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, colour, texture, and pattern; and 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 increased functionality. To start, an interior designer will assess the room according to these interior design elements, and then use them to disguise or enhance the various features and flaws of the space. As a minimum, the following seven elements should always be considered in the creation of any interior.
Natural or man-made light is a critical aspect of any space. Without it, all the other elements would not be able to shine to their full potential. Light can be broken into the categories of task lighting (defined purpose), accent lighting (emphasizing objects), and mood lighting (adding ambiance). When considering lighting, it is important to address the activities that will be undertaken in the space. Both the quality and quantity should be assessed here.
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 can make a space much more versatile. Natural lighting should always be taken into consideration and can be manipulated through clever placement of doors, windows, and even mirrors. Beyond its functional purpose, light can set the mood and atmosphere of space while defining color, line, and texture. Plus, any good interior designer also knows that the lighting fixtures are a visual feature in themselves, which can add the right touch to any design.
Colour is a science all on its own and is another extremely important element that interior designers master. It can create mood, define unity and alter the perception of how large or small a space is. The psychology of colour shouldn’t be underestimated and will be used to full advantage by any skilled interior designer. Colour can evoke memories and stir emotions, stimulating a physical and psychological response in our bodies. For example, greens and blues entice calmness and are suited to bedrooms, whereas red entices appetite and therefore often features in kitchens.
When considering the colour 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 colour across the day and night, given that light can alter our colour perception. Finally, consider the size of the space. Interior designers will often incorporate lighter or brighter colours in smaller spaces to give the illusion of more space. Darker colours can give a powerful dimension to a larger space.
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 colour 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 can add interest and detail, making it visually pleasing to the eye. In essence, it gives a room feeling.
Texture comes in two forms – visual texture and actual texture. Visual texture refers to texture that is perceived by the eye. In other words, this is the impression of texture one gets by only viewing an object. This effect is usually found in the form of a pattern. Actual or tactile textures can be seen or felt and has 3D characteristics. For example, a fluffy, colourful cushion can be appreciated not only with the eye but also with touch.
Generally, if there is a sense of something missing in a room, a good interior designer will be able to distinguish that it will be due to a lack of texture. Texture plays a part in every object selected for a room and therefore is best managed with careful consideration from the ground up. The placement of each object in comparison to the texture of the object beside it will also add emphasis and contrast to the finished design.
Paired with colour, 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.
However, as discussed in the element of line, patterns that create vertical or horizontal lines can be used to give a heightened sense of space. Complex patterns made up of contrasting colours and lines can liven up a room, however they are best used in the form of a feature wall. Large scale patterns can flourish in a large space and become a distinct focal point to the room. Regarding style, it’s vital to know what category the pattern falls into to ensure that the essence of the room is maintained. For example, for traditionally styled rooms, incorporate organic, floral prints. 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 colour scheme.