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 whether you are starting with a blank slate in a new home. It may seem daunting, but it is really not 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 elements that comprise the tangibles of 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!

Space typically defines design.
Space typically defines design. | Source


Space is a simple element to understand. Space speaks to the physical boundaries of a room. Typically you do not determine the dimensions of a room, you must find a way to use existing space to your advantage.

Space gives you limits of 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 furnishings.

This chaise features a mixture of different textures.
This chaise features a mixture of different textures. | Source


If you have decorated a room, you understand the importance of texture. Everything from fabrics and furniture to decorative accessories bring different textures into a space. 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.

Texture can be used to enhance a room’s features or provide added dimension. In a small, dark room, furnishings with smooth, shiny finishes will impart a reflective quality and give the space a sense of natural light. Conversely, in a bright, large room, rough textures will help balance the excess of natural light.


The element of light can refer to natural or man-made sources. Light goes hand in hand with texture. It is also closely associated with color. Without a light source, color does not exist. Light sets the mood in a room. Subdued lighting imparts a cozy, romantic feel. Rooms bathed in natural light feel airy and cheerful.

Light can completely change the mood of a room.
Light can completely change the mood of a room. | Source

Light also plays a functional role in interior design. It is used to illuminate work and reading areas. Light is also employed to emphasize certain objects in a room, such as pieces of art.


Along with light, color is the key element of interior design. It is used to create aesthetically pleasing combinations and also works on a psychological level. Surely, you have heard that the color red stimulates the appetite. For that very reason, it is often used in dining rooms.

Hungry yet? A red dining room will increase your appetite!
Hungry yet? A red dining room will increase your appetite! | Source

Colors can literally transform a home. A dark, depressing space becomes bright and cheerful by adding bright or light colors. Color can also create specific moods and looks. Using cool and neutral colors convey peace and tranquility. Rich jewel tones make a drab space luxurious and regal. Incorporating reds, oranges and yellows into a sterile, white room add a sense of warmth.

This pattern will definitely liven up a room!
This pattern will definitely liven up a room! | Source


The element of pattern works in conjunction with color. It is used in interior design to add life and interest to the furnishings in a room. It works like texture to provide interest to surfaces. Patterns are created by using repetitive designs in fabrics, rugs, paint techniques and wallpaper. Just think how dull a room would be without pattern!


When discussing line as it applies to interior design, we mean the lines created by the furnishings and architecture of a room. Line sets form and shape. Line is responsible for harmony, contrast and unity in interior design. This element signifies movement and guides the eye throughout a room. Line encompasses both curved and straight planes.

Line can also apply to architectural features.
Line can also apply to architectural features. | Source

Horizontal lines are most often found in furniture such as tables, chair backs, bookshelves and media centers. The play an important role in interior design by balancing vertical lines in a space. Look around your house for examples of vertical lines. They're everywhere. Windows, curtains, doorways, columns and tall furniture pieces all add to the illusion of height in your home.

The dynamic nature of diagonal lines creates drama and movement in room with a staircase or modern fabric patterns. Curved lines are found in furniture, windows and arched doorways. Feminine curves serve to unite and soften horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines in design.

Line in Interior Design and Fashion


The term form is used interchangeably with shape. It is a close relative to line, in that it produces distinct effects by using the principles of interior design. For example, a long dining room table in a rectangular room creates 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 that using many differing forms in one room can result in a confusing and disjointed design.

A perfect example of form.
A perfect example of form. | Source

Weigh In!

Which element of interior design do you feel is most important?

  • 36% Space
  • 27% Color
  • 6% Line
  • 9% Form
  • 3% Texture
  • 17% Light
  • 2% Pattern
710 people have voted in this poll.

© 2012 lindacee

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Start a Conversation! 27 comments

Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 4 years ago from Central Texas

Excellent article -- I've done both residential and commercial design/décor for years and your information is basic and very necessary to the decorating cause -- mostly, getting that point across to one's client and making it definitely understood. Seems color is everyone's bug-a-boo and to me that seems the most simple of all. Super read and thanks! Best/Sis

lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Thank you so much for you kind words, Angela. So glad you enjoyed the article! It was my goal to put these concepts into a concise, easily understandable format. It takes some of the mystery out of the interior design process and makes it accessible to everyone!

krsharp05 profile image

krsharp05 4 years ago from 18th and Vine

When I walk into a space I immediately look for a color source. I think I've decided that I'm a color addict. First step is to admit it right? My house isn't neon pink. It's actually fairly neutral only because I can't commit to designing a room - too scary. Awesome hub. -K

lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

I'm a color junkie too, K. I tend to go more neutral with the walls and large, upholstered pieces (mainly because I can't spend the money to change them all the time) and add color through artwork, pillows and accessories. Is being a colorholic is similar to being a Hubaholic! ;)

krsharp05 profile image

krsharp05 4 years ago from 18th and Vine

It must be because I'm always here! I have to tell you, I love the chaise lounges too! I have two of them in my house! GO HA!

greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia

Useful reading for my son who is now decorating his apartment; will forwad this article to him. I have to add that in his case, another element is budget. So he has been shopping around buying things that are on sale and going to home exhibition to get good deals!

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

All great advice for when you redecorate a home. Space is one area that I struggle with in remodeling our home. It has some odd shaped areas. Thanks for the ideas.

lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Greatstuff, hope this article can help your son with his apartment décor. Yes, budget is definitely an element for many people. He is smart -- shopping for bargains and getting free ideas from the home exhibition! Tell him I wish him luck with his endeavor. I'm sure he's having fun!

lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Teaches, space is always a major sticking point. Either there is too little or too much and the oddly shaped spaces, as in your case. Unfortunately, we have to deal with the space configurations we have and try to be as creative as possible. Hopefully you can conquer your space issues! Take care!

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

I love the way you broke down the seven elements of design - I don't have an eye for interior design, but this really helps me understand how the elements come together to create a beautiful, cohesive layout!

lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Leah, if you tackle each of the elements separately, you can put together a great looking room over time. It's just like putting the pieces of a puzzle together! :)

watergeek profile image

watergeek 4 years ago

I discovered, when moving into my current apartment, that I love the color combination of red and green. It's both restful and vibrant, which gives me a great sense of security, for some reason. Interesting hub, lindacee.

meloncauli profile image

meloncauli 4 years ago from UK

As ever Linda, a wonderful hub. I am a neutral person too, a minimalist. All my colour is in the accessories to the room usually.

lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Watergeek, interior paint color combinations bring out interesting moods and feelings. Color is the most important interior design element, IMO. So pleased you enjoyed this Hub. Thank you for reading! :)

lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Meloncauli, so nice to hear from you! Using neutrals as the basis for a room gives you a great deal of latitude. You can easily introduce other colors through accessories. It is also less expensive to change a color scheme. Thanks for reading! Take care.

alifeofdesign profile image

alifeofdesign 4 years ago from New Hamphire

I enjoyed your hub, lindacee-thank you. I've worked in several design fields and always enjoy reading what others have to say. You've outlined the basics very well and in a way, I think, that won't scare people away. I think that many people shy away from formulated their own home designs simply because they doubt themselves. I hope that you have provided a few with a little inspiration to give it a try.

Best Regards,

lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Thanks, alifeofdesign! I like to try to keep things simple to inspire more people to trust their individual design styles. You're exactly right. I do think people are intimated by design until they become familiar with the basic concepts -- then they can have fun with it. Thanks for your comment!

JanMaklak profile image

JanMaklak 3 years ago from Canada

Wow! This will come in handy as my wife and I redecorate our house. I'll be checking bacl for more !

lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

JanMaklak, how exciting it is to redecorate! Do feel free to stop in for more tips and advice. Good luck with your home décor projects! :)

Beltane73 profile image

Beltane73 3 years ago from South Jersey

I was looking for something like this! Thanks for the article.

lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

You are so welcome Beltane73! Hope the information helps! :)

myplacesg profile image

myplacesg 3 years ago from Singapore

This is amazing, i would like to share some of your pointers with my readers.

lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Thanks myplacesg, glad you enjoyed this look into the elements of interior design. Feel free to share these concepts. I would appreciate attribution if you use actual excerpts from my article. :)

Tamara14 profile image

Tamara14 2 years ago from Zagreb, Croatia, Europe

This was very nice read, thank you. I always try to follow that old rule "less is more" but I guess colors are what really makes me like or dislike any interior. I don't like too much white on the wall and I like floors to be a bit darker, especially wooden. Etc, etc, etc... :)

lindacee profile image

lindacee 2 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Tamara14, so happy you enjoyed this Hub. "Less is more" is actually a good rule to follow when decorating a room--that way you can add furnishings/accents gradually until you strike the perfect balance. Colors definitely affect one's mood and can evoke strong feelings one way or another as to the overall beauty of a space. Color is the most subjective design element. What appeals to one person, might be totally revolting to another! :)

Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 12 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Linda, this was a real interesting hub to know the 7 elements of interior design. It's so useful and filled with knowledge to do it at home. Great hub!

lindacee profile image

lindacee 12 months ago from Southern Arizona Author

Thank you, Kristen. There's a lot more to interior design than meets the eye. Glad you enjoyed the Hub!

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