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Elements of Interior Design

Decorating your home? Before you begin, read up on the six core elements of design and how interior decorators use these in their day-to-day work. This quick 101 will help you think about your home like a professional would.

Elements of Interior Design

When decorating your home, you will face countless design dilemmas and make decision after decision. It may feel overwhelming. If you start to question your thought process, it’s helpful to know that at the root of every project, there are six core elements of design. These elements will guide every design decision you make, and if you have a firm grasp on them, you can face this project with confidence and ease. Read on to learn about the six elements of design.

The Six Elements of Design

The Six Elements of Design

The six core elements of design are space, line, form, texture, pattern, and color. Interior decorators use these elements in the work every day. The coordinating or contrasting use of these six elements will determine the look and feel of your home.

Space

Space

Space is the area in which interior designers and home decorators work. It defines boundaries and sets the limits of our design. It is limited by width, length and height. To design your home effectively, you must learn how to assess the space and how to make space seem smaller or larger.

To assess the space you’re decorating, first properly measure the entire area, including ceiling heights. Then, not all architectural elements, such as columns, fireplace, and the like. Note the location of windows and skylights as well, and be mindful that natural light (or the lack of it) will affect how you interpret the space and how big or small it feels.

Use our room planner to help you plan your space with professional tools.

To make any room seem larger, use soft, light, and cool colors. To make a room seem smaller, or cozier, use patterns or dark, warm colors or intense contrasting colors—this will make the walls seem to advance visually. To keep the eye moving about the room, use colors with low contrast.

Line

Line

Line is the next element of interior design. Lines suggests movement and leads or moves the eye around the room. When studying your space, consider which existing architectural lines cannot be adjusted, such as beams, archways, a curved stairwell, and built-ins with strong lines. How can you build your design plan in a way that furniture does not fight with your architecture?

Think about the lines of the furniture you select for your space and how they will affect its style. Straight lines are considered to be more masculine. Vertical lines suggest formality and dignity. Horizontal lines are more restful, relaxed and casual. Diagonal lines create a sense of drama. And lastly, curved lines add interest and relief and are considered to be softer and therefore more feminine.

Form

Form

Form is another key element of interior design. The shape of an object is its form, and in any one room, the various forms should be harmonious and composed of similar types of lines. One of the most important tenets of interior design is that comfort and function should not be sacrificed in order to use a certain form. For example, if a chair is pleasing to look at but uncomfortable to sit in, it is not functional and is not good design.

Different shapes in interior design have different qualities, which you should familiarize yourself with. Rectangles are frequently the dominant shape in a room, and many consider them more pleasing to the eye than squares. Square shapes generally suggest a rational stable form. A circle implies unity and completeness. A triangle is a stable, but dynamic shape. A great way to begin your design process or plan is to identify the types of forms that appeal to you and work them into your design via a particular piece of furniture or decor, such as a round ottoman or a rectangular mirror.

Pattern

Pattern

Pattern is the repetition of a decorative motif on a surface. There are numerous opportunities for pattern in your interior design, from floor tiles to upholstery to throw pillows to drapery to art. Pattern provides the spice in decorating, and given that, it should be used sparingly.

Scale is also really important to consider when it comes to pattern. If a large print is used on a small object, the pattern will get lost. Whatever patterns you choose to use, as well as mix, be careful not to create an effect that is too busy. To prevent patterns from clashing or becoming overwhelming, mix patterns in the same color family.

Color

Color

Color is one of the most powerful tools used in interior design and decorating. That said, it’s critical to understand the relationships among colors, the effect particular colors and color schemes have on a space, and the way colors make people feel.

There are a few general guidelines to follow when using color in interior design. You may be surprised by the effect your lighting, both natural and otherwise, has on the colors in space. Dim lighting reduces a color’s value and diminishes its hue while high lighting levels intensify the hue or can wash it out. The amount of area covered by any color also has an effect: In a small paint sample, for instance, variations in color may be negligible, while in a room that’s fully painted, variations can be overwhelming. This is because color intensifies as the area of any color increases.

Color

Work with an Interior Designer

Williams Sonoma Home offers free design services to our customers. Work with our stylists and decorators, in your home or at your local store, to create your dream home. Schedule an appointment with the Williams Sonoma Design Crew or work with your local store to get started.