Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

How it is Meant to Be: Symmetry vs Asymmetry

As I was growing up, I learned asymmetry. I learned rules like “you never put even numbers together, you use three items here and one here” and that you vary items in height. I am guessing it is semi-cultural; there is a lot of Scandinavian influence in my background, and a lot of Japanese influence on the west coast of the USA, where I was raised.

My housekeeper didn’t have my Mom, or my upbringing. I am the boss and she is the housekeeper, right? Shouldn’t I be getting my way?

It’s not like these things are right or wrong, it is a question of style and what seems right to you – and a lot of that is cultural.

When I lived in Africa, my housekeepers would say “it wants to be here” or “it is meant to be there” and at first I laughed, and then somehow the ‘wants to be’ crept into my way of thinking. How can an object WANT to be somewhere? On the other hand, you place it and all of a sudden you know that’s where it ‘wants’ to be.

My current housekeeper likes symmetry. I carefully place objects; she dusts and she puts them where they tell her they want to be. I can tell in a heartbeat when something has been moved; it just doesn’t look right. I can change it back, but it will go back to being symmetrical within a week.


Most of the time, I just let it go. When you have a housekeeper who really cares about her job – and mine has helped me out many times with good ideas for how something can be done better – I just let it go. If I have people coming over and it really matters to me where things are, I can change it for that one occasion if it is really important to me, otherwise – I just accept that placement is a battle I am not going to win. And I really, really like my current housekeeper, so I will let her be the boss of placement.

What about you? Are you a symmetrical or an asymmetrical?

September 18, 2009 - Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Living Conditions


  1. OK, I admit to being pretty symmetrical, but not mirror-image symmetrical like your picture. I have to have things balance. It is something I fight a lot in my quilting.

    Comment by momcat | September 18, 2009 | Reply

  2. I’m very anal about where I put things; they HAVE to be symmetrical. Unfortunately, our maids adore asymmetry. It just looks wrong and unbalanced to me:s I have, on many occasions, actually gotten out of bed to move frames two inches to the left so they look just right!

    Comment by dandoon | September 18, 2009 | Reply

  3. It depends, I guess. Change is good, so I tend to experiment. I love your furniture though. The symmetry works perfectly there.

    Comment by F. | September 18, 2009 | Reply

  4. I am a certified symmetrical asymmetrical, and I like my things to be that way, thank you very much!

    Comment by I Know That Voice | September 18, 2009 | Reply

  5. I like your picture!
    I am symmetrical, but it is very fashionable in the Netherlands to have everything paired, so not a candlestick left and one right, but both next to each other on the left side…

    Comment by Aafke | September 18, 2009 | Reply

  6. I tend to fall in with F. – it depends. I also agree with them that symmetry works in the situation in the photo primarily because of the major piece of furniture – look how symmetrical the piece itself is.

    I think the key to both is balance which may be obtained through both symmetry and asymmetry.

    I thought I had seen a post here about the kitchen “triangle” layout but don’t find it on searching. The essence is the triangle provides balance as well as efficiency.

    And, understanding the balance is the essence of the art of feng shui…achievement of harmony.

    And that’s the feeling I get from your photo – warm tones and balance that reflect your peace and harmony!

    Comment by bitjockey | September 18, 2009 | Reply

  7. Haha! I’ve tried to fight (and have admitted defeat) that same battle with the gardener. Lots of pots lined up against the walls….arrayed from largest to smallest 🙂

    Comment by grammy | September 19, 2009 | Reply

  8. I thought I had put in a disclaimer about that not being my house or furniture, but I can see now that I didn’t. I just used the photo as an illustration; it is not mine. I find symmetry too formal, too confining, but I love the soothing effect it gives.

    I Know that Voice – I KNOW that voice! 🙂 happy to see you. hope all is well with you.

    Comment by intlxpatr | September 19, 2009 | Reply

  9. LOL Grammy, I have just given up!

    Comment by intlxpatr | September 19, 2009 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: