After a discussion on the seven ELEMENTS of interior design – space, lines, forms, lighting, textures, patterns, and colors – this post will tackle the seven PRINCIPLES of interior design, which are:

  1. Balance
  2. Scale and Proportion
  3. Rhythm
  4. Emphasis
  5. Contrast
  6. Details
  7. Unity

Have you ever been to a home where you thought everything was as it should be, where you felt the harmony in the space? That’s the seamless integration of design elements and principles at work. While the amateurs can grasp the idea of a well-designed space through feeling, the professionals understand the what, why and how of the design itself.

How do the elements and principles work together?

If you compare designing interiors to cooking, the elements are your ingredients, and the principles are the way you use and combine your ingredients to make a perfect dish.

Balance

Balance is the equilibrium in the visual weight of objects in a room. The elements that you can use to achieve balance are line, form, texture, pattern, color, and even lighting. There are three types of balance:

Symmetrical

Symmetrical Bedroom Interior

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This is the most common technique, when the placement of objects on the left of a vertical axis is a mirror image of the one on the right. The photo above shows that the pendant lamps, the side tables, and even the windows, are equidistant from the middle of the bed.

The risk with symmetrical placements is that it can become monotonous if overused.

Asymmetrical

Using an imaginary central vertical axis, the objects you see on the left are not duplicated on the right. Yet, there is a balance because of the placement of the orange-colored objects. The pendant lamps on the left act as a counterweight to the orange chair on the right.

This kind of object placement creates a more relaxed and interesting visual. It does take some practice.

Radial

Photo by yann maignan on Unsplash

A radial balance is the arrangement of objects around a central focal point. In the photo, the chandelier is the central focal point, directly above the table around which the chairs are arranged.

Scale and Proportion

Scale and proportion are interconnected. Scale is the relative size of objects in a space. Proportion is the relative size of objects which are next to each other.

Scale and Proportion

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The scale of the furniture in this big space is obviously off. If you saw this, you’d think, “Ay, kulang.

This is one of the difficulties for a modern-day gypsy who temporarily rents a space for short time periods. You may be renting a big space so you buy furniture scaled for that space. But then when you downsize, your furniture may no longer fit.

Scale and Proportions Kitchen

The arrangement of objects in the photo above and the objects themselves ruin what can really be a beautiful space.  You don’t put a table of that height, shape and size in front of a sofa. Those chairs also don’t fit in a living room either. The pendant lamps also don’t make any sense in terms of position, design, shape or number.

Scale and Proportion Bedroom
Photo by Rune Enstad on Unsplash

The size of the bed is a good one to have in this bedroom. However, the side tables and reading lamps look out of proportion in relation to the size of the bed.

Rhythm

Rhythm is the repetition of certain elements in the room, like patterns, colors, lines, forms, and even textures.

Rhythm

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In this white loft living room, you will see the rhythm of lines (stripes) on the cushion covers, the throw and even the back of the chair. Several home accessories like the wall decor, baskets, bags and rug give a certain rhythm because of their colors, textures and patterns. The herringbone pattern of the wooden floor, which is a classic, grounds the room. The slant of the rectangular pieces of the floor are echoed in the legs of the sofa. Even the twigs with their distinctive form also give a rhythm in this room.

Emphasis

You need a focal point in a space to draw the eye. There are some architectural spaces that have these built-in focal points like windows.

 

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But focal points are not limited to architectural features. Color is a major design element that creates emphasis in a space, like a bold color on an accent wall. Positioning of lines can also lead the eye to a certain point in a space which you want to emphasize. Lighting can also lead the eye to where you want it to go. Still another way to make something stand out is to put negative space around it.

In this bedroom, the colors are subdued like the ENLIGHTEN palette of Boysen Color Trend 2019. However, it is clear that the focal point is the bed. The size of it, the deep color of the bed covers, the pendant lamp overhead, the circular rug under the bed, all emphasize the importance of it in the room. The huge wall mural at the back of the bed also draw the eye to this part of the room.

Note how the principle of rhythm is also being used. The almost circular positioning of the figures on the mural are echoed by the shape of the rug as well as the globe lamp.

Contrast

 

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Do you want drama in your space? Use the principle of contrast, which you can achieve with color, forms, patterns and even textures.

In the above photo, the toilet becomes the focal point because of its white color against the deep green background. The angular uniformity of the floor tiles are dissimilar to the crooked lines and odd shapes of the wall design. Juxtaposing elements like this can also highlight the contrast.

 

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Black and white is a classic color pairing that creates interest in a space. It can be done like this finely detailed powder room.

Do you want to see how black and white can look bold and powerful? Read 2019 Interior Trends for Black and White.

Details

While the first 5 principles of balance, scale and proportion, rhythm, emphasis and contrast, are about the “macro” view of a space, the principle of details is all about the “micro”. You are invited to come closer and examine the minutia.

 

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This adventurous and punchy kitchen has many details. Even the hanging lamps are of different shapes and colors.  The wall has an interesting pattern just like the black and white fabric hanging on the left foreground. The details make the room more interesting and dynamic, almost like an invitation to come in and experiment with your cooking.

 

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Minimalist designs, which call for less details, may look simple but this is one of the most difficult and expensive builds to achieve when you want excellent results. The design, materials, construction and finishing have to be considered in one whole seamless process with hardly any margin for error. Those design disguises like baseboards, moldings, visible hinges, etc. are not used, which means that you would need professionials, craftsmen, and more man hours compared to the standard way of building. Kaching!

For amateurs, the minimalist design does not seem to have many details to consider. The opposite is true though. There are even more details that have been thought about carefully, much more actually compared to a standard build. These details are considered carefully in the making of a space, so as not to be seen in the finished space.

Unity

 

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This is the goal of any architect and interior designer: to create a harmonious space where all chosen elements and principles are in cohesion with each other. There is a flow and a relationship between the elements that functionality and aesthetics merge. What is then created is a healthy and wholesome space for whoever inhabits it.

Extend this unity throughout the whole house, and also in the landscape it is in. Professional interior designers opt to think of the whole house and not create themed rooms. When you walk through the house, from room to room, you get a feeling of order and harmony.

Read more about interior design in this link.

 

 

Annie H Adlawan
Author

Annie is the Managing Editor of Let it B | MyBoysen Blog. An unrepentant workaholic, she runs this blog and her own company Talking Lions (https://talkinglions.com). She thrives on collaborating with people who are good at what they do, and working together with them to create something special.

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