If you have ever had that feeling of wanting to be a professional interior designer just for a day, you are not alone. Many people appreciate the desire there, and the good news is that you can gain a fairly realistic version of that experience simply by learning as much about interior design as you can. As it happens, there are a number of useful and fascinating principles which the professionals use and are aware of when designing interior space. These principles are sometimes obvious in an unconscious way, and sometimes they are the kind of thing you could never guess. In this post, we are going to take a look at some of the most useful principles of interior design which the professionals use every day.
This just might be the most central interior design principle there is. As long as any space has a strong sense of balance – of whatever kind – it is likely to look and feel ‘just right’, often without you being aware of why that is. But coming to grips with how balance actually manifests can be quite tricky – for that, we will first need to delve into the concept itself, and see what different kinds of balance there are for you to work with.
The most commonly used kind of balance has to be symmetrical balance. This is, obviously enough, when an imaginary vertical axis is used in order to create a sense of symmetry. This could mean that you have the same, or similar, objects at the same point on each side of this axis. Or it might even be a case of thematically linking the two sides together, a more subtle kind of balance which can nonetheless have a strong impact visually. This kind of symmetrical balance is most likely to be found in more traditional settings and designs, but aspects of it on a smaller scale might well form a part of more modern or minimalist approaches too. However it is done, symmetry tends to relax and soothe us – harking back to the primal joy gained from seeing symmetry in ourselves and others.
Of course, balance does not have to follow the lines of symmetry in order to balance, or in order to be beautiful. Asymmetrical balance is just as important a tool in interior design, and is increasingly popular these days in homes all over the world. The obvious question here is how to create a sense of balance when there is little or no symmetry. The answer is that you use objects which have a similar kind of psychological weight to them – shape, size, colour, and so on. This can be harder to get right, but is almost always indicative of movements, and as such can bring a lot more to an interior space than symmetrical balance.
You might well be thinking that those must be the only two options for balance. However, there is a third, and it is one of the most interesting concepts in all of interior design. Radial symmetry is when a centre point is used as the focus, and everything is symmetrical in relation to that point, rather than along an axis. It can be hard to get radial symmetry right, but when it is executed well it can make for some of the most interesting spaces around.
Balance is all well and good, but if you look deeper you inevitably have to answer the question of how to actually achieve that balance. In this sense, we begin to get into the concept of proportion, possibly one of the most difficult concepts to bring into a space successfully, even though it is one of the easiest to grasp conceptually.
If an interior space has a good sense of proportion, then you can say that the individual items work together in a pleasing way. It is almost like a kind of visual rhythm, albeit one which can vary hugely from person to person. To achieve proportional beauty, you need to remember that it is always a personal judgement regarding the relationship of one item to another. What you find to be pleasingly proportionate someone else might find completely cluttered and disordered, so there is no right or wrong.
However, using furniture which already has a sense of innate proportionality will help you to bring out that same quality in the wider room. Companies like Bridgman often offer items which suit the bill in this regard; you can see their furniture fitting proportionately with many kinds of space, and in relationship to many other kinds of furniture. It is this ability which ensures you have the possibility of bringing proportion to the space successfully.
If you can get the proportion right in your home, you will find that the eye is more relaxed, and this leads to a much more relaxed feeling in the home in general. It is well worth focusing on this particular principle, even if only to make for a more comfortable feeling in the home.
This is the kind of concept that can really separate great interior designers from average ones. With a good strong innate sense of rhythm, a home can take on an entirely new kind of life, and being able to master this particular principle is often said to be enough to make any space truly yours, truly unique. But what exactly is rhythm, in connection with the design of a home?
Mostly, the rhythm you can achieve in your home is all about the repetition of different distinct visual patterns. These patterns can be literal patterns, as in wallpapers or carpets, or they can be suggestive patterns, more subtle examples of the same kind of trend. However you do it, rhythm can help a room come into its own. But as with many other interior design concepts, there are a number of ways that rhythm can generally appear in design.
Basic repetition is the use of the same visual element again and again throughout the space. The amount of times it is repeated can vary, with differing effects, as can the overt or covert nature of that repetition. Either way, it is both basic and surprisingly powerful.
The kind of rhythm known as progression is the use of an element in order to increase or decrease a property it alone has, or shares with something else. Doing this can achieve an effect of rhythm which is a little more subtle, but still has an overall effect on the eye which makes a noticeable difference.
Similarly, you can achieve rhythm by using a sense of transition, in which your eye will be more likely to flow freely from one element to another. And the antithesis of this, but just as effective in its own way, is the use of contrast, which offers a kind of rhythm by using a variety of opposing elements in similar ways. This is one of the hardest to achieve, as the eclectic nature of it can mean that the overall effect is not quite as obvious. But with a little practice, you might even find that this becomes one of the more useful elements in all of rhythmic concerns.
If you want to really do everything you can to make a space as complete as possible, there is no way that you can ignore colour choice. The truth is that professional interior designers treat colour as its own element and principle, rather than an accidental characteristic of other items. Just as a painter must consider carefully the colours they use, so too must an interior designer think long and hard about their palette. But what comes into consideration when you are trying to decide on a range of colours for a space?
One of the most important is colour psychology. Each colour has its own associated feelings, senses, connotations and so on – and while each of these will differ and have personal meaning for different people, overall you can still find some common ground for each colour. Blues and yellows are almost always calming, for example. Violet and red can have the opposite effect, but can also invite passion if used in a closed-in space such as a bathroom. You do not need to know every possible effect a colour might have on people, but getting a general understanding of colour psychology won’t hurt. The more you appreciate what a colour is actually doing to the people in the room, the more consciously you can use colour as an element in its own right.
It’s not just the psychological effect of colour which needs considering, however. Professional interior designers need to be aware of what a colour does to the shape, symmetry and apparent scale of objects and spaces between objects. Colours can affect all other kinds of qualities in many surprising ways, and it takes plenty of practice to fully understand all of these effects.
By contemplating on the above principles more closely, you should be able to bring a more professional finish to your own interior design.