Principles of Home Design
Beautiful homes are rooted in five key principles. Learn these elements and creating a magazine-worthy space will be a cinch!
If you’ve ever experienced buyer’s remorse when decorating your home or wondered how to make existing furniture work with new pieces, you might benefit from a lesson in the five principles of home design. These five principles—balance; scale; unity, rhythm, and harmony; and focal points—are the tools by which beautiful, functional spaces are created! Keep reading to learn the ropes.
Balance is defined as visual equilibrium in design. You’ll hear this term used often by interior designers, as it’s a concept that applies to so many different facets of design. It is visual weight that makes an object appear heavier or lighter than others and affect the balance of the room. Large objects, bright colors, and rough textures have heavy visual weights, while small objects, cool colors, and smooth surfaces are visually lighter.
There are three types of balance. When something has symmetrical balance, there’s a mirror image from one side of an axis to another. It is formal and rigid and can add stateliness or dignity to a room. When something has asymmetrical balance, it creates a feeling of equilibrium by using different objects of the same visual weight on both sides of the axis. It is created through variation in shape, color and pattern. Asymmetrical balance tends to be more interpretive and less formal. The last type of balance is radial balance. It is created by working outward in a circle from a central point. It creates a good gathering space, conducive to conversation. It can be achieved not only with a round table but with rectangular or square pieces placed in a circular manner.
Scale is the size of an object when compared with the size of the space it is in. For example, a grand piano placed in an alcove would be out of scale with its surroundings. The same piano would be in scale in a large room with high majestic ceilings.
Proportion is the relation of the size of one part of the object to the size of the remaining parts of the object. Furnishings, while being in scale with the room, must also be in proportion to one another. For example, a small table with a large lamp on it would not be in proper proportion.
Unity, Rhythm, and Harmony
Another important principle in interior design is that of unity, rhythm, and harmony. Rhythm is created through the repetition of color, line, form and texture throughout a room. These elements should be carefully positioned within the room in order to move the eye around a room either comfortably or jumpy. Like the various rhythms associated with music, visual rhythm moves the eye at a variety of tempos. A slow relaxed rhythm can be created with connection of color and lines. Meanwhile, a faster allegro rhythm can be created by the vivid contrast of light and dark, and by lines that abruptly change direction or which are broken and scattered around a room. With too much unity, a space can feel boring; with too much variety, it can create anxiety. It’s important to find the proper balance of each with the other—this is good design!
The last principle is that of focal points. Focal points are the center of activity. In interior design, particular pieces of furniture, accessories, or architectural element that are given special attention or prominence are considered focal points. Examples would include a fireplace, great view, a painting, mirror, chandelier or even a rug. The design elements hold a room together visually by drawing the eye to them.
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.