Monday, April 26, 2010

Safety In Numbers

My parents' house where I grew up in defied all sorts of feng shui principles. It was built by my father who was an architect, and one time he brought a Chinese client who was familiar with feng shui and no more than 5 minutes in she highly recommended an extensive feng shui renovation. First of all, the house number is 4, which is considered inauspicious in traditional Chinese feng shui because sounds like "death" in Cantonese. Aside from this, the house had rooms that had 2 doors facing each other, also "bad luck." Apparently, "chi" enters one door and leaves through the other. We never believed any of that stuff of course, and there was never any reason to fear the feng shui "mistakes" of the house because through the years we were lucky enough to have nothing except happiness and stability. 

The Chinese are very superstitious when it comes to numbers, they choose telephone numbers, house number, business numbers, car number plates and anything that has numbers in very carefully. They believe it is possible to change your life by using numbers.

Let's take that last sentence into more careful consideration. When arranging elements in our home, numbers do make a difference, not in a superstitious kind of way, but rather, from a part aesthetic, part mathematical and part scientific point of view. There are basic numbers and proportions that are present in all things that beautifully drawn, well-constructed and aesthetically pleasing. In art, there is something called the "Golden Section," or "The Divine Proportion." This number is also said to be present in the perfection of nature. Artists use it in composing a painting; these numbers tell them things such as where to start the horizon and where to place the other elements such as trees and people. The key dimensions of the room and table in Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper was based on this very same principle.

Simplified for our purposes we will use something called "The Rule of Thirds." For example, in photography, we are taught to divide the scene and place the horizon line either in the upper third or the lower third of the composition and not in the middle. The same applies to hanging pictures. They should be hung at eye level and somewhere along the upper third of the wall.

Convinced? Here are some other important numbers to remember. 

--2 or a pair, such as a pair of lamps and a pair of end tables provide symmetry and balance
--3 and other odd numbers, is better for arranging other decorative items such as a set of vases, or picture frames. Remember, when creating a vignette of objects on a table or a shelf, odd numbers are better. 3 is better than 2 and 5 is better than 4.
--18 inches is the ideal minimum distance from the edge of the table to the edge of a sofa for proper circulation.
--2/3 the length of the sofa, is the ideal width of the coffee table. It should be about the same height or about 1 to 2 inches lower than the seat height of the sofa.
--38 inches of space must be provided between the edge of the dining table and the wall to provide adequate room for chairs and the passage of a dining room.
--36 inches must be provided in living and family rooms for main trafficways.
--10 feet is the ideal distance between seating areas for stimulating conversation.
--30 inches between the bottom of the light fixture and the surface of the table is the rule for hanging dining room pendants or chandeliers.
--6 feet from the floor is the height at which we should hang pendants above a kitchen island.

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