I just watched East of Eden this weekend, the c. 1955 Hollywood interpretation of a portion of Steinbeck's classic, which recalls Cain and Abel -- with James Dean as Cal (Cain) and someone else as Aaron (Abel). They're brothers vying for their father's affection. Well, Cal thinks their vying, when, truly, Aaron has already, long ago, handily won. Aaron has it all: confidence, good looks, a solid reputation, a balanced ease, support of the establishment. Poor Cal is the seeming opposite of Aaron, in all respects save the looks department. You might (if you're a House Enthusiast) even compare their attributes to those of symmetry and asymmetry.
What is it with symmetry, so sure of itself, so solid, so relentless, so balanced, so attractive, so established, so lauded, so trusted, so good, so Aaron? This Georgian could be the poster child for symmetry. It's a self-assured delight. How we enjoy the parade of double-hung windows and the march of stone treads, railing, and balustrade emanating out equally from the center of the door and pediment. What pleasure we take from the repeated shadows cast by the matching sconces, thick sills, and proud window heads. How comfortable we are with a countenance that's symmetrical like our own.
But fear not, asymmetry has its strengths, too. It's the underdog, less established, less trusted. But it, too, can posses its own unique kind of balance. It can be less relentless and more open as a result. It can win your trust. And it can be uniquely attractive; take a look at Cal (James Dean); he's redeemed in the end. He just needs someone to believe in him. I'll keep my eyes peeled for a worthy asymmetrical "Design snapshot" to share, if only for Cal's sake.
by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast