Trends may come and go, but the principles of interior design are forever. That’s why, regardless of what your décor preferences may be, we think it’s important you learn about these principles. In the past, we’ve waxed poetic about the importance of balance and symmetry and now we’re tackling harmony and unity.
Read on to learn what these concepts are, why they’re important, and how to make them work in your own interiors. Though they may seem simple at first glance, we can almost guarantee that they play a much bigger role than you think.
What are harmony and unity?
Though unity and harmony may sound similar, they each play distinct roles in the way we experience interior design. They can be described as follows:
Harmony is the sense that all of the elements of your design fit together. They may fit the same theme, aesthetic style or mood. The important takeaway is that each distinct piece seems to belong together in some way, even if it is not identical to anything else.
Unity refers to the repetition of particular elements throughout your design — whether they’re colors, shapes or materials — to pull the look together.
These principles are used to create a sense of cohesion in the space. Think of how you can incorporate them, not only in each room, but throughout your house as a whole. In truth, sticking to one unified aesthetic in a home rather than having distinctly themed rooms is one of the tools professional interior designers use to take their work to the next level.
Why cohesion matters
Put simply, cohesion is important because it makes rooms easier to digest. We’ve probably all had the unpleasant experience of walking into a room that is just too much to handle. More than likely, no matter how that room looked from your perspective, the reason why it hurt your eyes and brain is that it lacked cohesion.
According to Gestalt psychology, even though our eyes are constantly taking in information, our brains try and boil everything down to the simplest, recognizable pattern. That’s why, when we walk into a new room, we instantly recognize that it’s a kitchen or bathroom, rather than focusing on aesthetic details. Only after getting a feel for the room as a whole can we focus on the individual elements.
Using harmony and unity to create a sense of cohesion makes that initial pattern recognition easy. Our brains categorize those repeated details and similarities much faster than they would if none of the design elements fit together, which subconsciously allows us to be calmer when we’re in the space.
How to incorporate them
Incorporating harmony and unity is all about showcasing similarity. It’s why we tell you to utilize the same colors, patterns, textures, shapes and materials in a variety of applications throughout the space. Take the picture above as an example. The monochromatic color scheme can be seen throughout the wall coverings, flooring, furniture and textiles.
If you’re having trouble getting your design to feel harmonious, we recommend focusing on a single element as your source of design inspiration. Pick something small like a patterned throw pillow and take it around with you as you shop for other items. Then, on a case-by-case basis, judge these items on whether or not they work well together.
A note of caution
It is possible to have too much of a good thing. While harmony and unity are key elements of any design, too much of it will make the room look boring and uninteresting. You do need to include a few distinct elements into your design to infuse visual interest.
Think of it this way: Harmony and unity should be the foundation of your design. They should come first and take up the bulk of your consideration. Those accent pieces of visual interest should only be thought of as finishing touches. They’re meant to round out the room, rather than support the majority of it.
This is one area where your powers of perception come into play. If you’re unsure whether there’s not enough similarity in the room, or alternatively, too much, just take a step back. One attempt at taking in the room as a whole will tell you what you need to do.
Harmony and unity are two foundational, yet often overlooked, principles of interior design. In reality, they play a key role in giving the rooms of your home a much-needed sense of calm and stability. They’re also the elements that set exceptional designs apart from the crowd. Keep them in mind while you’re tackling your next big project. Trust us, they will make a noticeable difference.
Have you ever made a conscious effort to include harmony and unity into your designs? Will you do so now? Share your reasoning with us in the comments.