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Seven Principles of Interior Design

Updated on June 15, 2012
Try incorporating the seven principles of interior design in your home.
Try incorporating the seven principles of interior design in your home. | Source

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 are present in all well-designed interior spaces.

If you incorporate each of the principles to your home’s design scheme, you can create a beautiful interior that rivals that of the 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. | Source

Unity

Unity, continuity and harmony are necessary to link all interior spaces. Using a variety of 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 complimentary colors, you will create visual flow and harmony.

Symmetrical balance is very pleasing to the eye.
Symmetrical balance is very pleasing to the eye. | Source

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:

Using symmetrical balance is 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.

When employing asymmetrical balance in your home, you 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.

A round dining table is a good example of using radial balance in a room.
A round dining table is a good example of using radial balance in a room. | Source



Radial balance is 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 chairs and other furnishings in the room are based on the table as a central focal point.



Rhythm

Rhythm, in music and 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, transition.

Repeating one color throughout a room creates rhythm.
Repeating one color throughout a room creates rhythm. | Source


Repetition is extremely easy 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 all day, every day!


This pumpkin centerpiece is a perfect example of progression.
This pumpkin centerpiece is a perfect example of progression. | Source


Progression 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.



This arch transitions one space into another.
This arch transitions one space into another. | Source


Transition 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.

The use of black and white in a room creates a pleasing contrast.
The use of black and white in a room creates a pleasing contrast. | Source

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 visual impact quite like using black and white in a room.

Another effective way to add contrast is with form, 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.

The fireplace and mirror collection exemplifies emphasis in a room.
The fireplace and mirror collection exemplifies emphasis in a room. | Source

Emphasis

Emphasis is something we all know about. It simply means that every room or space has a focal point, whether it is 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.


Tall furniture pieces would improve the scale of this room.
Tall furniture pieces would improve the scale of this room. | Source

Scale and Proportion

Have you ever been in a large room in which 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.


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

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 in 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!

© 2012 lindacee

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    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 4 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      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 :)

    • snakeslane profile image

      snakeslane 4 years ago from Canada

      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 :)

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago

      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!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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

    • lindacee profile image
      Author

      lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

      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!

    • lindacee profile image
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      lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

      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!

    • lindacee profile image
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      lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

      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!

    • lindacee profile image
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      lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

      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!

    • leahlefler profile image

      leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      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!

    • lindacee profile image
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      lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

      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!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

      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!

    • lindacee profile image
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      lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

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

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

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

    • lindacee profile image
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      lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

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

    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 4 years ago from California

      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!

    • lindacee profile image
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      lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

      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!

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      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.

    • lindacee profile image
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      lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

      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!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      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.

    • lindacee profile image
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      lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

      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!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      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.

    • lindacee profile image
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      lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

      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!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      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.

    • Rae Saylor profile image

      Rae Saylor 3 years ago from Australia

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

    • lindacee profile image
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      lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona

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

    • Asia Mouzone profile image

      Asia Mouzone 3 years ago from Maryland

      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.

    • lindacee profile image
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      lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona

      Thank you, Asia. Glad you enjoyed these tips!

    • erorantes profile image

      Ana Maria Orantes 2 years ago from Miami Florida

      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.

    • lindacee profile image
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      lindacee 2 years ago from Southern Arizona

      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! ;)

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