The Basic Principles of Interior Design

Basic Principles of Interior Design

Basic Principles of Interior Design

written on September 23, 2020Interior Design

Interior design might sound simple, but it can easily go awry without the proper guidelines. This is why homeowners should have a solid understanding of the basic principles of interior design. These principles aren’t laws you have to abide by in order to own a house; they’re tools for you to take advantage of if you’re trying to create a specific mood.

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When first learning about interior design principles, you’re going to hear the term “visual balance” very often. Visual balance relates to the placement of objects throughout the room, as well as the textures, colors, patterns, and shapes found within the room. There are a handful of ways to approach visual balance, but you should look toward symmetrical balance throughout the room for traditional designs.

Symmetrical balance relies on the design of the room to have an even visual weight distribution. To put it simply, let’s use a fireplace as an example. If you have a black-and-white picture framed on the wall beside it, you should add another black-and-white picture of equal dimension on the opposite side of the fireplace. If the second picture you hang is larger or has a completely different color pallet than the other picture, the visual weight won’t be quite as balanced. By using this principle throughout the room, you’ll create a clean and aesthetically pleasing look.

That being said, as we mentioned above, don’t feel like you have to abide by these guidelines when living in your home. If you want to throw precise symmetry out the window until the day you have to stage the home for buyers, you can go for either an asymmetrical or a radial visual balance. Hanging that picture next to the fireplace despite it having a different size or color palette creates an asymmetrical balance, which can certainly appeal to specific styles and aesthetics depending on the goal that the homeowner is trying to achieve.

Don’t mistake asymmetrical visual balance to mean that the proportions should be all over the place as if you’re living in a Tim Burton movie. There are very subtle asymmetrical designs that will give the room a unique balance instead of a completely off-kilter look. Radial balance is taking one object in the room, whether it’s a table, staircase, or another object, and using it as a focal point from which other objects radiate from. In other words, radial balance relies on a central object for you to design the rest of the room around. To avoid creating sterile, dull designs, get creative with the colors and textures of objects in the room.


Harmony refers to how well the design choices you make mix with one another. You can use those different colored/sized pictures next to the fireplace, but you won’t quite capture that harmony if one or both of them are the only objects in the room with that kind of color, size, or texture. A single, large, bright pink picture frame in the corner of a room that contains entirely neutral colors isn’t going to be harmonious. If you want to create harmony in a specific room, you need to choose colors, textures, and sizes of objects that complement one another.

Proportion and Scale

While both of these principles aren’t exactly the same, you should still consider them a duo when improving a home’s interior design. The term proportion, in this case, refers to how the size or shape of an object meshes with all of the objects in the room. Scale, on the other hand, refers to how one specific object in the room meshes with the objects right beside it in relation to visual balance. For example, let’s go back to the comparison of the pictures beside the fireplace.

If both pictures are full-colored images of a similar design and are inside of picture frames of the same shape, color, and texture, you have a proper scale. That being said, if the size or shape of the pictures are vastly different from other pictures you have hanging in the room, then you’re missing the mark when it comes to proportion. Both scale and proportion play a huge role in achieving a harmonious layout.


In the world of interior design, rhythm refers to the repetition of design elements throughout a room, or between multiple rooms. Let’s throw the fireplace example out the window and talk about Russian nesting dolls. If you removed all of the inner dolls from the larger one and lined them up from left to right according to size, you’ll notice a rhythm. The rhythm stems from a few elements, such as the matching color palette on each doll, the design of the faces and clothes each one wears, and even the progression of size from one end to the other. If you took the largest doll and placed it between the third and fourth smallest, the visual rhythm will be off.

Why am I talking about Russian nesting dolls? This is to illustrate how essential these factors are to interior design rhythm—visual flow, consistency, repetition, and contrast. The visual flow, consistency, and repetition might seem apparent from the examples above, but you’re probably wondering how contrast comes into play. At first glance, the idea of contrast might seem contradictory to the idea of creating visual balance and flow, but imagine you have a couch with pillows on it that sport a checkered black-and-white design. In an effort to provide rhythm, you don’t want to use that exact color and shape pattern across your entire room, because that’ll look obnoxious.

In fact, even putting them on a couch that has that same color or pattern combo would simply cause the pillow to blend in instead of allowing the couch and pillows to complement one another. If you place those pillows on a couch that is either black or white, the contrasting colors and designs are going to make the individual elements stand out in the room, thus creating a solid rhythm.

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Using the basic principles of interior design will help you create visual appeal and cohesion at home. If you steer too far away from these guidelines, you run the risk of designing the room in a messy, obnoxious, or dull way. That being said, these guidelines shouldn’t stifle your creativity. Instead, experiment with different ideas to find a design plan that fits your personal taste. For instance, our professional home design services will guide you through the process using our team’s experience and knowledge. However, your vision matched with that experience and knowledge is what’s going to result in a design plan you’re happy with at the end of the day.