Starting with the Basics

"Interior Design is the process of shaping the experience of interior space, through the manipulation of spatial volume as well as surface treatment. Not to be confused with interior decoration, interior design draws on aspects of environmental psychology, architecture, and product design in addition to traditional decoration".

Freshome Design & Architecture Magazine

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I thought that the beginning of the year would be a good time to revisit the basic design principles. The last post that I did was on the art of layering. It produced a number of really good conversations in person and via email. It seemed to strike a cord and got people thinking about how they could use it in their own homes, whether or not they were looking to hire an interior designer.

So, let's talk about the design principles because I think that is another topic that is universal. The basic principles or design fundamentals are scale, proportion, rhythm, emphasis, balance and harmony. They should be foremost in your mind when you are making selections and designing spaces.

Scale relates to size. The objective with scale is for objects to be alike or in harmony in dimension or mass. Although sometimes an element can be of larger scale to create a focal point or emphasis.

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Oh, did I mention that the principles overlap and sometimes rules are meant to be broken...if done well and with thought.

Proportion is the comparative relation between things or parts as it relates to size. Have you ever seen a piece of furniture that is off, it just doesn't look right. Well, it's probably the proportions.

Rhythm speaks to the flow within a room and throughout a house. It is how your eye moves from one design element to another. Rhythm is created with continuity, recurrence or organized movement. You need to think about repetition, progression, transition and contrast. Repeat, but not too much. Or repeat but in different form.

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Progression is taking an element and increasing or decreasing one or more of its qualities. An obvious implementation is a graduation of size. A cluster of items, say candles, in varying sizes, for example. Transition is what is used to lead the eye from one area to another.

Then, there is contrast. It is what creates interest in a space, but one must be careful to not use too much which can be jarring to the eye. It is a fine balance like all of good design.

And finally, balance can be described as the equal distribution of visual weight in a room. There are three styles of balance: symmetrical, asymmetrical and radial. Symmetrical balance is usually found in traditional interiors and is characterized by mirror images placed the same distance from a center point. It reflects the human form and can create a very comfortable aesthetic.

Asymmetrical balance is achieved with dissimilar objects that have equal visual weight. It is more casual but can be more difficult to achieve. It suggests movement and can create a more lively feeling interior.

Radial symmetry is when all the elements are arrayed around a center point.

Harmony is achieved through the sensitive balance of variety and unity. Color harmony may be achieved using complimentary or similar colors. Harmony in design is the similarity of components or objects. In other words, looking like they belong together or sharing a common trait such as color, shape, texture, pattern, material, theme, style or size. Good design is harmonious but not boring.

With that basic lesson in place, the next logical step is to start with a focal point...