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Interior Design Basics

Understanding interior design basics helps to build more meaningful spaces in your home. A variety of interior design tutorials have been produced to help the beginner understand basic interior design elements and principles. Each source takes a slightly different approach to providing an overview of interior design. However, recurring themes common to each approach serve to establish the primary tenets of interior design. Taking an Expressive Homes design philosophy, the very basics of interior design entail creating a sense of place. A sense of place blends physical, cultural, and social properties with time, and results in a feeling of belonging, familiarity, and comfort. A sense of PLACE comes from Planning, Lighting, Artistic fundamentals, Centrality, and Expressiveness.


PLANNING requires taking a big picture view of the design process. When considering how the entire house can work together instead of simply operating as a collection of isolated rooms, congruence is achieved. Using an interior design vocabulary, this is referred to as achieving harmony or unity. Planning also involves considering how the space will be used, how people will move through it, and how functional it is. What is the purpose of the room, and is it being accomplished? During the planning phase, designers also establish the overall theme or style of the project.

lighting photoLighting

LIGHTING is one of the most important aspects of an interior design project but is often overlooked. Lighting influences the way we feel in a room and even the way we perceive the size of the room. Lighting involves optimizing the use of natural light as well as integrating artificial light. Accent lighting is used to place emphasis on desired design features. Task lighting is used for work zones like kitchens, bathrooms, and areas within a room requiring more intense light. Ambient lighting illuminates large spaces and helps ensure safety.

Creating a lighting scheme is not just about choosing what type of light is needed, but also how to achieve it as part of a decorative theme—in other words defining what lamps, fixtures, or elements will be providing the desired lighting effect.


ARTISTIC fundamentals govern the discipline of interior design. As an art form, interior design incorporates color palettes, patterns, textures, and materials. The interior designer strives to achieve balance across zones or entire rooms by equally distributing the visual weight throughout the area. Visual weight can be influenced by size, shape, color, and texture. Formal rooms often have a symmetrical balance with informal areas reflecting asymmetrical balance.

Like good artists, interior designers must pay close attention to the size, perspective, proportion, and scale of a room and the objects in it. Rhythm is the technique applied by interior designers to guide your eye through a room. Rhythm helps provide structure and organization to a space through repetition of design elements or patterns. Any technique which is used to influence the movement of the eye contributes to the room’s rhythm. This includes using contrast as well as progression where the color or size of design elements gradually evolve.


CENTRALITY is all about establishing a focal point in a room. Where do you want the emphasis to be? What will people remember about the room? Oftentimes a focal point will be something like a fireplace, a special piece of furniture, beloved artwork, or a beautiful custom built-in. Centrality is achieved by incorporating all the elements and principles of interior design to establish a focal point. Sometimes this can be as simple as carefully planning the arrangement of furniture. Other times it may be more complex and require a thoughtful redesign of the space. Centrality helps ensure the room leaves a lasting impression on all those who enter into it.


EXPRESSIVENESS is the object and purpose of good interior design. A well-designed home should be an expression of who you are; reflecting your personality, passions, and interests. An Expressive Home is filled with variety and offers something unique. Design possibilities are as diverse as the people the designs are being created for. Expressiveness helps establish the desired feeling and mood of a home, and is the capstone for interior designers to impart a sense of PLACE. Or in other words, this is what makes a home feel like a home.