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Home > Interior Designing > Design Principles
Interior Design Principles

In organizing line, surface, and hollow space, a number of other; basic concepts will enter into design decisions. Some of these concepts are:

  • Size
    We think of things as large or small in relative terms, in relation to both the human body and other things. A large living room may be much smaller than a large church, but it appears large in relation to an adjacent small entrance hall. Absolute size is usually less important than relative size.

  • Scale
    This term is widely used in design and architecture to describe a rather subtle consideration related to size. It refers to the proper proportion of an object or space to all other objects, to human beings, and to the space to which it belongs. Designers achieve good scale by choosing elements that seem to be of an appropriate size for the space they will inhabit; that relate well to human dimensions; and, above all, those look their actual size. Small pieces of furniture often look lost in a largespace, while large objects may seem overbearing when crammed into a small room. A large space that appears too small is out of scale. Good scale is indicated when things look so right that the issue does not even come to mind.

  • Proportion
    This concept addresses the relationship of parts of a design to each other and to the whole. Good proportion is a much-discussed concept in the arts and in design and is considered a key requirement in any aesthetic success. It is not hard to tell if an existing space is well or badly proportioned. In the former case, it looks visually "right"; in the latter case, for example, a room may seem too long and narrow, or an element such as a door, window, or piece of furniture may appear awkwardly placed. Achieving good proportions is less easy than recognizing them) although many efforts have been made to develop systems for doing so.

    One approach, using mathematical relationships analogous to the rules of harmony in music, suggests organizing proportionsaccording to geometric ratios of simple whole numbers, such as 1:2, 2:3, 3:4, and 3:5. Many Renaissance architects, including Palladio and Alberti, based their structures on such systems. Other approaches, such as the Modular of Le Corbusier base dimensional units on human body proportions, such as height and arm reach, and extend these through numerical multiplication into a system for controlling dimensions and their relationships.

    The Modulor also makes use of one particular mathematical relationship, often referred to as the golden ratio or golden section and designated by the Greek letter phi (I)). It has had so much influence on design throughout history as to deserve some special discussion.

    The terms golden mean, golden ratio, and golden section all refer to a proportional relationship that satisfies a certain requirement. If one divides a line into two unequal segments so that the ratio of the short segment to the long segment equals the ratio of the long segment to the line length (the short segment plus the long segment), this requirement is satisfied. The resulting ration 618  1 = 1 1.618 is expressed in the irrational number .618... This proportion can be found in the designs of many famous structures and works of art. Various experiments and comparisons of measurements show a strong preference golden ratio among human beings and a high level of occurrence in nature. 

  • Harmony, Unity, Variety, Contrast
    These terms describe concepts with clear bearing on design although no precise way of defining an "ideal" measure for harmony describes the combination of elements and other principles in a way that produces consonance. In order to achieve harmony, all the varied components of an interior like the notes in a chord, must relate to each other and to the overall theme of the design.

    Unity allows the viewer to experience a design as a whole rather theme of the design the design will relate so well as to create a unit in which, ideally, nothing can be added, taken away, or altered without changing the totality. Matching or coordinated patterns, closely related colors, and stylistic consistency all lead to harmony and unity, but they also carry the threat of monotony, as in the room in which everything matches everything else in an obsessive way.

    Variety and contrast, the countervailing qualities of harmony and unity, can relieve monotony, giving the eye a number of different shapes, textures, colors, or details to look at Contrast heightens values through comparison. A light color will seem lighter if placed near a dark color, a large object larger incontrast with something small .In this context, contrast and variety may be viewed as ways to punctuate harmony and unity, heightening the spaces overall impact.

  • Balance
    This principle concerns the achievement of a state of equilibrium between forces. We are familiar with balance through our direct experience with gravity, which exerts a force on iis that we must counter by maintaining an upright position or using a support that holds us up in a secure relationship. Visually, we find unbalanced relationships tenuous and disturbing, while balanced relationships look normal, at rest, and comfortable.

    There are several ways to achieve balance. The most obvious balanced relationships are symmetrical, in which the arrangement of forms on one side of an imaginary central dividing line, axis, or plane is the mirror image of the other side. Such bilateral symmetry is characteristic of the human body and the forms of many living creatures. It is thus associated with the beauty of nature. In design, the identical visual weights and the importance of the center create an effect of repose and dignity. A high proportion of historic buildings,interiors, and objects exhibit the symmetrical balance of bilateral organization. Symmetrical balance can be achieved around a larger number of axes as well. Radial symmetry establishes balance around a central point, as, for example, the hub of a wheel, with the design elements radiating out like the wheels spokes.

    Symmetrical and asymmetrical design are often a product of the architectural structure of a space. For instance, a house with a center hall and rooms of similar size to right and left begins with a built-in symmetrical structure that leads naturally to visual symmetry in its design. Other building plans and room layouts cannot offer symmetry. A room may have windows on one side only, or an entrance located to the left or right of center. In such situations, asymmetry is best accepted and the room brought into aesthetic balance by means other than strict symmetry. Some historic designs used false elements (a dummy door, for example) to force symmetry where it did not occur naturally. This kind of solution rarely works in modern practice.

    In addition, symmetry tends to express a sense of formality, dignity, stability, and conservatism. The more the central axis is emphasized, the more strongly these values will be felt-as in many traditional designs for church and temple interiors, courtrooms, throne rooms, and similar ceremonial interiors. A centered fireplace and mantel or a large central window or door in an otherwise symmetrical room add to the feeling of formality. Asymmetry, in contrast, suggests more openness to change, a more informal and active intention. Many modern buildings and interiors employ asymmetry to express these qualities.

  • Rhythm
    Another concept borrowed from music, rhythm relates visual elements together in a regular pattern. It can be achieved by repetition, whether simple, as in a rhythm such as I I I more complex, as in I or I III 7 III / III]. The number I might stand for a window opening, a column, or subdivision in a paneled wall.

    The mind enjoys rhythm, and it is an important element in both historic and modern design. The classic architectural orders (Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian) are rhythmic systems while modern modular furniture and structural systems generate rhythmic patterns. The use of I rhythm the choice of small or large units, close together widely spaced should be appropriate to the situation. Since repetition can lead to monotony, it must also be balanced against the need for variety.

  • Emphasis
    One of the ways to transmit meaning in design is through emphasis, which ensures that important elements look important while minor and trivia elements look subordinate. This is achieved through balancing size, placement, value, color, and selection of materials. A large door centrally placed becomes a point of focus. A brightly colored object in an otherwise quite space calls attention to itself.

    The designer must decide the levels of importance of all the elements that make up an interior and then find a visual expression for each of these levels, from the most important through the less important to the least important. A handsome fireplace mantel centered in one wall of a room is a natural focal point that is emphasized by placing a fine painting above the mantel.

    Placing the seating furniture-a sofa and chairs, perhaps so that it relates to the fireplace while choosing a suitable cover fabric that does not compete with the painting will give the furniture grouping a secondary level of importance. Carpet, ceiling color, and lighting can be treated to appear neutral, almost unnoticeable. Alternatively, a colorful and strongly patterned rug, a strikingly designed seating group or a spectacular light fixture could be an emphatic focus, in which case the other elements would be deliberately subordinated.

  • Pattern and Ornament
    Only their limits, edges, or corners define smooth surfaces. A patterned surface has visible presence in every part of its extent. The eye focuses on pattern and uses it to help measure size and shape, to gain information about material, and to interpret the mood of the design. The fact that pattern is usually repetitious gives it rhythmic qualities on a small scale. Like color or used in combination with color pattern can make a surface more or less important or a space seem larger or smaller than it actually is. For example, stripes running vertically make a surface seem narrower and higher, running horizontally, wider and lower.

    At the same time, the elements of a pattern can convey messages. Little flowers and regular stripes create very different moods. Geometric squares and naturalistic curves imply different attitudes. In addition to such expressive qualities, pattern has the ability to hide, or at least minimize, soiling and visible traces of damage. Plain surfaces expose every flaw while pattern tends to camouflage imperfections.

    Ornament refers to visual extras unnecessary for practical reasons but added to show off craftsmanship, introduce variety, and enrich a uniform surface. Ornament played a prominent role in most design of the historical periods. The moldings, eggs and darts, Greek Keys, and similar motifs of classical design, the carved leaves and gargoyles of medieval design clearly express the thinking and the craft skills of their respective eras.

    With modern mechanical reproduction, ornament became easier to produce but less meaningful, no longer made by a skilled craftsman for a particular context. The modern movement has often responded by omitting ornament entirely. (Adolf Loos went so far as to say, "Ornament is a crime the gloaming edges of glass, chrome, and marble in the interior serve some of the same purposes as applied o Recently, ornament seems to have been rediscovered. It now appears in much contemporary work, often quite brash aggressively as an expressive tool.

    In all ornamentation, the key to value is the issue of why is the ornament there? Does it add something or I merely cover over and confuse? Good ornament emphasizes what is important, draws attention to what is significant, and tells something about the materials and workmanship involved. The molding around a door or window emphasizes that elements size, shape, and position. Moldings at a cornice or baseboard strengthen the line of intersection of walls, floor, and ceiling.

    A rosette where a light fixture hangs from a ceiling makes the place of hanging more important. The moldings around panels of furniture or room interiors make the size, shape, and pattern of the paneling stronger, clearer, and more decisive. Carved detail on a chair tells us the place and time of its origin, as well as something about the attitudes and crafts skill of its maker.

    An object that serves a useful function can at the same time become an expressive carrier of a message by the addition of meaningful painted surface designs. Ornament fails or clutters when it has no meaning, is introduced only for show, and has no real relationship with the object or space it adorns. However, when its purposes genuine and useful, it can be a valuable communicative tool.

    All of these techniques have, in the end, the same objective. They are means by which the designer can convey to the audience of users, viewers, even those who know the result onlv through photographs ideas about the reality of the place that has been designed. Ideas that will be memorable, meaningful, satisfying, and in some way unique to the particular space are the final goal of all design effort.
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