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BASIC ELEMENTS OF INTERIOR DESIGN
Dr. Wael Rashdan
Azra Maliha Mohammed Nabih Tamim
ID: 201420058 ID: 201420122 ID: 201420153
January 9, 2016
AL GHURAIR UNIVERSITY, DUBAI
Department of Interior Design
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Interior design is the art and process of designing and formulating a given space to create a functional interior.
There are several elements of interior design which works as building blocks for the design process. Knowledge
of all these elements’ functions and characteristics can be utilized and put together to create a dynamic interior.
Interior designers use these elements as basic tools and mix them to formulate a space. These fundamental tools
can be studied elaborately for their features, specific criterions, functionalities and how to implement each of
them matching with each other. Each of these elements has its own nature and specifications. The standards of
them help in applying them into a space to make it more sophisticated.
The nine basic elements of interior design are:
Space is the actual place which will be converted into a functional and stylish interior by designing and adding up
elements of design. Wall, ceilings, floor, rooms, etc. are the space, or the “blank canvas” to work with. For any
interior designing to start, one must observe the space first, get all the visual perceptions to start the further
Space planning is the core concept for designing any interior. Through this we get the idea of the size, shape and
client’s requirements for the given space and design the further elements accordingly, such as which type of
furniture, lighting, which color, pattern and texture needed to give certain effects, and so on. Doing so will also
provide informations about the electricity paths, columns, the building structures and other inner fixtures which will
be important in placement of other elements.
Things to ponder upon while visiting any space for designing it:
Function of the room. How will it be used by the client, is it multi-functional or not.
Size and shape of the space.
Furnitures needed as per the function, movement of furnitures and their sizes.
Client’s requirement for it to be airy, cozy or compact.
Availability of natural light and the spots where artificial ones are needed.
Need of focal points, visual weight and whether the whole design will be symmetrical, asymmetrical or
Visual perception of the space can provide with
informations like size and shape of the room, availability
of light and helps in planning the furnitures.
Line is the extension of a single point. It is of different
types like vertical, horizontal, curved, diagonal, but has no
breadth. The concept of types of line and their effect to our
eyes and brain can be used in a total interior design by
applying it to other basic elements. The influence of this
simple line can make a huge difference in visual perception
and impression. Each type of lines have their own visual
effects and can be very functional.
Vertical Lines: these suggest immobility,
stability, and harmonious relationship to earth. It
can give the impression of height to a short room
or add more length to a taller one. This can also
create focal points when used in group in a
Horizontal Lines: they represent stability,
restfulness and normality. Same like horizon,
horizontal lines give the illusion for enlarged
space, if used right angled to the vertical lines.
These reinforces sleep and rest perceptions.
Diagonal Lines: depending on the angle,
diagonal lines can vary on steepness. They
symbolize movement, direction, action, angular
stability. The angular line stimulates the eye and
mind and make them more interesting than
regular parallel lines.
Zigzag Lines: hyperactivity, energetic and
restlessness can be conveyed by these lines,
because it resembles the perception of electricity,
lightning, radio waves, etc. Set of regular zigzag
lines is called chevron and irregular zigzag lines
are called a flame stitch.
Curved Lines: they are assumed as soft,
humanizing, and more acceptable to our eyes and
minds. They provide the message of relief and
softness from harsh, sharp lines. Series of curved
lines is called arcade which gives a rhythmic
feeling to an interior.
Flowing Lines: these lines are irregularly curved
lines that move gently in a random or spiraling
manner that gives the impression of smooth,
gentle movement and linear development. Flowing
lines can provide a great deal of interest.
The curved roof and walls of a guest house gives
it a soft and calming look, perfect for relaxing.
Living room roof is made curved to give a calming effect.
The narrowly spaced room is given some width
illusion by the horizontal lines.
The flowing lines on the wall gives it a gentle movement feeling,
like water in a river. This also creates a rhythmic pattern.
Shape is two dimensional composition and orientation of geometric of organic properties. They stand out from the space because of
their definite boundary, value, color or texture. Every object and elements of design are made of shapes. While shape and form are
misunderstood as the same, in actual, forms are the three dimensional interpretation of shapes. Shapes are the base for any elements
and builds up a whole design. There are two categories of shapes:
1) Geometric: they are also called mechanical shapes, can be drawn using tools like compass, ruler and so on. They give an
orderly, rigidity and systematic feeling. For example, square refers to formality and regularity, triangle refers energy and
stability, and circle is unity and feminity. They are widely used in modern designs.
2) Organic: they are complex, freehand drawn shapes normally found in nature, like floral print, leaves, animal print, etc. they
give natural and abstract feeling to any design. They have a soft and calm effect.
Pattern, texture, ornament, furniture or a whole building, shapes and forms are the first step for every design creation. Mixing,
combining and experimentation with different shapes will produce a certain design which then gets its form, and converted into a
proper design for any of the categories. For designing a formal, official interior, the shape of the room will be geometric along with the
patterns, texture and furnitures will have sharp mechanical look. On the other hand, to create a soothing, calm space, the walls can be
curved parabola, with floral or abstract wall patterns, animal or nature printed fabric elements and soft edged furnitures. So we can
process a whole interior elegantly by using the shapes and forms alternatively and creatively.
Using geometric shapes give an interior a sharp, modern and more of
a mechanical look with energetic vibes.
Contemporary beehive shaped storage shelf
aids an artistic touch along with functionality.
Keeping similar shaped objects give the
feel of unity.
Texture is the feature of all material surfaces which can be
recognized by touch. It is a very powerful tool to add elegance and a
subtle style to any interior. It has a lot of functions in interior design
as well as used widely for decorative purposes. Our perception of
any texture is influenced by from how far or near we are observing,
the kind of light falling on it and the color and type of coatings.
Textures can be applied to walls, wall coverings, floors, carpets,
rugs, furniture, and other fabric materials. Two categories of
Rough and course textures reflect less light, feel warmer.
They give an object more weigh and a rustic look, enhance
Smooth and shiny textures reflect more light, seems cooler.
Gives objects a light and modern, formal look.
They are also described as tactile or visual. Tactile textures are the
actual feeling of any surface whereas visual texture is our perception
how a texture might feel. This perception is created by relating the
feeling of another material from our memory. This can be used to
create illusion in touching, meaning it will be perceived as a texture
from our memory but in actual the texture will be different.
Functions and influences of textures:
Textures help in adding dimension and depth to a room. Furnishing with smooth and shiny texture in
a small and dark will reflect more light and give it a sense of more light and space. Rough textures
will also help in balancing the excess light in a bright, large room. These effects of textures work
along with the lighting system of the space. How the light is placed and falls on the textured surfaces
decides how it will create the visual impression.
They can be influenced by the texture of nearby objects or viewing from a distance. E.g. rough
surfaces seem more coarsely textured next to a smooth material when viewed closely.
Textures influences observer’s perception to color as a result of differences in frequency of the color
and the frequency of texture patterns. This is connected to the light variations as well, because light
reflects on the color of the textured surface. On smooth surfaces light is reflected without scattering
called specular reflection, whereas on rough surfaces they scatter in different directions, called defuse
reflection. These varied reflections absorb varied frequencies of the color on the texture, altering the
Texture can add visual weight to an interior space. We can draw observer’s focus of a textured wall
and create a focal point in a room.
Unit of texture is in small scale, so repeated use of it in large scale for wall, floorings or any other large area
can also make it resemble as a pattern.
Pattern is any digital shape or three dimensional structure or element placed in repetitive manner. It forms the
base of any design which collects the clustered components and organizes as one. Pattern has a huge number of
uses in interior design. It can be both decorative and functional. This element of interior design works along
with color to provide a matter of interest to an interior space.
Patterns used for decorative purposes give different moods according to how it is implemented, such as:
Striped patterns on walls and fabric elements helps visually enlarging the space. Straight lines give the
illusion of height to short rooms.
Geometric patterns add modern and sharp, sophisticated look and a restful effect.
Floral patterns adds volume and make the interior lively and colorful.
Vertical patterns make a room seem narrower and enclosed.
Digital shape or images can be used as patterns for wallpaper, fabric and textiles of interior. These should
complement other color of the room and the lighting. Patterns keep a crucial role in color scheme selection.
Mixture of strong and pale colors along with the desired pattern can give the interior a sharp visual weight and
makes a plain room look lively. The theories of lines and shapes can be applied to create patterns.
Digital shape or images can be used as patterns for wallpaper, fabric and textiles of interior. These should
complement other color of the room and the lighting. Patterns keep a crucial role in color scheme selection. Mixture
of strong and pale colors along with the desired pattern can give the interior a sharp visual weight and makes a plain
room look lively. The theories of lines and shapes can be applied to create patterns.
Some of the functions of pattern are:
Patterns add drama to any room and provides focal points to a specific area. A patterned wall behind the
fireplace, patterned fabrics of sofa set in a plain colored living room etc. enhance the visual weight. The
sofa area and fireplace will be the point of focal interest.
They can be used according to the functionality, mood and theme of the given space according to the
different designs, whether to create lively, energetic effect or a fresh and cheerful one.
They help in hiding various faults on walls, ceilings or floors resulted by cracks, soiling or any other
damages. This is also very helpful for renovating old walls and ceilings.
Patterns camouflage spots or unusual designs of any surface. As they are always clustered in group and
repetitive, it gives visual illusion. So the faults are not visible often.
The zigzag pattern adds a sharp and energetic look to this
interior. We can actually feel a kind of movement in our eyes
when we look at the dense pattern.
The zigzag pattern and the horizontal lines add contrast with
the color combination and symbolize movement and cheerful
Wall patterns help a
normal space look more
patterns makes it
sophisticated and sharp.
Organic motif patterns
gives it vintage and calm
Using nature or floral patterns for wall covering is a good way
to make any interior lively and fresh looking.
Ornaments are objects which are used to make something look more attractive but has no functional
purpose. We can see the use of ornaments since the ancient eras and in all places. They conveyed
different messages, historical events and the skills of the craftsmen. The historical examples of
ornaments can be seen in various palace, tomb, temples and other monuments from Greek, Egypt, Rome,
China, etc. The size, scale, finishing and use varies through different centuries. Modern ornaments are
mass produced rather than the hand crafted ones making them more available.
Ornaments can be made out of different materials, such as plastic, stone, metal or wood. Their design
principles could be naturalistic, combined, conventional or conventionalized natural. Earlier times we
could see heavy ornaments were used in a huge quantity, from pillars, building structure to furniture,
window and door panels. Modern architecture and interior design rediscovered the old ornament making
techniques with contemporary touch and minimized this use to reduce the usage of material, space and
focused more on the functional uses.
The main role of any piece of ornament or embellishment is to increase the beauty of the component it
was used on and make it more elegant and attractive. Advantage can be taken from this role to use
ornaments for show, yet functional. Ornament make a very good focal point for any object of space. A
coffee table, heavily ornamented in the middle of a plain living room will give the interior a visual
weight, which will reduce the dullness of it. This will add a certain mood or personality to the room.
Ornaments can be used for creating stronger base for columns, pillars or
ceilings as the design parts are heavier. When used on window, door or
knob reams, it enhances their form and visibility. Ornamental curving on
furnitures gives the information about the style (modern, neoclassic,
rococo, renaissance, etc.) and make them more meaningful, sophisticated
and define the purpose.
When used or placed in certain repetitions, ornaments work as patterns.
Ornamental chandeliers placed at fixed distances throughout a palace hall,
small scale ornament curving done repeatedly on a furniture are some of
the examples. Other than being attractive, they are also very helpful to
hide flaws and defects of any area by moving attention towards itself. If
implemented properly, ornaments can be a powerful communicative tool
to present the whole interior space in a more advanced way.
Ornamental works on column heads give them strong base to
stand with added beauty.
Historical message conveyed by portrait depicted by stone
Decorative door knob enhancing its
shape along with making it more
Palace walls decorated with ornamental patterns.
Lights in interior design has both functional and decorative values. Lighting either provides illumination for the
whole space, or brings the focus point to a specific object or area of the interior. Lights can also change mood
according to how and where it is implemented. Based on the purpose and effectiveness of it, there are different kinds
of lights which we use in an interior with alternating brightness, contrast, material and colors.
Lighting can also create illusion for the size of a room. With proper color selection, size of the room,
furniture types and availability of natural light in the room, we can create a space more elegant and
functional. As light reflects from the surface of the materials and walls of a room, suitable color scheme
should be chosen. For example, lighter colors make a room look bigger, darker colors do the opposite.
Lack of sufficient lighting can create a narrow feeling in a space, which can be corrected by corner lamps.
Some lights can also soften or darken the wall color. We also need to consider the texture of the surface it
will reflect, such as shiny and smooth surfaces reflect more light than rough and textured ones.
It is also a really important aspect for mood changing depending on how soft or sharp and what color the light is. Soft
lights with cool colors give the feeling of peace, smoothness and can be aesthetically pleasurable. We can minimize the
intensity of natural lighting by using semi-transparent curtains or translucent window glasses. Artificial lights are also used
with soft color tones, low intensity light and shadows to create soothing environment. Different lamp shades, lanterns and
other side lights or modern hanging lights serve this purpose which is used in restaurants, museum, art gallery, bed room
and other interior spaces
On the other hand sharp and bright lights are used in work places as it creates energetic and active mood. A
good source of natural sunlight works well in this case. Artificial direct lights with correct placements, angle
and intensity can make a room awaken and lively. Warm or cold color lights also affects the mood and
emotion surrounded in the space.
On the basis of functionality, illuminations can be three types; general, accent and task. These three can be
mixed to create decorative lighting.
General/ Ambient Lights are the major functional lighting which illuminates the whole space for
visual fields and safety. Natural lighting can be a great alternative at day time. The light intensity and
brightness is comfortable in order to see and walk safely without blaring. Wall-fixed lights,
Chandeliers, track lights and lanterns outside the home or a central light source serve the purpose.
Accent Lights can add a mood and focus any area or object dramatically making it a visual
interest. Paintings, wall art, sculptures, architectural piece or even textured wall can be made the
point of attraction by accent lights by making it not more than three times brighter. Track lights or
recessed lights or wall-fixed lights for painting serve this function. The placement is important so
that it doesn’t disturb the normal view or general lights.
Task Lights serve for performing specific tasks in specific space like reading, cooking, writing,
painting, etc. These can be placed wherever the task is needed with brightness not more than three
Accent lightings used in the above interiors
focusing on certain objects to create them as
focal points. The spaces also look more
dramatic with he light and shadow
Decorative lightings adds visual weight to a
space. They are mixed of general, accent
and task lighting criterion.
Modern innovative use for ambient lighting.
Task lights for providing visual for specific actions.
Color is an extremely important and effective element in designing an interior space. It can have a major effect on the total functionality
of the space, creating mood and environment and also the psychological aspect of the person living in. Color is affected by the
surrounding colors of that interior, objects and which type of light is used, as light will reflect the color to be visual. The color temperature
of the light sources also make a huge difference in the way the color is rendered. So implementing a good color scheme with analyzing all
other aspects is important. Primary, complimentary, hue, contrast, tint, warm tone, cool tone, etc. are some important terms to be kept in
mind while planning color scheme.
Color creates visual impression, focal points and adds a theme or personality in the space. Lighter colors make objects look expanded,
without boundaries whereas darker ones make it look smaller and enclosed. Proper color scheme must be made for the whole interior so
that colors are not disoriented across the space. It should also match with the goal functionality and mood of the room. A warm tone for
walls and floors will be perfect for a room to make it feel energetic. Cool tones like shades of aqua or greens creates relaxing feeling.
Using the standard color wheel along with the experiments with shades and tints can give a variety of colors to choose from. For example,
shades are colors mixed with black and Tints are mixed with white. There are also color schemes like,
Monochromatic, using one color with various intensities.
Achromatic, being free of any color to choose.
Analogues, colors between 90 degrees of each other (based on color wheel).
Color psychology is an interesting part of color study which is
an effectual tool to understand how to implement in according to
the need and aesthetic of a person. Color is perceived by
everyone in different ways; a certain color can make a person
remember certain memories while for others it might not. So
using that color in a room can emotionally connect to the
person. That is why color schemes are also made according to
the psychology, aesthetics and theme of the space.
The color white gives the feeling of airy, crisp
freshness, pure and serene.
Black symbolizes elegance, formal look and
sophistication. Similar effect goes for grey, which
means subtle elegance and formality.
Red, orange, yellow and their shades are warmest
colors; signifies strong, powerful and vibrant. Suitable
to make a room feel energetic and warm.
Purple is strong color symbolizing royalty and richness
and Pink is a feminine color used for a soft color
Greens and Blues are cool colors give a person calm
and soothing feeling.
As there are over hundreds of color shades, often the color study
is left out by designers. But if it is taken to a great consideration
along with lighting fixtures and the surrounding textures, a good
color scheme can make an interior space very sophisticated and
highly elegant. Correct usage of color can change the whole
impression on space. It can change the perception of the room as
well as make it from dull to lively place.
Colorful elements with pink
dominating the room give it a
cheerful, lively and feminine
Using the whole interior using different shades of warm or
cool tones will effect the total perception.
Black and white in interior design will give it formal and sophisticated look
Furniture is the most important and functional aspect of any interior space which reflects a person’s personality along with the
vibe of an interior. The use of furniture has begun since the ancient period of Rome, Greece, Europe, and Egypt with styles and
designs depicting that specific era. In modern interior design, the old designs are re-applied with contemporary touch along with
the other elemental principles. Old ages used wooden and metal furnitures with heavy ornamental uses. Today, furnitures are
made simpler looking yet sophisticated using different materials in order to reduce the consumption of natural wood and metals.
They the structure of interior and helps covering up the space. They can also act as decoration if designed and placed in such
way. That is why furniture has a wide variety of creative designs in every design type (renaissance, rococo, Victorian, etc.).
Quality and design of furniture matching with the environment and color scheme is very important. Attractive and embellished
furniture function as long lasting ornaments. Properly arranged, furniture can also work as pattern of an interior.
There are certain broad factors on which furniture for any interior is chosen:
Size, shape and placement: Placement of furnitures with proper size and scale relative to the room can create visual
weight, which helps balancing the whole interior. Large, heavy furnitures can be staggered across the room so that one
place do not look more weighted than the other. Large furnitures for a smaller room can make it look narrow and small;
so the furniture size should complement the space. The scale should also match with door and window sizes. When
furnitures are kept near to the wall, the room seems spacious. Placing them should be done according to functions and
enough space for movements. For example, sitting arrangements can be placed in cluster to enable conversation.
Color and lighting: Furniture items should be according to the lighting and color scheme of the interior as they are
connected to each other and have lots of effects. The theme of lighting system and color of the room should be
matching with furniture design and color to unify the whole design. Dark color furnitures are good for big rooms
where enough light is available and for the small spaces the opposite. This is because dark ones shine in well-lit area
and gives a proper aura to the interior.
Functionality: This is a broad importance for any interior. A piece of furniture without any function to that particular
room is useless and waste of space. So the functionality must be planned before purchasing. This will vary according
to the need of the customer. For example, number of beds in kid’s room, number of dining chairs, etc.
Aesthetic value: The furniture selection and design type should be of good aesthetic appeal to others. Furnitures can
create focal point of the room and provide the first visual impression. The style selection should go with the vibe of
the interior. Also the furnitures should match with each other. Such as, furnitures with curvy legs (Victorian and Louis
XIV), furnitures with organic shapes (Danish modern and Japanese) and many more.
Durability, quality and needs are to be kept in consideration while designing any kind of interior
along with the comfort and aesthetics of that component. The basics of other interior design elements can keep
important role is furniture selection. A good furniture arrangement can give the interior an advanced look.
Renaissance, Neoclassic and Italian classic furnitures.
Modern furnitures are simple, sharp
edged and formal.
To conclude with, above was an overall brief research on the nice important basic elements of interior design.
The various types of each elements were discussed with their functionalities and how they can be
implemented to create any design for interiors. All these elements in interior design are related to each other
and are dependable. If any one of the elements is faulty, it can place a huge impact on the total look of an
interior space. For instance, a space gets filled up with components using theories of lines, shapes, forms.
Further touches to this design is given by ornaments and texture in small scale and pattern in large scale,
color, lighting and furnitures. Texture relates with color, color relates with lighting, pattern relates with lines
and shapes, and this goes on. Proper knowledge and standardize study is required for each of this for any
design creation, as these elements are the building blocks of interior design.