Don’t you just love a well-designed home? For some, an eye for design comes naturally. Even with minimal to no formal interior design training, these folks can put an incredible home together like a breeze.
For most people, however, a keen eye for design isn’t a natural gift and learning the ins-and-outs of interior design isn’t so simple. The good news is that no matter your skill or natural talent, there are certain basic design principles everyone can learn and follow.
With that said, the first thing you’ll need to do is select the style you want for the interior of your home. It can be as simple as deciding whether you want your home to have a formal feel or a cozier, more informal feel. From there, you can then decide on a more specific style like Tuscan, Mediterranean, rustic farmhouse – whatever appeals to your personality and preferences.
Once you decide on a specific style to aim for, you’ll then take into consideration the following basic design principles for a well-designed home:
Balance can best be described as the visual weight of a room. Balancing a room can be executed by using shape, pattern, texture, color, or size in particular ways.
Traditionally, there are three different types of balance in interior design:
Symmetrically designed rooms are likely what you envision when you think of “balance,” especially if you’re a design novice. Symmetry is usually achieved by using objects so that they’re repeated in the same positions on either side of a vertical axis. For example, placing identical table lamps on identical end-tables on either side of a bed is a common use of symmetry.
Although you may feel inclined to use a great deal of symmetry when balancing a space, keep in mind that this principle is commonly used in more formal, traditionally-decorated homes.
This principle is now more commonly utilized in trendier, more modern homes and spaces. Asymmetry can be done well when different objects are used in such a way that they have equal visual weight and suggest movement.
Although asymmetry feels more casual and natural, it’s much harder to actually execute. You can take a look at this resource for tips on how to do it well.
This type of balance is less common but can be rather stunning when achieved. Essentially, radial balance is executed when a focal point is placed in the center of a room and the remainder of the room’s design elements are based on that central piece.
Radial balance is often seen in very large foyers where a round table is placed directly in the center (with some sort of visual element like a vase of flowers placed upon it). You can also find radial balance in dining rooms and sometimes living areas.
The rhythm of a room involves how the elements within it “move” together. Rhythm can be created with patterns, color, structure, size, or texture. The proper use of this principle will create excitement and interest within a space.
Traditionally, there are three types of rhythm you can use in your interior design:
Repetition is the repeated use of a particular design element or structure. An example of repetition is pictured above. Repetition is apparent in the wooden beams, in the lighting fixtures, and in the placement of the windows. You can also see it in the pattern of the runner on the floor.
Alternation is the method of creating rhythm by alternating two or more elements in a particular pattern. As an example, imagine a long dining room table. Then imagine placing these objects along its center in the following order: two candles, a vase of flowers, two candles, a vase of flowers, two candles, a vase of flowers. This is similar to repetition, only a little more complicated.
Progression is executed when you take a particular element and then increase or decrease one if its qualities. One of the most common way progression is used is by size. For example, you might see this principle in practice when placing several similar pieces of art on a wall in order from smallest to largest.
Harmony is a design principle that creates a sense of peace within a room. This can be achieved many different ways, but most commonly is done through the use of color. Often, designers will choose one color and imbue a room with different shades of that color with through its patterns, objects, and other elements. Above, harmony is created through the use of the powdery blue color. You can see the color in the pillows, a throw, and even in some of the elements within the cabinet.
Harmony can also be achieved throughout the totality of the home. This can be done by using a color palette for the whole house. You can also use complementary colors for rooms that are adjacent to one another. Utilizing harmony will ensure the eye flows easily throughout the room and when moving from one room to another.
A very important tenet of interior design is the use of a focal point within each room. Without one, a room can feel jumbled, disorganized, and its layout just won’t make sense. Many rooms have a built-in focal point. Sometimes it’s one grand window, a fireplace mantel, or an interesting rise in a ceiling.
Other times, you’ll need to create a point of interest to serve as the focal point. You can group pieces of furniture together to create a seating area, or place a larger, unusual piece in a particular area.
With that said, be careful when creating a focal point. Balance is important, here – you don’t want to overwhelm the space.
Scale and Proportion
Scale and proportion refer to the ratio between the size and shape of one element to another and the way they relate to each other in a space. Although you may not realize it, scale and proportion have a lot to do with how warm and inviting a room can feel (along with harmony, that is).
Although related, there are slight differences between scale and proportion:
Scale refers to the size of one object and the way it relates to another or to the space in which it is placed.
Proportion refers to the shape of an element and the way it related to the rest of the room.
This may seem like common sense, but in general, larger rooms can accommodate larger items. Likewise, smaller rooms should contain smaller, more petite objects. You’ll also want to watch how you place items next to one another. A teensy, tiny end table just won’t look right next to a huge, king-sized bed.
Contrast in interior design is the practice of putting two elements in opposition to one another. There are many ways this can be executed, but a common way is by the use of color. Above, contrast is apparent between the darker, wooden aspects of the room against the clean, white walls.
Contrast can also be created through the use of size, shape, and general style (modern farmhouse ring a bell?).
Perhaps the most important principle of all…
…Is to simply follow your own tastes and preferences. All design “rules” can be broken under the right circumstances (you can read about some of our favorite rules to break here). While we all want to create a home interior that stuns guests, the most important person to please is – you guessed it – you.
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