Interior Design Principles Decoded

Balance, rhythm, emphasis, proportion, scale, unity and harmony, and variety are the 7 key elements that interior designers swear by. Our experienced designers can tell you that a good understanding of the design principles are essential for designing a beautiful space. Interior design is a lot like fashion in the sense that it is built on a set of rules or guidelines, and as long as you know the rules you know how and when you can break them. For example, if you're a fan of fashion you would know the old saying no whites after labor day, but this season is all about winter whites and luckily for you, you know the rules so you can go ahead and break them!

Image Source Harpers Bazaar

In interior design an example of breaking a rule could be choosing a light fixture that is completely out of scale with the rest of the room, but if you were confident that it added emphasis and you balanced your fixture accordingly with the rest of the space you could still achieve a high impact and harmonious space.

#1. Balance

When designers refer to balance they are referring to visual balance. Visual balance is all about the perceived visual weight of objects in interiors. There are 3 types of balance: symmetrical, asymmetrical, and radial.

Symmetrical balance refers to an arrangement where there seems to be an imaginary mirror down the central axis making each side a mirror image of the other. The human body is symmetrical as well as many other things found in nature, so symmetrical balance is used most frequently in design and has a very calming effect. Read more about why our brains love symmetrical design here.

Image Source: Rene Dekker Design

Asymmetrical balance refers to an arrangement where the mirror images are not equal but do tend to stabilize each other. For example one large object can be balanced asymmetrically by a grouping of smaller objects. Asymmetrical balance tends to be more exciting, active, and informal than symmetrical balance.

Image Source: Modern Eve

Radial balance is similar to symmetrical balance but has a central point where elements extend outward. Radial balance is most commonly seen in circular objects, furniture arrangements, light fixtures, and flower arrangements.

Image Source: Bakoko

#2. Rhythm

Rhythm is best described as organized movement and can be achieved in an interior setting through repetition, alternation, and progression. Repetition can be used to for carry the eye through a space by repeating simple forms, textures, or color. Alternation is a more complex system of rhythm where the elements of the design are expressed through contrast. An example would be patterns and prints such as pinstripe or zebra that alternate black and white. Progression of rhythm is about drawing the eye in a directional sequence, for example small to big, light to dark, no pattern to pattern.

Image Source: InStyle

#3. Emphasis

Emphasis refers to the concept of accenting some elements more than others. Emphasizing elements creates relationships of dominance and subordination as well as creates variety and gives character. Emphasis can be used interchangeably with Focal Point as with both terms you are drawing the eye in to a particular element. Emphasis can be created through dominant and subordinate use of forms, textures, color, and lines.

Image Source: InStyle

#4. Proportion

Proportion can be defined as the relationship of the parts to one another or to the whole. Proportion and scale sometimes get confused for one another, but Scale refers to the size of one object in relation to another object. For example you could compare the proportions of a sofa’s seat cushions to the overall sofa, and you could compare the scale of the sofa to an adjacent accent chair (because they are unrelated).

Image Source: Impressive Interior Design

#5 & 6. Unity and Harmony

Unity can be described as oneness or the state of being one. Unity can also refer to the totality of related parts. An example of unity would be with humans, we all look a bit different but as a whole we are all human and that is what unifies us. Unity gives a space a harmonious feel and can be achieved through repetition of pattern, texture, shape, or form.

Image Source: Impressive Interior Design

#7. Variety

Variety is about bringing in interesting things to create excitement. Variety can break up static or boring compositions, but must be implemented with a sense of unity or harmony. For example if you were styling a bookcase and using a lot of white throughout the room you could add some white irregular shaped objects to your bookcase to add interest while maintaining unity.

Image Source: HGTV

#InteriorDesign #DesignPrinciples #Balance #SymmetricalBalance #AsymmetricalBalance #RadialBalance #Rhythm #Emphasis #Proportion #Unity #Harmony #Variety


Hey There! I am Kate, creator of this  Blog and Owner of 3Qi Design Inc. Welcome to my world! To say I am obsessed with interior design would be a little understated. I live breathe and crave this amazingly fun and creative profession. I started this blog to share with you all the ideas, projects, inspirations, that I have and hope you can share in all I love. Take your time, peruse around, and lets get lost together in all things design!

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