Compliant horizontals, Assertive verticals: Articulating a space with lines

September 15, 2023 • creative corner, design recipes • Views: 306

NORDAL: Downtown cabinet, 2 doors, black

Horizontal and vertical lines are two of the most powerful tools available to the designer.

In general, horizontal lines stabilize a room and give a feeling of being closer to the ground. They emphasize smooth, continuous movement through a space. Vertical lines lift the gaze and draw it towards the ceiling. They add height and drama, initiate upward movement.

Neither verticals nor horizontals can do without the other. Horizontals have a near natural monopoly in any habitable space; they are your floor, ceiling, ceiling cornice, table, bed, seats, windowsills. They are what you stand, sit, lie on: the solid basis that any space requires. Verticals, on the other hand, are intruders, disruptors: they break up the monotony of horizontals.

Just as in the cityscape (think of church spires, towers, turrets), so in an interior: vertical lines break through their surroundings to point towards the ceiling/sky or mark an important point in space.

More specifically:

  1. Long horizontals can be used to emphasize a room’s main axis and channel movement through the room in this direction. They are particularly effective when coupled with a vertical placed on the same axis. In the two photos below the table is placed along the main axis running more or less down the centre of the space; this line is reinforced by the black vertical line of the extractor fan. 


Private apartment, St Petersburg

2. A long horizontal piece of furniture can be used to make a narrow wall seem wider or a wide wall seem even wider:

WOUD: Array Wall, mounted sideboard, 150 cm
WOUD: Level daybed, moss green/oak

3. Verticals do not have to start from the floor. Verticals dropped from the ceiling can create an intense local focus. Here the black vertical of the lamp is underlined by the black horizontals of the sofa and footstool.

WOUD: Annular pendant, large

Used in a series, dropped verticals can also be an effective way of structuring a part of a room:

MATER: Firefly pendant

4. A tall mirror hung on the wall or stood on the floor can be another forceful use of a vertical. This iron-framed reflective rectangle from House Doctor makes a striking incision in the plane of the wall:

HOUSE DOCTOR: Mirror with frame, dark iron

5. A vertical does not have to be a single piece of furniture. A ‘composite vertical’ might consist of a mirror above a mantelpiece or a slender vase on top of a tall cupboard. Or this plant standing on a side table in a corner of the room and pointing upwards to draw attention to the delicate ceiling moulding:

Ceiling moulding. Private apartment, St Petersburg

6. When straight lines start to grate or oppress, they can be softened with fabrics or vegetation. Alternatively. toss in some curved lines, such as this circular mirror from Hubsch:

HUBSCH: Mood wall mirror
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