The 7 principles of interior design can be accomplished by applying design elements creating an overall look you or your client wanted. They are base and foundation of interior design and you should be aware of them threw your process.
As interior designers, we have become extremely adept in the application of both the principles and the elements of design to projects both commercial and residential for created spaces interesting enough to be notable.
We try to create spaces that help reinforce your corporate message, theme or even your brand. Spaces that tell other people who you are.
In this extensive post, we will learn about principles. 7 interior design principles are:
- Scale and proportion
- Harmony and unity
Each principle is a really important step in your overall design and you should be aware and think about them threw your design process. I will show you how to manage them step by step. Let’s go and describe them in detail.
- 1 1. Balance
- 2 Radial Balance
- 3 Asymmetrical Balance
- 4 Symmetrical Balance
- 5 2. Emphasis
- 6 Emphasis Through Design Elements
- 7 Emphasis Through Placement
- 8 3. Contrast
- 9 Creating Contrast Using Shapes
- 10 Creating Contrast Through Mixing And Matching
- 11 Creating Contrast With Texture
- 12 Creating Contrast With Color
- 13 4. Rhythm
- 14 5. Scale And Proportion
- 15 What is Scale
- 16 What is the Proportion
- 17 Golden ratio in interior design
- 18 6. Details
- 19 Small Details Matter
- 20 Details Enhance Interiors
- 21 Harmony And Unity
- 22 Unity
- 23 Harmony
Among all the principles of interior design, the first to be discussed is going to be balance. Every designer no matter what field they are in understands how important balance is. It is all about the visual weight of your space and how to divide it between two sides.
One quick lesson people learn from the time they are very young is that things tend to go sideways or awry when there is no balance present. Whether it is stacking blocks of wood a mile high, riding your bike, knowing when to enjoy leisure time, when to take a break or when to work hard. This all has to do with balance. It is life-constant. But how can the concept be translated into interior design?
When things are balanced, everything feels right. Some designers even believe that it is everything in design so if you mess it up, all others steps fall Apart.
When you check what balance means, the dictionary says an evenly distributed weight that enables something or someone to remain steady and upright. In interior design, this means evenly distributing elements to create balance visually. It can be created through the introduction of different forms, colors or textures or creating literal space symmetry.
We know the radial, symmetrical and asymmetrical type of balance. Deciding which type to choose, can have a huge effect on the perception of your client within the space. Make the right first impression by creating the right amount of balance in every room.
Radial balance is the least used or described publicly of above mentioned types. It’s Mostly associated with stairs, round dining table or chandelier around which we try to create a balanced space. The first impression should be that every other element seems to radiate in circular symmetry around focal point.
Radial balance, just as its name suggests, is almost a circle. Items are distributed and arranged around central point either extending inwards or outwards. If you wish to put the focus on a specific central item, apply it to direct attention inwards.
I would say the most popular type of Balance mainly for those modern designed spaces. To achieve asymmetrical balance, any elements in odd numbers can be utilized by keeping the focal point in an imaginary central axis.
Through this type of balance is not as easy to achieve in comparison to symmetrical, the output is more energetic and natural when you compare this to the symmetrical version.
There is a strong relationship between an object’s visual weight and asymmetrical balance. Instead of repeating the same items within one interior space to achieve balance, in asymmetrical balance we do the opposite.
We use different elements with similar weights on the opposite axis. Complex shapes, for example, leave people feeling heavy. This is why they are used commonly to achieve asymmetrical balance. Interiors tend to feel less rigid and dynamic because spaces such as these have various objects that work together creating balance. It requires a truly good eye for design.
This type is not hard to achieve and mostly used in traditional focused designs. Also, it is very common in square type rooms. If your room Is narrow, think about choosing asymmetrical type.
To achieve the symmetrical balance we need to:
- divide space into two equal halves going on an imaginary axis threw the center.
- Each half is compensated equally as the other half. This gives a living space a calm feeling.
- After repeat items or mirror them along an axis centrally to achieve symmetry.
This balance type is seen frequently in nature, including our human bodies. It portrays a feeling of dignity, calmness, and stability. Symmetrical balance can also sometimes be perceived as unimaginative, dull and static. You can achieve it through the application of color, the way you arrange millwork, fixtures, furniture and the way you use patterns.
Need more help, see step by step instructions and some examples of usage? Read more about Balance here.
Emphasis together with Balance forms two most important principles we need to learn about. The concept of emphasis as an interior design principle states that a central piece of furniture or art needs to play roles of grabbing attention. One of our first tasks is to choose our focal point and after start Balancing and applying all other principles.
Each interior design element including texture, form, pattern, and color helps to emphasize specific focus points. Elements need to be utilized in a method in which there is the dominance of the focal point. The rest of the items of decor needs to be dominated by this point. They must also share contrasts so that the top priority of overall space and focus becomes the focal point itself.
You can even emphasize two areas of design to create interest and drama within a space while creating a great first impression. The importance of first impressions cannot be emphasized enough. It is important in a successful business and essential to ensure that your brand’s message, product, theme, belief or personality shines through.
Emphasis Through Design Elements
You can use two elements of design to create emphasis. Light and color are two quick and easy methods of doing this. Use a bright or contrasting hue plus some focused lighting to spotlight your important item to get its deserved attention.
You can also use direction using lines, smaller-scale items or introduce newe textures around your point of focus to make it stand out with emphasis. You need to create a visual impact by contrasting items around your point of focus. This way, it will shine out against the background. This is perfect for creating a focal point in restaurant interiors, a spa, office, or retail shop.
Emphasis Through Placement
The way you position your intended point of focus within an interior space is one very important consideration. In linear rooms, for example, such as the wall at the very end of a hallway, or a central feature area will have the most emphasis and impact.
If you create rhythm by repeating design elements within an interior space, you can create emphasis by causing interruption to the regularity right down the central point to bring the focus to the one item that is unlike all the others. This is emphasis via placement.
I wrote a larger blog post with examples about the emphasis in interior design. Feel free to read it.
After we decided about the type of Balance and our focal point of the room, we should think about Contrast and how to make your space interesting.
The contrast in interior design has to do with the difference of the color or luminance of objects differentiating them from each other.
It is achievable using three elements. These are space, form, and color. One can use prints or pillows of two colors opposite such as white or black to achieve contrast and create a distinguishable object.
You can also achieve it through the combination of more than one form. For example, combine a rectangular sofa to a circle mirror to distribute and balance the attention between both of the items.
There is nothing quite as important as the first impression made by a room. There are spaces that when you first look at them, make you catch your breath due to its amazingly striking visual impact. At the same time, every element fits together. Other spaces, on the other hand, not as well-designed, tend to fall flat and leave no impact.
The secret ingredient creating a great first impression is in most cases contrast. When you use it correctly, this foundational principle of design can add huge doses of visual interest to your interior design while pulling it together simultaneously.
There are a few different ways to create contrast. Let’s learn them.
Creating Contrast Using Shapes
Form and shape are great methods of adding contrast to spaces. It is not that hard to see the difference between rounded, smooth edges and angled sharp corners. These kinds of contrast are seen most often with home furnishings. However, it can also be utilized with various types of wall art or even accessories such as mirrors.
Some styles of design are going to work together much better when compared to others. You might to try out various shapes and play around with Scandinavian shapes, mid-century modern shapes or geometric shapes.
No matter what the outcome is of your designed space, the contrast will add impact and a great first impression every time.
Creating Contrast Through Mixing And Matching
Mixing and matching is a quick, easy method of creating contrast. Inherently, every design is going to include various materials due to the elements of design you combined together to achieve the final appearance.
To create contrast, purposefully mix and match items that feel opposite of each other. This refers to what product or material the objects are made of and how the products look. Think of mixing natural stone and wood for furniture and putting these against steel and chrome. You can also use fabrics such as using a simple solid color and then mixing and matching this with patterned items.
Creating Contrast With Texture
The importance of texture cannot be stressed enough. In interior design, the concept of texture refers to the perception of the way elements of design feel.
For example, start imagining how it feels to run your hand over a bumpy, cool backsplash versus a table’ smooth top. It is the perception of texture in interiors that matters.
When you put two textures that contrast together, this adds weight to space, visually. This means that the design components will be able to draw the eyes in more quickly. When you use two textures that contrast, such as rough and smooth, this works best.
Creating Contrast With Color
Using color to create contrast is most likely the easiest and the most obvious method of creating.
Give all your rooms a complementary color scheme, using two opposing shades on each end of the color wheel creates the most striking impact.
For example, red and green, violet and orange, and the like. Black or white, of course, will always be in style as this is a classic combination that truly stands out.
If the style you want to achieve is more colorful, you can also use combinations of colors such as yellow and purple or orange and blue.
Remember that in the principles of interior design, within very space, one color ought to dominate while the other accentuates it. Consider using a single shade for every wall while the other shade is used for the accessories, furniture, and textiles.
To tone everything down, all you need to do is to add in extra neutrals.
A neutral color will give your eyes a visual spot to rest while providing a soothing backdrop for your color contrasts to start popping out.
You can read more about the contrast in my post dedicated only to this principle.
We came to the fourth important interior design principle called Rhythm. We think about Contrast, Rhythm and Scale more or less at the same time when searching for perfect blend or combination to achieve Balance and at the and overall Harmony we are all looking for. All principles are tightly connected together forming your upcoming recipe to success.
You are most likely used to hearing the word rhythm when the subject of music comes up. In music, rhythm is the thread who ties all the choruses, bridges and stanzas together in a song. In interior design, however, rhythm works in a similar method.
You may not have noticed it in the past but it is a pattern that is subtle and ties all of your interior design principles together. Most people have the belief that the secret “design sauce” is rhythm. This is the principle that gives an extra hint of polish to top-end interiors.
It is utilized to help the eye move around within a space in an organized thought and manner. Rhythm also plays a huge role in the way people perceive your interior, both in terms of whether or not it is pleasing aesthetically and in terms of functionality.
You can use five main techniques to encourage rhythm and the flow of movements within your rooms.
- Contrast – putting elements of the design directly opposite the other will create contrast. It causes the eyes to move back and forth between the two design elements. Create it with opposing sides of the color wheel or you can also mix and match materials. Metal and wood would be a great example.
- Transition – this allows elements of design such as shapes to move the eyes in a flow that is uninterrupted from one focal spot in the room to another spot. Walkways that are delineated are great examples of transition in rhythm. You create a path so people can follow it and navigate better in a particular space.
- Gradation – this is a progression in a step-by-step sense to move the eye from one end of the room to the other portion of the room. One example of gradation is stars. Their shapes seamlessly let your eyes move from one end of the sky to another. Progression from light colors to dark is another way to achieve gradation.
- Radiation – this is when many different elements of design come together to form a balance of rotation around an object in the center. You can see radiation in round dining tables. Radiation is found in sitting areas where there are furniture pieces arranged around a central focal point.
- Repetition – best for less and my favorite way of applying rhythm is through the repetition of a pattern continuously through spaces to create a sense of stability. You can create it with the use od the same textile patterns, architectural features or repeating objects, lights or shapes through your design space.
It is one thing to understand what each technique means. However, it is another thing to comprehend how to appropriately use them.
You should not use all fo the different techniques in one project all at the same time. Simply incorporate one or two techniques throughout various design components which can help unify the spaces visually.
Read and learn more in-depth about rhythm in interior design threw my blog post describing only this subject.
5. Scale And Proportion
Most interior designers understand that scale and proportion in interior design are important. It is a very important part of the principles of interior design. Let’s see what is the difference between them:
What is Scale
Scale refers to one object’s size concerning another. Specifically, the concept of scale is used when one object’s size is known for certain. Few examples are:
- the standard wall heights
- height of a table and chair
- how many meters a bathroom or shower should be so as not feeling too cramped.
What is the Proportion
Proportion refers to the general size relationship between two different objects. When designers refer to proportion, they are trying to describe the way objects relate to each other in a room.
Example: coffee table needs to be two-thirds as long as the couch it is used with.
Golden ratio in interior design
When it comes to scale and proportion, you will most likely hear about the 1.618 golden ratios. Nature seems to repeat this ratio to create perfection. The golden ratio is essential in describing human body proportions as well. It can be found in various design arenas. Objects that contain this ratio are thought to be more pleasing aesthetically, more beautiful and perfect.
Successful interiors love to use golden ratio as well
The layout of a room can apply this ratio with success. Designers divide rooms into two halves. One that takes up one-third of the space and the other half taking two-thirds of a space. The smaller section is for secondary use, such as storage or alternative seating. The bigger section contains the main furniture of the room, making it clear what the room’s primary function is.
There are subtle ways this ration can be seen. When you select a palette of colors for a room, you can do this much easier when you think about the shades being separated by a 1;618 ratio on the light spectrum. These colors will tend to work together perfectly.
Learn more about Scale and proportion in my extended blog post.
Interior designing has to do with careful selection of the colors, fabrics, materials, styles, and products used for room decor. When decorating or designing, paying attention to the details is very important. Naturally, furniture and color play the biggest role but it is the smallest details that make a distinctive difference between a fun, bright home and a boring home.
Small Details Matter
Small details complete a room. For example, the floor’s color or texture or the way the wallpaper pattern matches furnishings. When you find yourself redecorating and furnishing a house but something feels like it is missing, this might be the time to add in the small details.
Try not to have to many different colors present in your upcoming design palette planned for your room. Less is more.
Details Enhance Interiors
Designing interiors has to do with the science and art of enhancing a space using every element of design, including the details. Creating a pleasant environment for people to use spaces is what it is all about. Interior designers need to manage, coordinate, research and plan details to execute the design they have in mind. Details help create functional spaces within buildings depending on what the interior space is to be used for. Decorative elements adorn a space, such as:
- Wood carved front doors matching wood carved furniture
- The fleur-de-lys print on the carpet matching the throw pillows
- A pair of bedside tables that match the headboard
- A mahogany banister and staircase which ends with an oversized crystal chandelier at the grand entrance of your home
- a light gray carpet covered with a faux fur mink rug that matches the fur throw pillows
This is just a few examples. All in all, with them your room will look finished, complete and functional at the same time. Read more about details in my other blog post.
Harmony And Unity
We can say after completing 6 principles of interior design, we are near the finish line. We made sure there is the right amount of balance, contrast, rhythm, scale, and details present around our focal point. Our designed space looks almost perfect and we just need to incorporate one more very important principle. It is called Harmony and Unity.
They sound very similar but actually each plays a different role in the way you will experience finished space.
Unity is when similar elements are combined together. You can feel they Just fit together. After creating Unity you will in most cases feel there is something missing. Achieving all 7 principles of interior design can be hard. We need to have great sense and eye for design to master last one called Harmony.
Harmony is when things seem to belong together. It has to do with sameness. Design repetition such as form, shape, texture, color is the best method of achieving harmony to create compositions. Harmonious space seems to contain everything that works together perfectly. Everything feels right. The end result is pleasant with everything exactly where it should be.
Not everybody knows how to achieve Harmony. I would say 90% of design skill can be thought but with 10% of which majority is Harmony, you were born with.
Harmony and unity create cohesion which helps people recognize patterns. The human brain categorizes details that repeat and rapidly recognize similar objects. If design elements don’t exist, there won’t be tranquility or cohesion.
Cohesion is important due to the fact that it makes a room easy to take in, visually. You know the feeling of walking into a room with no cohesion and it feels like it is too much to handle? Your eyes and brain feel like they hurt if it is not present. It can only be achieved with harmony and unity.