The Seven Elements of Interior Design

The Seven Elements of Interior Design

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We have all been faced with the frustrations of interior design. Whether you decide you want to go in a new direction using existing furnishings or are starting with a blank slate in a new home, there will always be roadblocks to your vision. Interior design may seem daunting, but in reality, it is really not all that complicated. When you break interior design down to its basic components, the process becomes much easier.

Along with the seven principles of interior design, there are seven design elements that must work together synergistically to comprise a visually pleasing room. If you use these design elements as a guide for decorating your home, the results will be nothing short of spectacular!

What Are the 7 Elements of Interior Design?

  1. Space
  2. Texture
  3. Light
  4. Color
  5. Pattern
  6. Line
  7. Form

1. Space

Space is a simple design element to understand—it refers to the physical boundaries of a room. Unless you are an architect, you do not typically get to choose the dimensions of the room you are designing, so you must find a way to use the area's existing space and layout to your advantage.

Space provides you with limits on how much you can place in a room. If your room is small, don’t overcrowd it with furniture and accessories. If your room is large, don’t skimp on the furnishings.

2. Texture

The element of texture is defined as “the feel, appearance, or consistency of a surface.” It can refer to rough or smooth finishes, glossy or dull surfaces, and soft or coarse textiles. If you have decorated a room, you understand the importance of texture. Everything from fabrics and furniture to decorative accessories brings different textures into a space.

Texture can be used to enhance a room’s existing features or provide added dimension to a space. In a small, dark room, furnishings with smooth, shiny finishes can impart a reflective quality and give the space a sense of natural light. Conversely, in a large, bright room, rough textures can help balance an excess of natural light.

3. Light

The element of light refers to both natural and man-made light sources. Light goes hand in hand with texture and is also closely associated with color—without a light source, color cannot exist. Light helps to set the mood in a room. Subdued lighting usually imparts a cozy, romantic feel. Rooms that are bathed in natural light, on the other hand, tend to feel airy and cheerful.

Light also plays a functional role in interior design. Light can illuminate working, dining, and reading areas or be used to emphasize certain objects in a room like paintings, sculptures, or other pieces of art.

4. Color

Color, along with light, is considered by many to be one of the key elements of interior design. It is used to create aesthetically pleasing combinations and also works on a psychological level. You have probably heard that the color red stimulates the appetite. For that very reason, it is often used in dining rooms.

Colors can literally transform a home. A dark, depressing space can become bright and cheerful with a simple color overhaul. Color can also create specific moods and looks. Using cool and neutral colors can convey peace and tranquility. Rich jewel tones can make a drab space feel luxurious and regal. Incorporating reds, oranges, and yellows into a sterile, white room can add a sense of warmth and comfortability.

5. Pattern

As a design element, pattern often works in conjunction with color. It is used in interiors to add life and interest to a room's furnishings. Like texture, pattern can be used to endow surfaces with additional dimension.

Pattern is typically created by using repetitive designs in fabrics, rugs, tiles, painting techniques, and wallpapers. Just think about how dull a room would be without pattern!

6. Line

Line, as it pertains to interior design, refers to the "lines" created by the furnishings and architecture of a room. The lines in a room provide it with form and shape. Line is responsible for harmony, contrast, and unity in interior design. It signifies movement and guides the eye through a room.

Line refers to the boundaries of both straight and curved surfaces. The dynamic nature of diagonal lines creates drama and movement in rooms with staircases or modern fabric patterns. Curved lines can be found in furniture, windows, and arched doorways. Feminine curves often serve to unite and soften horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines in room design.

Horizontal lines are most often found in furniture such as tables, chair backs, bookshelves, and media centers. They play an important role in interior design by balancing the vertical lines that exist in most spaces. Look around your house for examples of vertical lines and you'll find that they're everywhere. Windows, curtains, doorways, columns, and tall furniture pieces all add to the illusion of height in your home.

Line in Interior Design and Fashion

8. Form

The term form is often used interchangeably with the term shape in interior design. It is a close relative to line in that it can be used to produce distinct feelings and effects when applied according to the principles of interior design.

A long dining room table placed in a rectangular room can create a sense of harmony. Add a series of round pendant fixtures above the table and you have achieved contrast and a sense of balance. Be advised, however, that using many different forms in one room can result in a confusing and disjointed design.

Questions & Answers

Question: In my dining room the popcorn ceiling is the shape of an octagon. The metal chandelier is a dark grey linen. I want to paint the ceiling but unsure as to color. Instead of hiding this area I want it to pop and showcase the chandelier. What do I do?

Answer: It would be a good idea to remove the popcorn ceiling before you decide which color to paint. Use a bright white paint that will highlight the chandelier and make it pop against the smooth ceiling.

Question: I recently moved into an apartment. While most of my existing furniture works, I am finding that the strong architectural elements of this new place are challenging to work with. What principles of design will help me navigate working with or even recognizing the strongest elements in each room?

Answer: These types of architectural details Incorporate strong features such as crown molding, ceiling beams, large windows, high ceilings, plaster details and decorative millwork that enhances its beauty plus boosts your apartment's appeal.

© 2012 Linda Chechar

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 15, 2018:

Olivia, there are plenty of helpful articles about interior design on dengarden and other websites. Do a Google search and you'll find a wealth of information on how to create a functional and attractive space.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 15, 2018:

prossy, glad you enjoyed this article and learned a few new things about interior design. Thank you!

Olivia on August 14, 2018:

I want to have more understanding how creating space works

prossy on August 01, 2018:

It has been so helpful, actually didn't any idea but av really learnt some thing, good jooooob!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on April 17, 2018:

Dr. Jaspals, so glad you enjoyed this article and were able to use it for your class discussion. Thank you for sharing!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on January 16, 2018:

Abubakkar, so glad this article was helpful to you! Thanks for reading and commenting!

Abubakkar on January 16, 2018:

It's very useful article....and very useful for my project works....keep it up

Priya Khosla on December 25, 2017:

You have very beautifully simplified the elements of interior designing making them layman friendly. Good job! And I had never heard about red increasing appetite for food, but good to know!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on December 17, 2017:

Thank you, Jen!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 28, 2017:

Marcella, a large scale mirror is perfect for contemporary dining room. If the room is on the small side it would give it a sense of space. If the room is large is would accentuate its grandeur.

samuel on May 24, 2017:

Beautiful article .i believe that light is the most vital since without light all the other elements will be invisible.Please also elaborate further on form.thank you

Michelle on February 27, 2017:

Very interesting, thank you for great advice

YAHIA on February 04, 2017:

Perfect article ...

Shah Gyanendra on January 09, 2017:

It's gives energy to interior design

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 26, 2015:

Thank you, Kristen. There's a lot more to interior design than meets the eye. Glad you enjoyed the Hub!

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on October 26, 2015:

Linda, this was a real interesting hub to know the 7 elements of interior design. It's so useful and filled with knowledge to do it at home. Great hub!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on October 03, 2014:

Tamara14, so happy you enjoyed this Hub. "Less is more" is actually a good rule to follow when decorating a room--that way you can add furnishings/accents gradually until you strike the perfect balance. Colors definitely affect one's mood and can evoke strong feelings one way or another as to the overall beauty of a space. Color is the most subjective design element. What appeals to one person, might be totally revolting to another! :)

Tamara14 on October 03, 2014:

This was very nice read, thank you. I always try to follow that old rule "less is more" but I guess colors are what really makes me like or dislike any interior. I don't like too much white on the wall and I like floors to be a bit darker, especially wooden. Etc, etc, etc... :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 29, 2013:

Thanks myplacesg, glad you enjoyed this look into the elements of interior design. Feel free to share these concepts. I would appreciate attribution if you use actual excerpts from my article. :)

Singapore Interior Design from Singapore on July 29, 2013:

This is amazing, i would like to share some of your pointers with my readers.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on February 12, 2013:

You are so welcome Beltane73! Hope the information helps! :)

Holly Kline from South Jersey on February 12, 2013:

I was looking for something like this! Thanks for the article.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on November 08, 2012:

JanMaklak, how exciting it is to redecorate! Do feel free to stop in for more tips and advice. Good luck with your home décor projects! :)

JanMaklak from Canada on November 08, 2012:

Wow! This will come in handy as my wife and I redecorate our house. I'll be checking bacl for more !

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on September 28, 2012:

Thanks, alifeofdesign! I like to try to keep things simple to inspire more people to trust their individual design styles. You're exactly right. I do think people are intimated by design until they become familiar with the basic concepts -- then they can have fun with it. Thanks for your comment!

Graham Gifford from New Hamphire on September 28, 2012:

I enjoyed your hub, lindacee-thank you. I've worked in several design fields and always enjoy reading what others have to say. You've outlined the basics very well and in a way, I think, that won't scare people away. I think that many people shy away from formulated their own home designs simply because they doubt themselves. I hope that you have provided a few with a little inspiration to give it a try.

Best Regards,

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 26, 2012:

Meloncauli, so nice to hear from you! Using neutrals as the basis for a room gives you a great deal of latitude. You can easily introduce other colors through accessories. It is also less expensive to change a color scheme. Thanks for reading! Take care.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 26, 2012:

Watergeek, interior paint color combinations bring out interesting moods and feelings. Color is the most important interior design element, IMO. So pleased you enjoyed this Hub. Thank you for reading! :)

meloncauli from UK on August 26, 2012:

As ever Linda, a wonderful hub. I am a neutral person too, a minimalist. All my colour is in the accessories to the room usually.

Susette Horspool from Pasadena CA on August 26, 2012:

I discovered, when moving into my current apartment, that I love the color combination of red and green. It's both restful and vibrant, which gives me a great sense of security, for some reason. Interesting hub, lindacee.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 22, 2012:

Leah, if you tackle each of the elements separately, you can put together a great looking room over time. It's just like putting the pieces of a puzzle together! :)

Leah Lefler from Western New York on August 22, 2012:

I love the way you broke down the seven elements of design - I don't have an eye for interior design, but this really helps me understand how the elements come together to create a beautiful, cohesive layout!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 13, 2012:

Teaches, space is always a major sticking point. Either there is too little or too much and the oddly shaped spaces, as in your case. Unfortunately, we have to deal with the space configurations we have and try to be as creative as possible. Hopefully you can conquer your space issues! Take care!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 13, 2012:

Greatstuff, hope this article can help your son with his apartment décor. Yes, budget is definitely an element for many people. He is smart -- shopping for bargains and getting free ideas from the home exhibition! Tell him I wish him luck with his endeavor. I'm sure he's having fun!

Dianna Mendez on August 11, 2012:

All great advice for when you redecorate a home. Space is one area that I struggle with in remodeling our home. It has some odd shaped areas. Thanks for the ideas.

Mazlan from Malaysia on August 11, 2012:

Useful reading for my son who is now decorating his apartment; will forwad this article to him. I have to add that in his case, another element is budget. So he has been shopping around buying things that are on sale and going to home exhibition to get good deals!

Kristi Sharp from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on August 07, 2012:

It must be because I'm always here! I have to tell you, I love the chaise lounges too! I have two of them in my house! GO HA!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 07, 2012:

I'm a color junkie too, K. I tend to go more neutral with the walls and large, upholstered pieces (mainly because I can't spend the money to change them all the time) and add color through artwork, pillows and accessories. Is being a colorholic is similar to being a Hubaholic! ;)

Kristi Sharp from Born in Missouri. on August 07, 2012:

When I walk into a space I immediately look for a color source. I think I've decided that I'm a color addict. First step is to admit it right? My house isn't neon pink. It's actually fairly neutral only because I can't commit to designing a room - too scary. Awesome hub. -K

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 06, 2012:

Thank you so much for you kind words, Angela. So glad you enjoyed the article! It was my goal to put these concepts into a concise, easily understandable format. It takes some of the mystery out of the interior design process and makes it accessible to everyone!

Angela Blair from Central Texas on August 06, 2012:

Excellent article -- I've done both residential and commercial design/décor for years and your information is basic and very necessary to the decorating cause -- mostly, getting that point across to one's client and making it definitely understood. Seems color is everyone's bug-a-boo and to me that seems the most simple of all. Super read and thanks! Best/Sis