The Fundamental Principles of Interior Design

The Fundamental Principles of Interior Design

Many of us consider ourselves ‘okay’ at interior design. You might think of yourself as someone who has an ‘eye’ for this sort of thing and perhaps you’re proud of the general layout of your home/business. But whether or not this is true, there is still something to be said for doing the research and aiming to understand the fundamental principles that underlie interior design.

This means taking some time out and actually analyzing what looks good and why so that you can make more informed decisions that will have a broad appeal and impress the people who really know what they’re talking about. And what better place to start than with the most fundamental principles?

Warning: these tips will ruin you for life – you’ll never look at an interior design the same way again!


One of the first objectives of any interior design work is to achieve ‘balance’. This is the feeling of equilibrium that comes from having an even distribution of ‘visual weight’. What does that mean? It means avoiding having one end of the room barren and the other packed with large, bright and ostentatious furniture. If you must have ostentatious furniture, you should try and spread it evenly around the room.

Symmetry plays a big part in this then but that’s only one aspect of a balanced décor. You can also achieve balance in an asymmetrical or ‘informal’ manner; here you’ll balance the weight of the furniture and patterns but not necessarily by having exact duplicates to create a mirror image. Radial balance on the other hand means having a central focal point and having your various elements radiate out from that – this is a good choice for a dining room with a central table for instance.


Does your room got rhyme? Ahem…

Rhythm in interior design is about using repetition and contrast in order to create more ‘visual interest’. This could mean interspersing a particular color or shape at equidistant points around your room for instance, or it could mean using contrasting directions of lines. A good choice might be to having the cushions on one sofa match the color of your opposite chairs.


Harmony is the intent to get all your elements to act in unison to send a single ‘message’. This might mean that everything in the room is created from different shades of the same color, or it might mean that everything is symmetrical. This could be seen as antithetical rhythm and in some ways it is – the key is in knowing where to use which principles. Harmony in particular is useful for making a room feel peaceful and thus should be used in rooms that are intended for relaxing in.


Emphasis means giving your room a focal point or multiple points of interest. These include bay windows, fire places or even large TVs. If your room lacks a ‘built in’ focal point you can add one using pictures, large sculptures or unusual furniture.

This is just the start though, for more consider looking for an interior decorating course? If you really do have an ‘eye’ then why not turn it into a profession?

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