Interior Design 101: The Essential Elements
Compiled by Sadira Sittampalam
The fundamentals of interior design all stem from the 7 essential elements of design that consider space, line, form, light, colour, texture, and pattern. When it comes to designing your own home, these elements will become vital, as a balance of these elements is what allows you to have a home that looks beautiful and classy.
Space refers to the distance between and around objects, as well as their proportions in a room. Getting the balance of space within a room requires using both positive and negative space appropriately. Positive space is where the room's objects such as the sofa or coffee table are positioned. Meanwhile, negative space is where the gaps in between these objects are, which also includes circulation space for navigating through the room as well.
The right balance between these two spaces is vital for a room to feel well put together. One with more negative space tends to make a room feel more spacious, larger, and perhaps bigger. But too much negative space can also make a room feel under-furnished and impersonal. A room with too much positive space taken up on the other hand can feel crowded and cluttered.
But how do you get the balance right? Well no matter what, beauty is still very much in the eye of the beholder. If you find you like homely rooms, you’d prefer to have something that looks more cluttered than empty. However, at the same time, you should have enough negative space to make the cluttered areas feel cluttered. The general rule is that paths along the room should be at least 1 m wide, while gaps in between a sofa and a coffee table should be a comfortable 50cm.
Structural features of a room along with the room’s furnishings are what create lines that profoundly influence the feel of the space. They can also be used to help bring attention to a focal point or piece of decor you might want to highlight. However, horizontal and vertical lines together are what bring the type of dynamism that every homeowner wants to have.
Horizontal lines, such as lines that are created by tables, bring a sense of stability to any interior. They make rooms feel wider as they bring your eyes along that horizontal line. Meanwhile, the vertical lines of a room come from features such as windows, doors, or maybe a tall bookshelf. These are the features of the room that are prized for giving a feeling of freedom, while also making your room seem taller. Thus, it stands to reason that choosing any tall piece of furniture can lead the eye upwards and thereby visually heighten the room. However, it is the balance between horizontal and vertical lines that creates beauty.
Furthermore, dynamic lines such as diagonals, zigzags, and curves can also come into play. Staircases are the most common feature displaying some dynamic lines as they are eye-catching and inject any scheme with energy and intrigue.
Form refers to the shape. This includes the shape of the room itself, along with the objects within it like furniture, artwork and decorative accessories. These shapes might be geometric (this means that they have precise lines and angles) or natural (this means they resemble the irregular shapes of nature but also pieces with curves). Once again, the key to making forms is a nice balance of natural and geometric shapes. Natural shapes often bring a softness to the interior, while geometrics give off a stronger, more rigid vibe.
When it comes to light, most interiors make use of both natural daylight and artificial light. While for the most part, you cannot control exactly the type of light you get during the daytime, you can always make use of things like drapery and window coverings in order to filter our light if necessary. If you need to boost this natural light, you can also use other techniques like hanging mirrors which will spread the natural light around the room. Just ensure that the mirror is never kept perpendicular to the window, and rather keep it adjacent so that the mirror will reflect the light throughout the rest of the room.
Meanwhile, artificial light comes from the room's background lighting. Accent lighting draws attention to objects or certain features of a room. Task lighting is lighting for specific tasks, such as lighting for the kitchen so that food preparation is safe, an office desk light bright enough to work under, or an area of living space that is lit enough to read comfortably. Dimmer switches allow changes of atmosphere to be achieved with this lighting and is often a great investment, as it sets the mood for a room, especially at the night.
You also need to think about the choice of the light fixtures and fittings themselves as they also contribute to the room’s appearance. When picking these, all you have to do is remember all the other 6 essential elements of design.
Speaking of mood, colour is also another very important feature. Nevertheless, this is not all colour is capable of doing as it has the power to make a room feel larger, lighter and cozier. Of course, this wouldn’t just happen automatically and there is a lot of work that has to be done in picking the right colour. One of the best tips is to match the colour to what you would use the room for. So if you use some nice restful shades in the bedroom that would probably work out well, while using a more energetic and bright hue in the living room. You also need to consider whether the colour will be mostly seen in natural or artificial light, as this does affect a colour’s properties.
While you may expect the texture to be in here because of how it feels, it is actually still a lot about how it looks. Every part of a room from furniture, carpets, fabrics to decorative accessories, contributes to the selection of textures in a room. Mixing textures and contrasting them add depth and interest to the room, as it draws in your eyes, visually arresting them. Textures are the most underrated part of the design.
Patterns are another element that adds interest and life to a room, similar to texture. This might come from an area rug, wallpaper, soft furnishings and artwork. The style of the pattern whether that's floral, geometric, abstract or any other design should be in harmony with the overall style of the scheme. Again this also has to make sense about the space and area which it covers so that the interior doesn’t become too hectic. Nevertheless, patterns are what make everything else seem a lot more interesting, so make sure you include these in every room.