When thinking about interior design, words like creativity and flair immediately spring to mind – but many would be surprised to find there is a degree of science involved. Professional interior
designers will usually follow a set of informal “rules”, based on specific interior design principles and elements. These interior design elements include space, line, forms, light, color, texture and pattern. Keeping them balanced is the key to creating an aesthetically pleasing interior.
In addition to enhancing the appearance of a room, getting these elements to work together in harmony will also bring an increased functionality. As a minimum, the following seven elements should always be considered in the creation of any interior.
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Color is more than just an aesthetic choice — it can also influence the entire mood and feeling of a space.
It is a science all on its own, and is another extremely important element that interior designers master. It has the ability to create mood, define unity and alter the perception of how large or small a space is. The psychology of color shouldn’t be underestimated, and will be used to full advantage by any skilled interior designer.
When considering the color of a room, first think about what the room will be used for and the activities that will occur in that space. Secondly, consider how both natural and artificial lighting will affect your selected color across the day and night. Finally, consider the size of the space. Interior designers will often incorporate lighter or brighter colors in smaller spaces to give the illusion of more space. Darker colors can give a powerful dimension to a larger space.
“Form” is simply another term for “shape,” expressing the contours of any artwork, furniture, or other 3-D object you could imagine. It is the shape of the room, as well as any objects within the room. In other words, it relates to the physical form of anything that is three dimensional.
Forms can usually be described as either geometric or natural. Geometric refers to hard lines and square edges, often looking man-made, while natural relates to more organic forms that seem to be created by nature. Forms can also be open – objects that can be looked into or closed – self-contained. Another thing to take into consideration with form is the proportions and scale of the room compare to the objects being placed within it. Adding forms of similar shapes can create harmony and balance. While adding too many differing shapes can have a confusing result. A space is typically more pleasing if the dominant form is repeated in minor objects throughout the room.
Quality lighting is integral to any space, whether its sources are natural, man-made, or some combination of both. When choosing lighting for your room, think about factors like the color of the light (cool blue or warm yellow?), the light intensity (bright for cooking, or soft for reading?), and whether the light should be dimmable.
Natural or man-made light is a critical aspect of any space. Without it, all of the other elements would not be able to shine to their full potential. When considering lighting, it is important to address the activities that will be undertaken in the space. For example, an office will require bright lighting so that the workers can see clearly and act alert. On the other hand, living room lighting can be applied with a softer touch. Applying a dimmer has the ability to make a space much more versatile.
Think of line as the perimeter around a form or shape. For example, if you were to draw any object in the room, you would probably start with its outline.
Lines can be “vertical” (up-and-down), “horizontal” (side-to-side), or “dynamic” (lines that express motion, like zig-zags or curlicues). Design experts say that horizontal lines create a feeling of security, while vertical lines are expressive and bold. Dynamic lines, which follow their own set of rules, can add a fun, exciting touch to any space when used strategically. Horizontal, vertical and dynamic lines help to shape a room and guide the eye. Creating lines using the room’s furnishings and structural design can form harmony, unity and contrast. Horizontal lines, created by tables and other surfaces, give a sense of stability, formality and efficiency. Interior designers highlight horizontal lines to make a room appear wider and longer, and to draw the eye to a focal point. But be careful, overemphasis of horizontal lines has the ability to make the space seem boring and uninspired.
Vertical lines, created by features such as windows and doorways, evoke feelings of freedom and strength. On a functional level, accentuating vertical lines often gives the illusion of a room being taller. Dynamic lines refer to diagonal, zigzag or curved lines. Stimulating to the eye, dynamic lines capture our attention longer. However, too many dynamic lines in one room can be distracting, and overpower horizontal or vertical lines. Ideally, interior designers will strike a balance with the incorporation of different lines.
A pattern is the intentional repetition of forms, lines, or other design elements. Patterns usually pop up on wallpaper or fabrics, but can appear anywhere in the home, even in the use of light or other design elements. While patterns can add life and motion to a space, too many clashing patterns can start to look chaotic, so tread lightly when choosing your favorite prints.
Paired with color, pattern offers a similar use to texture in that it can add appeal to a room. A pattern is created by the use a repetitive design and can be found in wallpaper, soft furnishings, rugs and fabrics. Patterns come in various types, such as stripes, geometric, pictorial, organic, motif and animal prints. When implementing pattern, it’s best to firstly consider the size and style of a room. Introducing pattern in a small room should be done sparingly, to avoid overwhelming the space.
Large scale patterns can flourish in a large space and become a distinct focal point to the room. For a contemporary touch, geometric and abstract prints should be experimented with. Fun to use and with an element of functionality, patterns can bring a room to life. As a rule of thumb however, it’s best to include a maximum of three patterns, all drawing from the same color scheme.
Texture is the way an object feels. This can mean the way the object literally feels to the touch, or the sense it gives when simply observing the object. For example, you might say that a surface looks “weathered” or “vintage” without actually touching it, thanks to the creative use of texture.
Careful consideration of texture is especially important in parts of the home that you contact frequently, like your flooring. We can help you find floors with the perfect, comfortable texture to start every day on the right foot. Texture refers to the tactile surface of an object or finish. It’s an element that is often overlooked, but really does have the ability to bring a unique dimension to the room. Just like mixing color and pattern, an interior designer mixes the textures within a space to give a subtle sense of depth. Think glossy, coarse, smooth… From furniture to accessories to fabric, texture has the ability to add interest and detail, making it visually pleasing. In essence, it gives a room feeling.
Last but not least, space is at the heart of virtually every design decision. There are two basic types of space to consider: 2-D space (which accounts for the length and width of a room), and 3-D space (which covers height). It’s also important to leave enough empty or “negative” space to allow for fluid, easy navigation (and break the room up visually). The foundation of an interior, space is a fundamental concept to understand, ensuring you’re best equipped to take advantage of what is available to you.
Striking a balance between the negative and positive spaces of a room is essential to avoid overcrowding or sparseness. This balance will be influenced by your needs in the specific area/room and its required functionality. It is also crucial to consider the scale and size of the furniture and objects placed in a room. A tall object such as a book case can give the illusion of height. Different design styles will lend themselves to different uses of space. For example, a minimalist design will have far more negative space than your average eclectic design. However, no matter what your design brief, how you use and balance the space available to you can be the difference between hitting the mark with your design concept or missing out on your next commission.
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