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As a homeowner, you should be in love with every room you walk into. However, it’s hard to begin a design project without understanding what steps you should take along the way. 

Interior designers are professionals that have the skills needed to create an attractive, functional, and cohesive space. They can work hand in hand with you to ensure your home has elements of your unique style, and they know just how to make it happen.

Understanding the basics of interior design for yourself is still important though, so you have the right information you need to create your dream space. In this blog, we’ll review the principles of interior design so that you can be prepared as you work with professionals on any home renovation or remodeling project. 

Interior Design Basics

Before diving into the principles of interior design, it’s helpful to understand the basics. The most important step you should take before you begin the designing process is to find your interior design style

Everyone has their own aesthetic preferences and understanding yours will ensure that you’ll be satisfied with the final product. There are some core interior design styles you can begin to look at as a foundation for your project:

  • Traditional
  • Transitional
  • Modern
  • Farmhouse
  • Industrial
  • Minimalist
  • Bohemian

These are just a few of the styles that you can choose from before you begin your design project. It’s important to take into consideration your overall goal or vision, that way you can incorporate your unique style while also creating a functional and accessible space.

Modern style living room.

7 Principles of Interior Design

There are many variations of the principles of interior design. Below, we’ve outlined the seven most common fundamentals to consider when preparing for your design project. Each principle plays a key role in curating a well-rounded space.

1. Balance

When designing the interior of your home, you want to make sure you’re evenly distributing elements to create visual balance. You can achieve this by introducing different forms, colors, and textures. There are two main things to consider as you create balance:

  • Visual Weight. This refers to the imaginary weight your eyes give to a piece of furniture, detail, or object in your space. For example, you don’t want to have a room full of dark colors, big furniture pieces, or lots of wood and other heavy materials. You should also create contrast and avoid using the same color for everything. 
  • Symmetry. You can create symmetry in your design by using the mirror effect. This means you’re not using the same items, but you’re incorporating similar shapes, sizes, colors, and textures throughout your space. Determining the center point and splitting the room in half can help when arranging objects on either side of a focal point. 

There are different ways to create balance while putting these techniques into practice. The most common ways to do this are by using furniture, color, and decorations.

  • Furniture. Use a pair of armchairs, mini sofas, cabinets, mirrors, shelves, paintings, floor lamps, table lamps, etc.
  • Color and decoration. Repeat the same decor on both opposite walls parallel to your central line.
  • Single objects. Use larger pieces of furniture, such as a sofa or dining table, to stand on a central line that will divide the room in half. 

Remember, balance works with all types of styles. Whether you’re interested in minimalistic and modern aesthetics, or you prefer richly decorated interiors, think of balance as a way to create the base of your interior design plan. 

2. Alignment

Alignment in interior design is used to create order and organization. Paying attention to the alignment of elements such as doors, windows, and cabinetry will result in visual connection as well as a sharper and more orderly design. 

The first step to creating alignment is to determine a central line. Then, continue placing doors, windows, and cabinets on a grid that lines up horizontally and/or vertically. You should also take into account other elements such as lighting. If you are incorporating hanging lights in your design, try to hang them at the same level and match it up with one of the lines in your grid. 

3. Emphasis

Emphasis is the process of creating a focal point within a designated space. Doing this can be useful to draw people’s attention to where you’d like them to focus or divert their eyes from any less attractive parts of a room. 

This principle of interior design is important when determining which items are going to be playing a dominant role and which will be playing the supporting role. You can create a focal point through three main elements:

  • Isolation. A single painting can bring focus to the room through isolation if it’s placed on a wall that doesn’t have any decoration. This is because the separation gives someone’s eyes nowhere to go but to the single painting or piece of art. 
  • Contrast. Incorporating a bright color in a room that has a monochromatic palette can bring a person’s focus to the pop of color.
  • Placement. Arranging anything in the center of the room will immediately grab a person’s attention. This can be any kind of furniture or piece of artwork. 

People create emphasis in numerous ways. Some examples of emphasis in interior design include using a unique backsplash, a beautiful tiled fireplace, or an exceptional arrangement of floor tile. All of these examples draw people’s eyes to a certain area, creating emphasis where you’d like.

No matter how or what you choose to be your focal point, remember to arrange the other elements of your room in a way that will lead the viewer to the focal point. Providing an invisible path or direction will ensure the focus of your space is getting the attention it deserves. 

4. Proportion

When talking about proportion in interior design, a person is referring to the relationship between the size of objects and the size of a space. Most interior designers like to link proportion and scale, meaning the size of one or more objects is in absolute and fixed measurements. 

Achieving proportion can be done in a variety of ways. You should take into account the size of the room as a whole and its function. Choosing the right cabinetry, islands, and walkways will keep the design cohesive and more aesthetically pleasing.

There are different guidelines you can follow when deciding the appropriate size for your decor. For example, the standard kitchen island should be a minimum of 4’ by 2’ wide. There should also be an average of 36”- 42” of clearance space all around, and the height should be at least 36”. These dimensions could vary depending on the size and function of your kitchen space, but they provide a good foundation. 

Custom white kitchen cabinets.

5. Repetition & Movement

Repetition and movement are the principles of rhythm. Many interior designers believe that these principles of interior design are the key to a well-executed layout. You can achieve this by using similar patterns, colors, textures, lines, and forms of shapes. The goal of repetition and movement is to keep the viewers’ eyes moving across the room.

Repetition gives the room a clear sense of cohesiveness and stability. An example of repetition and movement in interior design is arranging framed prints or lights along your hallway to promote continuous eye movement.

You can also create visual interest with repetitive patterns or by incorporating the same shapes and colors at varying intervals. Bringing repetition and movement into your design will give it hints of sophistication and make it feel complete. 

6. Contrast

When you place two or more elements that have opposing characteristics together, you’re creating contrast. You can do this by using different aspects of design such as color, shape, size, materials, texture, style, or finish. Contrast is important to your interior design plan because it will create visual interest, making it dynamic. 

While harmony is also an important design element, using too much of the same thing will result in everything blending together. There are a variety of ways to create contrast in your space:

  • Colors. Decorating with colors on opposite sides of the color wheel will help bring visual interest into your design. For example, using black and white, blue and orange, or green and pink. 
  • Shapes. Use shapes that vary in size and style. Some of these could include sharp and soft lines, circles, squares, and others.
  • Textures. Implementing various textures helps contrast visual weight. Try pairings like smooth marble and linen or wood and faux fur.
  • Materials. Mix materials to complement your finishes. These could include natural wood and glass or stone and metals.

The contrast in interior design doesn’t just create a dynamic space, it can also highlight certain aspects of your room. It helps bring the balance you may need to complete your design concept. 

7. Negative Space

Incorporating negative space in your design means giving plenty of room for elements to breathe. This is the space where there is no furniture, texture, design, or decor. Negative space is important because it plays a key role in creating balance. If your design feels cluttered or overwhelming, it’s hard for someone to appreciate the details. 

The goal of negative space is to be intentional with it. You don’t want to leave empty spaces where you feel something should be. Rather, you only want to incorporate negative space in areas that make sense and go well with your design.

White window seat with custom cabinets.

Interior Design vs. Interior Decorating

Interior design and interior decorating are often used interchangeably. However, there are actually some key differences between the two. Interior design is defined as the art and science of understanding people’s behavior and creating functional spaces within a building and/or room. Interior decorating is the furnishing and adorning of a space with decorative elements. 

Interior designers are faced with the challenge to apply creative and technical skills within an area, making it not only attractive but also functional. These professionals use principles of interior design to satisfy and improve the experiences of people who inhabit the space. 

Interior designers work hand-in-hand to ensure your space has a taste of your own style. Don’t be afraid to give your input and tell your designer what you like, it’ll ensure the process goes smoothly and leaves you satisfied with your home.

Interested in an interior design professional? We provide custom design and build home remodeling services to help you create your dream space.