8 Basic Principles and Elements of Interior Design

Your home is the most important place in your life. In this article, we'll explain some basic elements of interior design to make it beautiful.
8 Basic Principles and Elements of Interior Design

Last update: 12 May, 2022

Interior design is a very interesting field that studies harmony, textures, and space configuration, among other things, to create functional and pleasant places. In this article, we’ll teach you some concepts, principles, and basic elements in interior design that you can apply in your home.

The Barcelona School of Design explains that interior design, as an area of study, differs from interior decoration to the extent that it studies the structure of spaces and not only the decorative finishes. In contrast, interior decoration intervenes to give a final aesthetic value.

Thus, an interior design professional studies the structure of buildings or homes. In this way, they determine the methods of distributing the space and combine them with other elements, such as lighting or furniture.

Let’s take a closer look.

The basic principles and elements of interior design

The design and decoration of the home are decisions that shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, not everyone decides to hire a professional to take care of these issues.

Here are the basic principles you should keep in mind to decorate your spaces while following clear guidelines. Rather than rigid rules, they’re guidelines to consider in the planning, which can be adapted according to your tastes, intentions, and needs.

Additionally, before you start designing the space you want to give life to, you should take into account what activities are going to take place there. This way, it’s easier to have in mind the configuration of the elements.

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1. Harmony

The harmony of the spaces is to achieve that the elements that compose them are in balance with each other and don’t oppose or compete. This balance is achieved by arranging the elements so that their visual weight doesn’t disturb them.

A balance must be sought between aesthetics and the optimization of spaces to be functional. The concept of harmony is probably the most important, as it’s transversal to the other basic principles and elements in interior design.

Habitación con diseño de interiores.
Spaces must be functional and pleasant. The combination of both factors is key.

2. Proportion and scale

Have you ever been to a place that seems too small because it’s too full of objects? This is one of the most common mistakes, and it doesn’t maintain the proper proportions.

First of all, scale refers to the size of the objects concerning the size of the room. On the other hand, proportion evaluates the size of one thing concerning another.

For example, a tiny table next to a huge sofa is not proportional. Similarly, a small room with a bed that takes up almost all the space doesn’t keep good scale.

3. Color

Color is one of the most fundamental elements in decoration and interior design. A correct application of color can create environments with different intentions, as desired by each person or family. For example, certain shades can make a room generate a sensation of relaxation.

The influence of color on emotions and behaviors is known as color psychology. For example, blue tones stimulate calmness; orange tones encourage creativity; yellow tones encourage joy and energy, and green tones influence feelings of peace.

4. Textures

Textures are given by the furniture and decorative objects used in the room. However, they’re also present in the walls, floors, and other materials that make up the space.

They should be included strategically, according to the style of decoration you want to achieve. It’s important to add a limited variety. Otherwise, you may generate a saturation of textures.

5. Lighting

A publication by the University of Palermo says that interior design should speak the language of lighting because it communicates and has a theatrical purpose. Thus, it seeks to create certain atmospheres.

When planning the design of a room, it’s necessary to evaluate the natural light it receives and how it can be complemented with artificial light. In addition, it’s a good idea to look for some focal points that you want to illuminate.

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6. Distribution of space

Within the distribution of space and objects, it’s essential to have the concept of practicality at hand. It’s all about assessing the relationships of people with the environment. That is to say, it’s key to bear in mind how objects and spaces adapt to the activities carried out there.

In this sense, it’s necessary to organize the spaces so that the furniture and decorative objects facilitate circulation and don’t interfere with the entrances. Thus, it’s essential to evaluate the height at which pictures, shelves, and drawers will be hung.

7. Shapes and lines

Lines and shapes are elements for the definition and configuration of living spaces. The shape of these objects and how they’re arranged together determine how the visual and physical tour of the place will be made. They also help to create sensations.

Vertical lines on the wall help to create the sensation of height. On the other hand, horizontal lines generate amplitude and informality in spaces. The inclusion of circles brings dynamism, while rounded lines help to soften a space.

8. Emphasis or a focal point

The focal point or point of emphasis in the decoration is the one that draws the most attention in the space. That is to say, it stands out from the rest and defines the rest of the decoration.

Sometimes it can be defined intentionally. However, it’s present almost naturally in others, such as fireplaces or large windows.

You can also create intentional focal points by placing items in a striking color or at eye levels, such as a painting or vase. Knowing the focal point helps you determine where to pay the most attention.

Cuadros como puntos focales en la decoración de interiores.
Pictures are often focal points in decorating when they’re large and placed at eye level.

Tips for taking advantage of the basics of interior design

Before decorating your spaces, it’s a good idea to look for inspiration and ideas. Nowadays, this is very easy, as you can find many references on social networks, blogs, or designers’ websites.

Afterward, it’s a good idea to make an inventory to know what resources you have.

It’s also important that you think about what you want to achieve with the reform to the design or decoration of the space—for example, having a pleasant environment for reading, an area for teleworking, a place for meditation, or a playground for children.

You can make drawings, have a board of ideas, sketches, or make a list of tasks. It’s also a good idea to budget and prioritize first.

Now that you know the basic principles and elements of interior design, you’ve gained valuable knowledge to give your home a complete makeover! Remember that good interior design is based on having a beautiful decoration and has to do with creating spaces that generate emotional well-being and are useful.

Look for pleasant sensations by also paying attention to the smell, temperature, and cleanliness of a space. Houses should be adapted to the needs of the members of the household. After all, it’s different to design a space for babies or children than for older adults or a young couple.