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The 7 Elements of Design – and how to use them in your home interiors

  • Tips & Tricks
Jan 12, 2022
Colour palette is an important element of interior design - Beautiful Homes

A crash course in the fundamentals of interior design

In the world of interior design, there are 7 elements of design that guide experts and novices alike. They are SPACE, LINE, LIGHT, COLOR, FORM, TEXTURE AND PATTERN.

Whether you are considering renovating your house from scratch or simply looking for home décor ideas for a room in your house, take our crash course in the building blocks of interior design. 

1. Element of Design - Space

The first and most important of the interior design elements is space. Space is what a blank canvas is to an artist. Without understanding the basic dimensions and form of the canvas, an artist cannot commence on a piece of artwork. This is why you will always find an interior designer equipped with a measuring tape. A starting point in interior design is to get a sense of the dimensions of a space. The overall square footage, the height and width of the walls, the placement of doors and windows and so on.


If you are just beginning to consider home décor ideas, there are two important concepts of space you must familiarise yourself with – POSITIVE SPACE and NEGATIVE SPACE.

  • Positive space in interior design is all the space that is occupied by objects – think, furniture, floor lamps, plants, rugs and so on. 

  • Negative space in interior design is therefore the opposite – it is all the space between these objects that is purposefully left empty so you can comfortably get around a room.


An interior designer will always work on creating a balance between the positive and negative spaces in a room.

Dimensions of home space is important for interior designing - Beautiful Homes

Image courtesy, Maishaa

An imbalance of the two can create a dischord in the overall design of a space. For example, leave too much negative space in a room and it will feel sparse, empty, unfurnished and therefore a bit impersonal. On the otherhand, fill up a room with too much furniture and too many objects and it will feel cluttered, messy and overcrowded. 


Style Tip: If you’re on the lookout for minimalistic home décor ideas, study the use of all the negative spaces in a room. But if you want to create a more cosy or inviting space, think of all the ways in which you can fill up a room with objects that mean something to you and work towards reducing the negative space between these objects.

Vertical lines on the wall in this bedroom makes it look bigger - Beautiful Homes

Image courtesy, Azure Interiors

2. Element of Design - Line

The next building block in the elements of design is line. A line in interior design speak is seen in both the actual structure of a room as well as all of the room’s objects, such as a table. Lines can be used strategically to draw the eyes in whichever direction they run. Vertical lines can be employed to make the room feel taller whereas horizontal lines will make a room feel wider.

The most significant vertical lines to consider in a room are that of the doors and windows.

Horizontal lines are also used to create a sense of stability in a room – think of a dining table or a chest of drawers as the guiding line in the room and then place all the other objects in line with these anchoring objects in the room.


Types of Line


1. Horizontal Lines

Horizontal lines are the most common type of line in interior design. They are often associated with stability, restfulness, and calmness. Horizontal lines can be found in furniture pieces like sofas, tables, and beds, as well as architectural features like floorboards and window sills. When used effectively, horizontal lines can create a sense of balance and tranquillity in a room. Some examples of furniture in this category are wide sofas and low platform beds.

2. Vertical Lines

Vertical lines, on the other hand, are associated with height, strength, and authority. They can make a space feel more formal and imposing. Vertical lines can be found in architectural features like columns, doorways, and windows, as well as furniture pieces like tall bookcases and floor lamps. When used correctly, vertical lines can create a sense of grandeur and elegance in a room. Some examples of furniture in this category are tall bookshelves, floor-to-ceiling curtains and floor lamps.



Get inspired by this interior design idea - Beautiful Homes

3. Dynamic Lines

Dynamic lines are less common in interior design. They are often associated with movement, action, and energy. Dynamic lines can be curved, diagonal, or zigzag, and can be found in decorative accents like patterned rugs, artwork, and accessories. When used effectively, dynamic lines can add visual interest and create a sense of excitement and movement in a space. Some examples of furniture in this category are decorative vases and curvy sofas.


Style Tip: Lines can also be horizontal or even dynamic like curves and zig-zags but such lines are usually used in decorating a room rather than guiding the basic design of a space.

Lighting fixtures in the house are an essential element of interior design - Beautiful Homes

Image courtesy, Emery Studio

3. Element of Design - Light

There is a reason why the term “mood lighting” often creeps up in conversations about interior design and it is because light is a powerful tool that can influence our mood, our feelings and to an extent, it even influences our physiology. When we look at light as one of the interior design elements, we consider both the natural light and the artificial lighting of a space.


There are ways to manipulate and make the most of both these sources of light in a room, including in the context of living room design. Natural light plays a big part in making a space feel warm, safe and happy but when it isn’t filtered properly it can feel harsh and even make a room actually hotter. While we cannot directly control the natural daylight coming into a space, we can minimise or maximise it by the use of skylights, floor-to-ceiling windows and even furnishings for windows like blinds and curtains.


Artificial lighting is more complex and is broadly characterised in the following terms:

  • Ambient lighting is all the light you actually want in a space, it is the starting point of light in a room. All the big, main lights that form the background light of a room will dictate all the other sources of the light in the room after natural sunlight.
  • Accent lighting in home décor ideas is any light that is used to accentuate a specific part of a room or bring focus to a specific object such as a piece of art. An accent light can also be a chandelier or a statement lamp itself.

  • Task lighting is designed keeping in mind a specific task at hand, for instance a table lamp for a study desk or bright lights required for cooking in a kitchen.


Style Tip: These days LED lights don’t just come with dimmers but they also come with options to switch from white to yellow light and if you’re feeling adventurous, they even switch to any of the many colours under the sun. 

4. Element of Design - Colour

Just like light, colour is another one of the most important interior design elements not only because it can set the mood and tone of a space but also because it can make a room feel more spacious or more snug depending on the end goal of your interior design.


When it comes to home décor ideas, choosing the right colour for a space can be daunting but there are two most important things to keep in mind before you start colour hunting. 

Colour palette is an important element of interior design - Beautiful Homes

Image courtesy, Beyond Designs

The first is the overall size of the space you intend to work with – the smaller the space, the brighter the room should be and as the space gets larger, there is more scope to play with darker shades.


Style Tip: Warm colours like oranges and yellows make a space look cosy and inviting. These colours are great for smaller rooms that don’t get a lot of natural light while cool colours like blues and green have a calming effect.

Shape of the space in your home décor is an essential element of design - Beautiful Homes

Image courtesy, Maishaa

5. Element of Design - Form

Form when studied as one of the interior design elements is shape by another word. In interior design, form includes the actual shape of the space as well as all the shapes of the furniture and objects used to fill up the space.

When it comes to home décor ideas, you can see shapes as geometric shapes or natural shapes. Largely, geometric shapes are constructed, like furniture whereas natural shapes are more organic, like plants.

1. Geometric Forms

Geometric forms are regular, uniform shapes that are often associated with order, symmetry, and precision. Examples of geometric forms include cubes, spheres, pyramids, and cylinders. These forms can be found in furniture pieces like tables and chairs, as well as decorative accents like vases and sculptures. When used correctly, geometric forms can create a sense of balance, stability, and sophistication in a space.

2. Natural Forms

Natural forms, on the other hand, are irregular and asymmetrical shapes that are often associated with nature, organic shapes, and fluidity. Examples of natural forms include tree branches, rocks, flowers, and leaves. These forms can be incorporated into a space through the use of natural materials like wood, stone, and plants. When used correctly, natural forms can create a sense of relaxation, tranquillity, and harmony in a space.


Style Tip: In interior design, shapes with rounded curves lend the space softness whereas geometric forms offer more stability to a space.

Geometrical interior design idea for your home design - Beautiful Homes
Texture & pattern make interesting interior design for your home - Beautiful Homes

Image courtesy, Beyond Designs

6. Element of Design - Texture

The last two elements of design: texture and pattern are most helpful for homeowners looking for home décor ideas. Think of them as layers which can be used to decorate, accentuate and elevate spaces.

Texture in interior design can come from the texture of a wall (smooth, matte, glossy), the upholstery used (plush like velvet, soft as satin) and even the flooring (marble or concrete). Wallpapers and wall coverings are another way to infuse texture into a space, it can also be used to create the illusion of depth where required.

Style Tip: If you’re looking for home décor ideas to introduce texture to a room, consider an accent wall. Add texture by choosing from brushing, combing, ragging, spatula, dapple, colour wash, weaving, canvas, crinkle and sponging. Textures can be especially eye-catching when metallic paints are used or when the paints used are contrasting, like matte and glossy.

1. Visual Texture

Visual texture refers to the illusion of texture that is created through the use of patterns, colours, and shading. For example, a wallpaper with a wood grain pattern can create the visual texture of wood panelling without the actual texture. Other examples of visual texture include faux finishes like marble or concrete, as well as graphic prints and patterns. Visual texture can add interest and depth to a space, without overwhelming the senses.

2. Actual Texture

Actual texture, on the other hand, refers to the physical surface of a material. This is the texture that can be felt by touch. Examples of actual texture include wood grain, stone, woven fabrics, and fur. Actual texture can add tactile interest and warmth to a space, and can be used to create a sense of cosiness or comfort.

Classy interior design idea for your home design - Beautiful Homes
Patterns in home décor make an important element of interior design - Beautiful Homes

Image courtesy, GharGhar

7. Element of Design - Pattern

Patterns can be defined as a repetitive decorative element. They can be geometric, abstract, floral and more. Patterns in interior design are used to infuse energy and playfulness to a space. These days everything from wooden floors to wallpapers come in a dizzying array of patterns. An easier, commitment-free way to introduce patterns into a space is through a piece of art or an area rug, perhaps even decorative items such as patterned cushion covers.

Style Tip: The size of a space must be taken into consideration before the addition of patterns. Very large or varying patterns can overwhelm a small space. Clashing or contrasting patterns are better suited to larger spaces.

Why Be Theoretical About Interior Design?


Interior design is a complex and multifaceted field that requires a deep understanding of various design principles and theories. While it may be tempting to jump right into the practical aspects of designing a space, being theoretical about elements of design in interior design is vital for creating a successful and effective plan. Here are some reasons why:


1. Gives a solid foundation:

Understanding design theories and principles provides a solid foundation for creating effective design solutions. Design theories can help you understand how different design elements interact with each other, how colours affect mood and energy levels, and how lighting can enhance or detract from a space. By knowing these theories and principles of interior design elements, you can create a cohesive and visually pleasing space that meets the client's needs.


2. Helps create a unique design style:

Being theoretical about interior design can also help you develop a unique design style that sets you apart from other designers. By understanding different design styles and theories, you can combine them in new and creative ways to create a unique aesthetic that reflects your personality and design philosophy.


3. Helps problem-solve:

Interior design involves solving complex problems like space planning, lighting, and furniture arrangement. By understanding design theories and principles of interior design elements, you can approach these problems in a systematic and logical way. This ensures that your design solutions are not only visually pleasing but also functional and practical.


4. Enhances creativity:

Being theoretical about interior design can also enhance your creativity and imagination. By understanding different design theories and principles, you can think outside the box and create unique and innovative design solutions. This can help you push boundaries and create designs that are not only beautiful but also innovative and functional.


By understanding different theories and principles of elements of design in interior design, you can develop a unique design style, problem-solve, enhance creativity, and ultimately create spaces that are both visually appealing and functional.


FAQs on Interior Design Elements


1. What is the most important element of interior design?

While all elements of interior design are essential, there is no one "most important" element. The success of an interior design project depends on how well all the elements work together to create a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing space. However, some designers may argue that the function or purpose of the space is the most important element, as it dictates the layout, furniture, lighting, and other design decisions.


2. Why are interior design elements important?

Interior design elements are important because they help create a visually pleasing and functional living space. Each element plays a role in creating a cohesive and balanced environment that reflects your personality and lifestyle. For example, colour can influence mood and energy levels, while texture can add depth and interest to a room. By understanding and using interior design elements effectively, you can transform a dull and uninspiring space into a stylish and welcoming home.


3. What are the factors affecting interior design?

Several factors can affect interior design, including the purpose and function of the space, the user's lifestyle and preferences, the architectural style and features of the building, and the budget and timeline for the project. Other factors like lighting, materials, and colour selection can also impact the overall design. Understanding these interior design elements and how they interact with each other is crucial for creating a successful interior design project that meets the client's needs and expectations.

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