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7 Most Important Interior Design Principles

At the end of this article you’ll be able to recognize and use the basic interior design principles used by every interior designer to create a great design, and who knows maybe you’ll also save some money, or start a new career ! Now let’s begin with the beginning, and undestand what interior design is …

Interior design is the process of shaping the experience of interior space, through the manipulation of spatial volume as well as surface treatment. Not to be confused with interior decoration, interior design draws on aspects of environmental psychology, architecture, and product design in addition to traditional decoration.

An interior designer is a person who is considered a professional in the field of interior design or one who designs interiors as part of their job. Interior design is a creative practice that analyzes programmatic information, establishes a conceptual direction, refines the design direction, and produces graphic communication and construction documents. In some jurisdictions, interior designers must be licensed to practice.” – Source :Wikipedia

Now that you have an idea about interior design, we can move forward and learn something really useful, the principles of interior design. Let’s begin !

unity 7 Most Important Interior Design Principles

When doing interior design it is necessary to think of the house as a totality; a series of spaces linked together by halls and stairways. It is therefore appropriate that a common style and theme runs throughout. This is not to say that all interior design elements should be the same but they should work together and complement each other to strengthen the whole composition. A way to create this theme or storyline is with the well considered use of color. Color schemes in general are a great way to unify a collection of spaces. For example, you might pick three or four colors and use them in varying shades thoughout the house.

balance 7 Most Important Interior Design Principles

In a short sentence for those who just scan this article balance can be described as the equal distribution of visual weight in a room. There are three styles of balance: symmetrical, asymmetrical, and radial.

Symmetrical balance is usually found in traditional interiors. Symmetrical balance is characterized by the same objects repeated in the same positions on either side of a vertical axis, for example you might remember old rooms where on each side of a room is an exact mirror of the other. This symmetry also reflects the human form, so we are inately comfortable in a balanced setting.

Asymmetrical balance is more appropriate in design in these days. Balance is achieved with some dissimilar objects that have equal visual weight or eye attraction. Assymetrical balance is more casual and less contrived in feeling, but more difficult to achieve. Asymmetry suggests movement, and leads to more lively interiors.

Radial symmetry is when all the elements of a design are arrayed around a center point. A spiral staircase is also an excellent example of radial balance. Though not often employed in interiors, it can provide an interesting counterpoint if used appropriately.

focal point 7 Most Important Interior Design Principles

Interior design’s biggest enemy is boredom. A well-designed room always has, depending on the size of it, one or more focal points. A focal point must be dominant to draw attention and interesting enough to encourage the viewer to look further. A focal point thus must have a lasting impression but must also be an integral part of the decoration linked through scale, style, color or theme. A fireplace or a flat tv is the first example that most people think of when we talk about a room focal point.

If you don’t have a natural focal point in your space, such as a fireplace for example, you can create one by highlighting a particular piece of furniture, artwork, or by simply painting a contrasting color in one area. Try to maintain balance, though, so that the focal point doesn’t hog all of the attention.

rhythm 7 Most Important Interior Design Principles

If we would speak about music we would describe rhytmas the beat of pulse of the music. In interior design, rhythm is all about visual pattern repetition. Rhythm is defined as continuity, recurrence or organized movement. To achieve these themes in a design, you need to think about repetition, progression, transition and contrast. Using these mechanisms will impart a sense of movement to your space, leading the eye from one design element to another.

Repetition is the use of the same element more than once throughout a space. You can repeat a pattern, color, texture, line, or any other element, or even more than one element.

Progression is taking an element and increasing or decreasing one or more of its qualities. The most obvious implementation of this would be a gradation by size. A cluster of candles of varying sizes on a simple tray creates interest because of the natural progression shown. You can also achieve progression via color, such as in a monochromatic color scheme where each element is a slightly different shade of the same hue.

Transition is a little harder to define. Unlike repetition or progression, transition tends to be a smoother flow, where the eye naturally glides from one area to another. The most common transition is the use of a curved line to gently lead the eye, such as an arched doorway or winding path.

Finally, contrast is fairly straightforward. Putting two elements in opposition to one another, such as black and white pillows on a sofa, is the hallmark of this design principle. Opposition can also be implied by contrasts in form, such as circles and squares used together. Contrast can be quite jarring, and is generally used to enliven a space. Be careful not to undo any hard work you’ve done using the other mechanisms by introducing too much contrast!

details 7 Most Important Interior Design Principles

Another important element of interior design where it is necessary to take infinite pains is details. Everything from the trimming on the lamp shade, the color of the piping on the scatter cushion, to the light switches and cupboard handles need attention. Unlike color people find details boring. As a result it gets neglected and skimmed over or generally left out. As color expresses the whole spirit and life of a scheme; details are just as an important underpinning of interior design. Details should not be obvious but they should be right, enhancing the overall feel of a room.

Scale and Proportion – These two design principles go hand in hand, since both relate to size and shape. Proportion has to do with the ratio of one design element to another, or one element to the whole. Scale concerns itself with the size of one object compared to another.

Color – Colors have a definite impact on the atmosphere that you want to create when doing interior design. A more detalied post about how colors affect our moods you can find here.

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26 responses to “7 Most Important Interior Design Principles” - Add yours!

  1. iD08 said:
    July 12, 2007

    I do agree that those are the most important design principles. Unity and harmony was probably the most important of the two because you have to have great unity and they need to go with each other to make sure the blends and mixture of colors and materials works to make it look great. To check out some creative interior designs, check out HGTV’s 2nd season of Design Star. It’s a show about 11 aspiring designers competing to win their very own show.Check out the site for all info and details. The show begins on July 22nd and airs on the HGTV network at 10 PM. Be sure to check it out!

  2. Modern Flat - Modern Living said:
    July 21, 2007

    Fantastic article.

    >it is necessary to think of the house as a totality

    I think you should put this in bold because it’s probably where most people go wrong (right of the start).

    Great explanation of the different design elements/considerations also.


  3. Michael said:
    July 21, 2007

    I’m glad you like it. :)

  4. Michelle said:
    July 22, 2007

    That was very interesting. That gives me a good idea of the role of an interior designer. It gave me fresh ideas and a nice beginner’s lesson.
    Thank you

  5. Novi said:
    July 29, 2007

    Thanks for the post!

  6. ankeet said:
    September 3, 2007

    In my opinion the report is FANTABULOUS and makes someone like me who is a novice to perceive the basic fundamentals of POD thoroughly.
    Wishing you best of luck for future!

  7. marianna said:
    September 15, 2007

    Do you have any info on LINES of Interior Designing???? and how to spot the LINES in a picture???

    Thank You

  8. susant said:
    May 15, 2008

    well: it’s really an iconic article about the interior design.I, m damn sure that i’ll save my money if do the continous visit to your website; instead of doing a part time course.

    It would be a better plat form for the freshers, if some more information like; basics in size and scale measurement are added to the article.

    THANKS and Awaiting for favourable artcles.

  9. joey said:
    December 1, 2008


  10. marvin said:
    January 26, 2009

    you guys dont have better things to do than this it is torture ={

  11. Sheik Mohamed I said:
    January 28, 2009

    Very nice article. pls continue on for more such articles. my best regards to the author

  12. marvin and seide and pablo said:
    January 28, 2009

    what is this? i am right in the middle of computers class
    researching about stupid unity and harmony and I get this!!!!!!
    don’t you guys have better things to publish,although some of this
    houses are coollll >(

  13. billy boob said:
    January 29, 2009

    This page sucks maybe some of us like our houses how it is !!!!!! Good Day !!!

  14. Yo Daddy said:
    January 29, 2009

    Marvinnnn , this is Amanda [: I’m incomputers as of now . This project is hard .

  15. big boy said:
    January 29, 2009

    this is a very important aspect but dude it sucks

  16. angie-phalange said:
    February 18, 2009

    ahh.. i hat this project!! oh, hi amanda its me angelica!!

    lol ;D idk what im doing right now… supposed to be researching!!

  17. Theresa said:
    June 9, 2009

    Unity and Harmony, Rhythm, etc. are elements of Design, which is general in nature.

    I am glad though that you mentioned focal point and details which makes this a useful Interior Design 101 article.


  18. Christy said:
    October 10, 2009

    Please, if you are planning on writing an internet (or any other type article), use spell check before finishing. The author’s grammar is very distracting and makes the article somewhat confusing. Having said that, your information on interior design is useful.

  19. Granujilla said:
    February 18, 2010

    Look like some people don’t like this aticle, I sugested to them that they don’t read it.
    From my side I’m interior decorator student and I think is realy helpful. Thank you

  20. consiso said:
    September 30, 2010

    you no this work is only for a good boy like me if you see my face i sure your become a guy yack guy ihaet guy like you but ilove people sorounding at me

  21. Petus said:
    November 28, 2010

    I know nothing about design theory but I have creativity, I am studying the principles of interior design to use better my natural skill. Even though english is not my first language, the vocabulary used in the article was easy to understand and I it get across the ideas. Thank you very much.

  22. fleur said:
    February 7, 2011

    Great tips. Do you run courses remotely (online???). I’d really love to see some examples of interiors that tick all the fundamental boxes. I seem to be able to pull some elements together, but not all at once, it’s not easy! Look forward to more posts from you. Regards, Fleur

  23. paulo colley said:
    April 27, 2011

    I make Petus’s words my words
    that was really good and helpful.
    many tks for your time to post it

  24. May 1, 2011

    In the principles of design, balance strives to make the elements of an interior gain equal attraction so that the eyes of the onlookers, visitor, and the inhabitants of the house may find the room looks restful. If that is so, emphasis contradicts balance since it talks about focal point; an element such as sofa in the living room for example attracts the eye. Where balance speaks of equal attraction, equal weights of the furnishings and visual balance, emphasis is all about making an object or two to be dominant while the rest of the elements are only subordinate. These two principles confuse me. I don’t know how to apply these two.

  25. Rishipratim Guha Mustafi said:
    June 23, 2011

    Thanks! The information was very useful.

  26. bhoxz said:
    September 26, 2012

    :) :( :o haha… i like the interior design fail!

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