Recently, I wrote an article about embracing the free space in your home. Several readers remarked that they would like to see some examples of how to effectively use free space, and I was happy to oblige. Obviously, every space is different, as is everyone's taste for free space, but here are some images and tips that I think may help.
The large expanse above the sofa and the bright wall of windows leaves this room feeling open and fresh, even though there are many books, framed artworks, interesting objects, and unique pieces of seating. Balance does not always require symmetry. (above: the home of Maurício Arruda on Freunde von Freunden)
There are many ways to achieve free space, aside from just leaving a wall or two blank. In Bernadette's Cool, Colorful, and Contemporary Austin Home (above), the lack of a rug and the lack of decorative pillows on the sofa, make the living area seem more open. The furniture is allowed to speak for itself, and the colors of the larger pieces in the room loom large rather than being chopped up by differently colored decorative accessories.
Free space doesn't always mean having white walls. Malene's Tropical Modern Queen Anne Townhome (above and below) has a ton of great examples of free space. This purple lounge area is a great example because it's still got plenty of cozy textiles, warmth, and personal pieces. One of her cleverest tricks was painting the ceiling in the same color, so it seems like the walls continue, visually expanding the free space instead of chopping it off, and making the room feel even cozier.
Malene's home also shows that free space does not require sparse decor. It just means giving objects the room they need to stick out. Her objects are collected in alcoves, with a blank space in the middle that gives the eye a moment to rest.
Tommy and Todd's Bohemian Chic Collection is another great example of a home that, while filled with color, pattern, and artwork, still exhibits a great use of free space. The spatial arrangement of their home allows plenty of space to walk, making the home flow well. And by following the curving ceiling line, without going all the way to the top, the walls still give the room a sense of openness, despite having art in a gallery arrangement.
Indeed, even the most maximalist rooms still have to have some kind of negotiation between open and negative space. In her bold, fun-filled home (Karen's Color Explosion, above), Karen still uses larger areas of solid colors, like a fuchsia tablecloth, to balance out the smaller patterns of the artwork. Concrete floors, ceilings, and columns remain neutral. You may look at this and say, "There's no free space here," but I would argue that it's just an example that each person's need for free space is different.
The rule of thumb should be, do you feel that you're giving your objects plenty of room to stand out? Do you feel comfortable in your space? Is it inspirational without being stressful? Are the objects making your life richer, and is their arrangement giving them the chance to? Free space usage and requirements are different for everyone, but in general, what matters is that the balance between stimulation and rest is comfortable for you.