The Elements Of Decoration: UnityThe Elements Of Decoration: Unity

In the fine arts, Unity is "a combination of parts as constitutes a whole, or a symmetry of style and character." In other words, the room and all things in it must belong together and look as though they were part of one and the same thing.

The work of the ancient Greeks gains much of its merit from the degree of unity it attained. Greek architecture was constructed almost entirely in stone, concerned only with a few simple types of design. Developing these types over a period of several centuries, attained a degree of unity that has never been surpassed, and that distinguishes it from all that has been done since.

From the time of the Greeks to our own, life has grown more and more complex, and the recent attempts to revive the Greek style show, by their failure, how unsuited it is to modern use. Its elements are too few to express our requirements, and when we try to mix them with modern motifs and custom-made picture frames (, we produce only a hybrid style of little or no value.

The same is more or less true of all historic styles whose time is too distant from today. The conditions under which these styles developed are so different from our own that they are of little use to us. Their very unity prevents us from using them, due to the fact that all their parts are so harmonized that our attempts at adaptation destroy their entire character.

Every grouping of objects of any kind must be arranged in a manner that appears to form a whole by uniting different parts, and not simply a formless mass of that expresses next to nothing. There must appear to be certain limits to a composition and a central focusing point of interest. Compositions vary as to their interest.

There may be compositions that are uninteresting due to the monotony of arrangement or to the lack of a central point of interest. An example of this kind of composition could be a group of candlesticks placed on a fireplace mantel ( These compositions, however, may not contain any elements that clash, but due to the fact that there may be several equally important focal points, the interest is spread thin. This is why the climax is necessary.

The "climax" must be the most interesting motif in the composition and must have the most important position or be placed where it is most likely to catch the eye. This feature may predominate by mass, form, line, color, texture, position or direction of line. The need for contrast in the elements of a composition is due to the fact that the human mind becomes fatigued by viewing a monotonous repetition. The mind requires a change and so contrasts accentuate the contrasting motifs.

Unity can be maintained if we concentrate our thought on the essentials of our problem. Have we a dining room to decorate? Fill it with everything that enhances the dining experience, and nothing that may detract from it. Or is it a bedroom? Let everything in it encourage sleep and rest, to maintaining a quiet and peaceful atmosphere, and to the more private and intimate life of its occupant.

For this reason, decorations that are suited for one part of a house may be wholly out of place in another. A large and richly colored oil painting or parthenon pediment ( might perfectly decorate a dining room of some size, but would be quite unsuitable for a young girl's bedroom.

A room should have a certain unity of tone. This means that when the general scheme of a room is pitched in light colors, this characteristic should be carried through the entire design, and similarly with dark colors.

A room paneled in dark-finished oak should ordinarily have furniture in dark-colored woods, and the upholstery materials used should also echo this harmony. This does not mean, however, that nothing light in color should be put into the room. Since a room all of one tone would be too monotonous, but we must have a general unity of tone value, particularly in the fixed elements of the decoration.
by Allison Ryan
References and Bibliography
Allison Ryan is a freelance marketing writer from San Diego, CA. She specializes in interior design, architecture, and the hardwood moulding industry from custom-made picture frames to parthenon pediment. For more information, please visit
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