WHEN a man stands still, his body erect, his mind tranquil and at ease, he is in balance. The two sides of his body, similarly grouped on either side of an ideal perpendicular center, are similarly affected by the force of gravity, with a resulting state of equilibrium. This state of equilibrium, with its accompanying sense of rest, poise and finished activity, is emotionally as well as physically pleasing. It is the state to which mind and body alike tend naturally and constantly to return after periods of effort, activity and excitement.
As would be expected, this instinctive feeling for balance conditions our artistic judgments. Because the state of equilibrium is inevitably associated by the mind with effects of repose and tranquillity, while lack of equilibrium is associated with effects of activity and excitement, we expect to find in any work of art a balanced opposition of one part to another in the degree that the work is designed to suggest the ideas of quiescence, tranquillity and repose, as opposed to those of movement, activity and excitement. And since the latter motives can legitimately play no part in the architecture of a room, and but very small part in its decorative treatment, while the former necessarily play a very large part, we expect to find the important architectural and decorative elements of a furnished room so grouped that the room appears to be in a state of equilibrium. That is, we expect to find the room in balance, and we are perturbed and uncomfortable when we do not so find it. Rooms that lack balance lack beauty, no matter how pleasing their proportions, their coloring, and their ornamental detail.
Fundamentally, balance is a matter of mechanics, expressible in the formula W : W' :: A' : A. If equal weights are hung on a beam at opposite sides of the fulcrum or center, the beam will be in balance when the weights are placed at equal distances from the center. Unequal weights, on the contrary, will be in balance only when their distances from the center are inversely proportional to their weight. Thus a ten-pound weight six inches to the left of the fulcrum will balance an equal weight six inches to the right. If we add a five-pound weight to each side at a distance of four inches from the center the beam will still be in balance; nor will it be disturbed by the addition of any number of weights of any sizes whatever; provided always that for each weight on one side of the center an equal weight is hung at an equal distance from the center on the other.
If, however, we wish to balance the ten-pound weight at six inches from the fulcrum by means of a five-pound weight on the other side, we must, according to our formula, place the lighter weight twelve inches from the fulcrum. Thus: l0:5::x:6"; 5x equals 60"; x equals 12".
It makes no difference what weights, or how many, are hung on one side of the fulcrum, or at what distances. A balance can always be obtained by multi- plying each individual weight by its distance from the fulcrum, adding the total, and then hanging the weights on the other side in such positions that their total of weight multiplied by distance will add up to the same amount.
In mechanics an actual fulcrum or center of rotation is of course necessary. In interior decoration an ideal fulcrum is provided by the normal functioning of the eye. Our eyes are so formed that at a given instant they can see distinctly only the small area upon which they are focused, while everything else lying within the general field of vision is seen more or less indistinctly. Thus when we look at a wall we see clearly but one small part of it. In order to gain a clear impression of the whole wall our eyes must constantly move up and down and from side to side. As a result of these processes of adjustment our eyes tend to fixate the center of the wall, since this position gives us the clearest possible impression of the whole area. Thus when we look at one of the walls in a room the various windows, doors, cabinets, chairs, tables, pictures and other decorative features appearing against the wall are in effect arranged on either side of the center like weights on either side of a fulcrum. Each feature exerts upon the mind an attractive force analogous to the pull of gravity upon the scale, and the total of all the forces upon one side is opposed to the total of all those upon the other. By the law of its nature the mind is bound to attend to the stronger force. It is inclined toward the side of the more powerful stimulus quite as inevitably as the beam is inclined toward the heavier weight. If the total of attractive forces on one side seems greater than the total of those on the other, the mind is conscious of an esthetically unpleasing sense of unrest and strain, akin to that experienced when the body leans from the perpendicular to right or left, or when a weight is borne in one hand while the other remains empty. But when the various features have been so adjusted that the opposing totals seem to be equal in their power of attraction the mind is at ease, and is conscious of an esthetically pleasing sense of equipoise, tranquillity and freedom from effort. It demands, in the furnished room, to be conscious of this balance as between the two sides of each wall with the center of the wall as a fulcrum; between the two sides of the room with the longitudinal axis as a fulcrum; and between the two ends with the transverse axis as a fulcrum.