Strike a Balance

Make different styles work for your end tables.

It's a common dilemma: one sofa with two ends, each needing a table and lamp. Short of taking the easy (and boring) way out by cloning the same furnishings at both ends of the sofa, here's how you can create an eye-pleasing balance.

To shake up your style, pick end pieces that speak to you, then teach them to speak to each other by selecting the right lamps and tabletop accessories -- the real keys to balancing the two ends of the sofa. Strive for the tallest tabletop objects -- probably our lamps -- to reach nearly the same height. So, if one table is lower than the other, a taller lamp will help to balance the opposing arrangement.

Once vertical balance is set with the lamps, focus on balancing the accessories. One solution is symmetrical: an even distribution of objects on either side of the lamp.

Then, spice things up with asymmetrical balance on the other table, as shown on the antique trunk. The skinny iron lamp is placed slighty off center, with the visually weighty accessories to the lamp's right. To prevent too much heaviness on that side, art is mounted on the wall just to the left of the lamp. Even though the arrangement is asymmetrical, it appears balanced because a nearly even amount of negative (empty) space exists on either side of the lamp -- from the top of the plant to the bottom of the wall print on the left, and from the top of the print to the bottom of the lamp shade on the right. When selecting accessories, remember that fewer bold objects make for a gutsier design than several small objects.