The Seven Elements of Interior Design
We have all been faced with the frustrations of interior design. Whether you decide you want to go in a new direction using existing furnishings or are starting with a blank slate in a new home, there will always be roadblocks to your vision. Interior design may seem daunting, but in reality, it is really not all that complicated. When you break interior design down to its basic components, the process becomes much easier.
Along with the seven principles of interior design, there are seven design elements that must work together synergistically to comprise a visually pleasing room. If you use these design elements as a guide for decorating your home, the results will be nothing short of spectacular!
What Are the 7 Elements of Interior Design?
Space is a simple design element to understand—it refers to the physical boundaries of a room. Unless you are an architect, you do not typically get to choose the dimensions of the room you are designing, so you must find a way to use the area's existing space and layout to your advantage.
Space provides you with limits on how much you can place in a room. If your room is small, don’t overcrowd it with furniture and accessories. If your room is large, don’t skimp on the furnishings.
The element of texture is defined as “the feel, appearance, or consistency of a surface.” It can refer to rough or smooth finishes, glossy or dull surfaces, and soft or coarse textiles. If you have decorated a room, you understand the importance of texture. Everything from fabrics and furniture to decorative accessories brings different textures into a space.
Texture can be used to enhance a room’s existing features or provide added dimension to a space. In a small, dark room, furnishings with smooth, shiny finishes can impart a reflective quality and give the space a sense of natural light. Conversely, in a large, bright room, rough textures can help balance an excess of natural light.
The element of light refers to both natural and man-made light sources. Light goes hand in hand with texture and is also closely associated with color—without a light source, color cannot exist. Light helps to set the mood in a room. Subdued lighting usually imparts a cozy, romantic feel. Rooms that are bathed in natural light, on the other hand, tend to feel airy and cheerful.
Light also plays a functional role in interior design. Light can illuminate working, dining, and reading areas or be used to emphasize certain objects in a room like paintings, sculptures, or other pieces of art.
Color, along with light, is considered by many to be one of the key elements of interior design. It is used to create aesthetically pleasing combinations and also works on a psychological level. You have probably heard that the color red stimulates the appetite. For that very reason, it is often used in dining rooms.
Colors can literally transform a home. A dark, depressing space can become bright and cheerful with a simple color overhaul. Color can also create specific moods and looks. Using cool and neutral colors can convey peace and tranquility. Rich jewel tones can make a drab space feel luxurious and regal. Incorporating reds, oranges, and yellows into a sterile, white room can add a sense of warmth and comfortability.
As a design element, pattern often works in conjunction with color. It is used in interiors to add life and interest to a room's furnishings. Like texture, pattern can be used to endow surfaces with additional dimension.
Pattern is typically created by using repetitive designs in fabrics, rugs, tiles, painting techniques, and wallpapers. Just think about how dull a room would be without pattern!
Line, as it pertains to interior design, refers to the "lines" created by the furnishings and architecture of a room. The lines in a room provide it with form and shape. Line is responsible for harmony, contrast, and unity in interior design. It signifies movement and guides the eye through a room.
Line refers to the boundaries of both straight and curved surfaces. The dynamic nature of diagonal lines creates drama and movement in rooms with staircases or modern fabric patterns. Curved lines can be found in furniture, windows, and arched doorways. Feminine curves often serve to unite and soften horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines in room design.
Horizontal lines are most often found in furniture such as tables, chair backs, bookshelves, and media centers. They play an important role in interior design by balancing the vertical lines that exist in most spaces. Look around your house for examples of vertical lines and you'll find that they're everywhere. Windows, curtains, doorways, columns, and tall furniture pieces all add to the illusion of height in your home.
Line in Interior Design and Fashion
The term form is often used interchangeably with the term shape in interior design. It is a close relative to line in that it can be used to produce distinct feelings and effects when applied according to the principles of interior design.
A long dining room table placed in a rectangular room can create a sense of harmony. Add a series of round pendant fixtures above the table and you have achieved contrast and a sense of balance. Be advised, however, that using many different forms in one room can result in a confusing and disjointed design.
Which element of interior design do you feel is most important?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
In my dining room the popcorn ceiling is the shape of an octagon. The metal chandelier is a dark grey linen. I want to paint the ceiling but unsure as to color. Instead of hiding this area I want it to pop and showcase the chandelier. What do I do?
It would be a good idea to remove the popcorn ceiling before you decide which color to paint. Use a bright white paint that will highlight the chandelier and make it pop against the smooth ceiling.Helpful 2
I recently moved into an apartment. While most of my existing furniture works, I am finding that the strong architectural elements of this new place are challenging to work with. What principles of design will help me navigate working with or even recognizing the strongest elements in each room?
© 2012 Linda Chechar