s spectacular example and seeing for yourself how good design repeats itself.

Yours in the love of shapes,

Toby and Linda Applewhite
I like monkey shapes.
I like monkey shapes.
Showing 0 comments
  • Lynn

    I think Toby and the monkey are stealing the show, Linda 🙂 I love the vignette of your living room – truly a cornucopia of shape connected by color. The curvy shapes of the table and sofa playing off of each other is like musical counterpoint captured in furniture form!

  • Joan von Weien

    I love your organic take on design! It makes me look around my home and garden and appreciate it all!

  • Katy Sanders

    Thank you for sharing your terrific style, design, and home with us. I enjoy all of it.

  • Marlies

    Since you first showed this photo, I have always loved the beautiful shape and color of that pink upholstered sofa and especially contrasted with beautiful hand-painted table sporting those shapely legs. So great!
    Thanks for educating us, Linda.

  • Jean Bennett

    Hi Linda,
    I love the earthy colors in all your spaces, so warm and inviting it’s like the sun shines even on a rainy day 🙂 I can see myself curled up on that gorgeous sofa drinking a cup of tea and admiring that beautiful painting!!! It all works, you are so talented!! 🙂 Give that cute pooch a smooch for me, he’s so cute lying there with the sock monkey!!

    Best, Jean
    P.S. I will send before pics and afters of our new kitchen one of these days, also I am not the best photographer on the planet, lol

  • patricia zinn

    I so enjoyed the beautiful photo of the casita (or is it a hacienda?), What a lovely area with the color of the green trees and the blue trim complementing the ever changing shades of the home. I want to be there, but will hold the image in my mind as a second choice.

  • Jody Serritella

    Hi Linda!
    I remember your gorgeous Mediterranean living room! Even the pear! Everything is on point. The fabrics and colors are so perfectly coodinated.
    I think I learned by love of symmetry from your design!
    I try and break the symmetry but I always go back to pairing and balancing items. I may throw in a few items to break it up but my eyes always want to have a balancing act! It’s been a busy summer working in the garden and wanted to share a photo of my side kick willy helping me! I hope your summer has been filled with fun and laughter and of course obi wan ketobi!
    Jody and Willy the Brussels griffon

Leave a Comment

Linda Applewhite DesignLinda Applewhite Design