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7 Principles of Interior Design

Linda is a seasoned writer and bedroom authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

These design principles will help you with your home.

These design principles will help you with your home.

Principles of Interior Design

Shhh! I am going to divulge the secrets to flawless interior design. Well, they’re not exactly secrets. In fact, they’re part of every interior design curriculum. They’re called the seven principles of interior design. A combination of these key principles is present in all well-designed interior spaces.

If you incorporate each of the principles into your home’s design scheme, you can create a beautiful interior that rivals professionals. Let’s get started!

Each room should act as a unifying part of a whole.

Each room should act as a unifying part of a whole.

1. Unity

Unity, continuity, and harmony are necessary to link all interior spaces. Using various disparate styles throughout a home results in visual interruptions as you travel from one area to another. Each of your interior spaces should work together to create a unified whole.

Use similar design elements to unify your decorating scheme. For instance, painting each room a different color can be jarring. However, if you unify the spaces by using a limited palette of complementary colors, you will create visual flow and harmony.

2. Balance

Balance in interior design refers to the proper distribution of objects in a room to create visual balance.

There are three ways to create balance in a room:

1. Symmetrical balance:

The most common way to accomplish visual equilibrium. To create symmetrical balance on a mantel, place one large object in the center (like a painting) and place matching objects on either side of the mirror. This is a simplistic example, but it illustrates perfect balance.

2. Asymmetrical balance:

This balance will create a more relaxed feel. Let’s use the mantel example again. Instead of matching candlesticks, you can substitute dissimilar objects with similar dimensions to maintain that even distribution of visual weight. Although it takes a bit more effort to achieve, asymmetry will give your room a more casual appearance.

3. Radial balance:

The arrangement of objects around and radiating out from a larger central object. The most familiar example of radial balance is a table positioned in the center of a dining room. The placement of chairs and other furnishings in the room is based on the table as a central focal point.

3. Rhythm

Rhythm in music and rhythm in interior design are similar in nature. Consider the rhythmic beat of a song and repetitive design elements in a room. Your foot taps to the beat, and your eye bounces about a room to take in the design elements. Bring a sense of rhythm and movement to your rooms with color, shape, size, texture, or pattern through repetition, progression, and transition.

There are three types of rhythms to watch for.

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1. Repetition:

This type is straightforward to accomplish; just do so with a light hand. Using pops of orange throughout a room will do the trick. However, be aware that too much repetition in a room can be as annoying as listening to the same techno track every day!

2. Progression:

This is achieved by using a group of like objects that vary in size. A collection of seashells, candles, or even pumpkins, ranging from small to large, are all examples of progression.

3. Transition:

This type is a bit more difficult to describe. It helps guide the eye gently and smoothly from one object or room to another. Arched doorways, windows, and curvaceous furniture are the most common transitional tools in interior design.

Tall bookcases, ceiling beams and a large fireplace improve the scale of this room.

Tall bookcases, ceiling beams and a large fireplace improve the scale of this room.

4. Scale and Proportion

Have you ever been in a large room where the furniture feels dwarfed by the space or a small room where the furniture overpowers the space? If so, you understand the importance of scale. Scale relates to the size of objects within a space.

Proportion, on the other hand, refers to the size of one object to another. For instance, you have a large, overstuffed chair, and next to it, you place a diminutive side table. The proportions of the items are all wrong. A dainty slipper chair with the side table makes much more visual sense.

5. Contrast

Contrast in a room can refer to color, form, and use of space. As with repetition, a little contrast goes a long way.

One of my favorite ways to create contrast is through color. Nothing creates a visual impact quite like using black and white in a room.

Another effective way to add contrast is with forms, such as the use of a large round mirror above a sofa, a round side table, and two square ottomans used as a coffee table. This gives you a contrast of circles and squares.

Contrast also involves positive and negative space in a room. Just as you have areas of positive visual activity, you should also include areas of empty (negative) space to create a contrast in volume. Keep this in mind when arranging the contents of a room.

Don't forget about the details, like trim on pillows.

Don't forget about the details, like trim on pillows.

6. Details

Details in interior design go far beyond the accessories in a room. Think of the details as decorations on a cake. They are the small, subtle touches that can make a huge impact on a room. Things like trim on a pillow, a crystal lamp finial or decorative switch plate, and outlet covers add little touches of personality to your home that bring your design scheme full circle!

7. Emphasis

Emphasis is something we all know about. It simply means that every room or space has a focal point, whether it is an architectural or an object. A fireplace is the most common architectural focal point. Oversized artwork or a large piece of furniture can also be a focal point in a room.

Interior design elements like color, texture, and form are used to add emphasis to a focal point. If you refaced your fireplace with bronze glass tiles, you have used color and texture to create emphasis.

Questions & Answers

Question: When I plan a room design should I incorporate each of the seven principles in one space?

Answer: There are no strict rules in interior design. If you are a great designer you can do just about anything you want in a space. Combine your style and that of your client. No matter how you go about it, be sure to follow each of the underlying seven principles of interior design.

"If you do [interior design] well," says Nesen, "you can do anything" in your space. To find home design nirvana, be sure follow these eight underlying principles.

© 2012 Linda Chechar

Start a Conversation!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 12, 2020:

Vera, glad you like the various interior trends, styles and colors.

Vera on July 12, 2020:

I like so many different styles and looks. I become overwhelmed and confused and end up not making any decisions and don't move forward because don't want make any expensive design mistakes.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 17, 2019:

nusk, so glad you liked this article!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on December 27, 2018:

asim, you don't necessarily have to incorporate all of the principles in a room. However, you should consider each one as you plan the design objective and input from your client.

My name's asim on December 27, 2018:

Hi ... I whant to ask about ...principles

When i want to make a design for a place should i do all this principles this place

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on December 17, 2018:

Ellen, that's true. Even if a professionally styled room has an eclectic appearance there is a sense of balance and harmony among the design elements.

Ellen on December 17, 2018:

In my opinion an interior designer must always ensure that there is a sense of uniformity among all elements of interior designing.

interiordesigningweb on October 24, 2017:

Thanks for sharing !!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 05, 2014:

erorantes, thank you for reading and commenting on this Hub. As you can see, anyone can apply these principles to create a beautiful home. Guess I've uncovered the "secrets" of interior designers! ;)

Ana Maria Orantes from Miami Florida on June 04, 2014:

I like your article miss Lindancee. Thank you for the secrets of design. Your article is fun and entertaining. Thank you for your beautiful work. You are fantastic and creative. I like the pictures.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on December 29, 2013:

Thank you, Asia. Glad you enjoyed these tips!

Asia from Georgia on December 29, 2013:

These tips are extremely helpful. I never knew so much went into interior design. I'm finding my interest in interior design growing by the minute.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on November 04, 2013:

Glad you are inspired by this Hub, Ray! Thanks for reading and voting! :)

Rae Saylor from Australia on November 04, 2013:

Makes me want to learn more about interior design. Thanks for writing this wonderful hub, pal :) Voted up!

carol stanley from Arizona on July 12, 2012:

Thanks for the heads up on this. I am going to wait until fall to paint as it is just too hot now. I am going to attempt it myself. I appreciate your comments.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 12, 2012:

Carol, yes, paint never looks the same on the wall as it does on a paint swatch. It's best to purchase sample sizes and do a test on the wall. That way, you can see how the color looks with your furnishings and can also watch how the color "changes" as the light shifts throughout the day. Best of luck with your project!

carol stanley from Arizona on July 12, 2012:

I look forward to more articles and will be watching. One thing I do know that paint seems to come out darker when you paint than in the can. Anyway again thanks for the interesting and helpful hubs.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 11, 2012:

Carol, that is so true. Paint selection is one of the toughest challenges when decorating. Paint often determines the entire direction of a room. In a few weeks I'll be publishing a Hub about the elements of interior design. When you pair the elements with the design principles, you'll have a complete picture of how everything works together. So happy my Hub was of help to you! Thanks for reading and commenting!

carol stanley from Arizona on July 11, 2012:

Most of us need some help with decorating our homes. You have written a complete and interesting hub. I am in the process of selecting paints for my house. Lots of windows--which makes it tough. I am thinking of different color walls. Picking colors is a challenge. Thanks again for the great article.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 02, 2012:

Design can be taught, however it does help to have the natural ability to create visually pleasing spaces. I am so happy you found this Hub to be of help, rfmoran! Thanks for the comment and votes!

Russ Moran - The Write Stuff from Long Island, New York on July 02, 2012:

Great Hub. Many, myself included, think design is a common sense application of things that you think look good. This Hub shows that there's a science to it. Thank you! This hub is a resource for me. Voted up and useful.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 29, 2012:

Robert, sometimes it takes more time to locate the photos than to write the Hub! I think they work well with the content and help peak the reader's curiosity, just as you said. Good luck with your house. I'll continue adding Hubs about home decorating and interior design. Take care and thanks for stopping by!

Robert Erich from California on June 28, 2012:

These are great principles for design! I love the photos that you have to go along with each category. I know that I will need to keep reading. As my brother and I work to fix and decorate our place, I am running into all kinds of challenges to get our place looking good. Your hubs are certainly a help!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 13, 2012:

So glad you liked this Hub Mhatter99. Thank you for commenting.

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on June 13, 2012:

Thank you for this insightful article. This was one of Arlene's fortes. She was a master of shadows

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 13, 2012:

Thanks Simone! You're absolutely right. These principles work on small- and large-scale decorating projects equally well. Thanks for your comment!

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on June 13, 2012:

Ahaa! I wish I had known these earlier. Just considering each factor can help one make better strategic decisions when decorating a room- even if one is doing something so simple as adding a poster to the wall of a college dorm. Great overview!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 11, 2012:

Leah, it is nice to have this information handy as a reference. I'm so glad I had the chance to share these key interior design principles with everyone! Thanks for your nice comment! Have a great day!

Leah Lefler from Western New York on June 11, 2012:

Oh, I love this, and need to read it again! I am so terrible with interior design and you have the basics laid out so clearly! Great hub, lindacee!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 10, 2012:

randomcreative, even newbies can work miracles when using the design principles! They make for a level playing field. I'm so happy you gained some valuable insight! Thanks for reading and commenting!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 10, 2012:

Thanks, Om! It took some doing to condense the principles into an easy-to-read and understand format. So pleased I was successful! I love the images also, they really helped illustrate my points. And that dining room is to die for!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 10, 2012:

snakeslane, I'm so happy you will keep my secrets! ;) And yes, pet fur certainly counts as a textural element! In my house, I wouldn't have it any other way! Repetitive, but subtle! Thanks for stopping by for a read!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 10, 2012:

CassyLu, I'm a black and white nut myself. And I just went crazy when I found the image of the white pumpkins on the black table!! I can't wait to copy that look this fall. I always enjoy your comments! Thank you for sharing my Hub!

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 10, 2012:

Great job with this topic! I am an amateur with everything related to interior design and learned a lot from this.

Om Paramapoonya on June 10, 2012:

You have perfectly explained the principles of interior design, lindacee. With these 7 principles in mind, anyone can create a beautiful, welcoming home. All the photos in this hub are also very nice. I like that dining room with a big chandelier!

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on June 10, 2012:

Your secrets are safe with me lindacee, nicely done. I do my decorating around four cats, does fur count as a design element? It is repetative :)

CassyLu1981 from Spring Lake, NC on June 10, 2012:

Love the pumpkins on the table :) and the black and white contrasts. I'm a huge fan of black and white! Great tips! Voted up, useful and shared :)

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