Interior Design Basics - Part 1
Updated: Aug 2, 2019
I really enjoying discovering more about how to create beautiful and functional spaces. I thought I would share some snippets of what I’ve learnt, in case they’re useful for you to think about in your own home. In this post I’m looking at design elements or the ‘building blocks’ of interiors – Space, Shape, Light, Colour, Line, Texture and Pattern. In my next post, I’ll share about Design Principles.
This is the volume of the room. It’s helpful to consider not only the floor space, but the height of the room too. You might want to make a room feel more spacious or more cosy and this will influence the colours and furnishings you pick. For example, we used to live in quite a large house so we bought oversized furniture to fill the space. Now it all looks a tad cramped in our smaller house. Furniture that is too big for your space can actually make the room look smaller.
Obviously all rooms have shapes, but the course got me thinking a bit more about how I use and contrast these. For example, long curtains around shorter windows can make them seem larger than they are. It's a good idea to mix rectilinear (square or rectangular furnishings) with curvilinear ones like this round coffee table amongst otherwise rectangular objects.
This comes from two sources, natural and artificial. I think in the past I have been pretty good at thinking about natural light (I try to cram as many windows into a space as I can and generally am not a big fan of heavy curtains or blinds), but artificial lighting is something to think through more. At home where I grew up, we always had these horrendous fluorescent white lights above the dining table that made the house feel like a surgical operating theatre. I am a much bigger fan of soft, warm lighting. Think about adding some lamps to your space that can create more cosy lighting options. Dimmers are also a great way to find a balance between mood and functionality.
Colour obviously has a huge effect on an interior space. I could do a post all about colour (and will one day!) but suffice to say, it can influence the mood of a room, an object in a room, and the illusion of space and size of the room. Colour is complex and can be hard to do with confidence. Maybe I’m just not bold enough to use it well yet, but I’ve always tended toward light, neutral palettes at home. We have a small house, so white really helped to enlarge the spaces. The 60/30/10 rule is helpful – 60% of your room should be your main colour, 30% a secondary colour that complements the first colour, but provides a little contrast, and 10% your accent colour. So for example, in our house, white is our main colour (walls, sofa, chairs, benches), beige/wood is our secondary colour (window frames, table, floor) and green is our accent colour (pot plants and accessories).
Lines help setting a certain mood within a space. Next time you look at a space, note which way the majority of lines flow. Vertical lines, for example, create formality and dignity (eg. a column) and can also make a room feel loftier. Horizontal lines are more informal and restful (eg. low, long lines of furniture) and can make a room feel cosier. Diagonal lines create movement, though too many diagonals can make a space feel hectic. Curves make a room feel natural and flowing.
Texture is one of my favourite ways to bring depth and life to a room, especially when you work a lot with neutral palettes like I do. A room should encompass more than your visual senses – a soft, furry pillow or throw rug can make an otherwise stark room feel inviting. Texture again has a big effect on the room – making a space feel rustic and informal (more texture) or refined and sophisticated (smooth surfaces). Using a textured pillow or throw are great ways to bring more depth, interest and cosiness to a space.
I haven’t been great at using patterns, as I love block colours, so I am excited to play around with them more in the future. Pattern is more than textiles too – it can be the pattern of wood panelling, or a brick wall, or the shadows cast in a room and can create real visual impact if used well.
I hope some of these principles have been helpful in thinking through or changing your own home interiors. Would love to hear your thoughts on what’s worked for you! And if you find these posts interesting, please do check out our store for some great handmade interior styling pieces!