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Understand and Master the 7 Principles of Interior Design
September 15, 2021

Understand and Master the 7 Principles of Interior Design

by The CE Shop Team

Real Estate Agents Can Design to Shine

Whether you’re redecorating the office or staging a client’s home, effective interior design can overhaul the space, influence visitors, and paint your business in the very best light.

While it’s true that a degree of creativity helps, interior design is actually a highly scientific field. The very best designers actually stick to seven key principles to create wow-worthy spaces regardless of budget, location, and scope.

That means, no matter how intimidated you might be, any real estate agent can simply study up and design to shine. So, whether you’re looking to spruce up the office or stage to sell, here’s what to do with yourshelf.

Designers, Make It Work

When it comes to interior design, the seven critical elements you’ll want to keep in mind are:

  • Space
  • Line
  • Form
  • Light
  • Color
  • Texture
  • Pattern


In interior design, space refers to the visual distance between and around the objects in any given room as well as their proportions and relationship to one another. Because pre-existing space often can’t be changed easily, at least not without a renovation or expansion of some kind, this is one of the most foundational elements of design. 

Space is typically separated into two different categories: positive and negative. Positive space is made up of the positioning of physical objects, such as furniture, decor, and finishes. Negative space consists of the gaps and distance in between these objects.

An abundance of negative space makes a room feel larger, but too much can make furnishes look small or out-of-place. On the other hand, too much positive space, or an array of furniture, decor, and other objects, can convey a cramped or cluttered feeling. Properly balancing positive and negative space will make a room feel balanced, thoughtful, and well laid out. 

To nail the element of space, experts recommend thoroughfares be about three feet wide, and the distance between furniture should hover around 20 inches. If you plan to have clients coming and going from the office or buyers parading through an open house, you may want to keep these measurements in mind.


Luckily, this element is pretty self-explanatory! Interior designers use lines, whether through structural features, furniture, decor, or other means, to create definition or guide the eye throughout the room.

Lines typically fall into one of three categories: horizontal, vertical, or dynamic. Horizontal lines may be found in wood plank flooring, molding, beds, tabletops, and other furniture pieces. These expansive lines can make a space feel wider and more stable.

You might find vertical lines, on the other hand, in windows, doorways, curtain panels, or pendant lights. Line in this form draws the eye up and elongates the space. Proper use can make ceilings appear taller and even convey a sense of freedom.

Dynamic lines, or those that zigzag, curve, or extend diagonally, might take form in a staircase, accent wall, tile floor, or piece of artwork. These lines add character and energy to a space, and they’re sure to draw attention.

The ideal room will balance all three types of lines to maximize appeal. Whether you’re working on your own space or a client’s, experimenting with different uses of line can inject texture, unity, and visual interest.


In interior design, form refers to the shape of the room, furnishings, decor, and any other three-dimensional objects present. Forms help round out and fill the space and, in a less artistic sense, ensures that it’s functional.

Typically, these objects are categorized as either geometric or natural. Geometric forms have sharp lines and angles, and are typically man-made. Examples might include your TV, certain geometric art pieces, or a boxy sectional sofa. These shapes are thought to bring strength and structure to interior spaces.

In contrast, organic forms often feature soft curves, irregular shapes, and nature-inspired oddities. The subtle rounded edges of a loveseat or a full-blown kidney-shaped couch can both infuse a more natural and organic feel to an otherwise sharp, structured room. Furniture and decorative accents shaped like plants, animals, and other natural elements can also be considered organic forms. 

Mastering form often comes down to personal preference, as some gravitate toward the clean lines of modern minimalism while others prefer the soft edges of eclecticism. When in doubt, however, a balance of both will please the average eye.


Understand and Master the 7 Principles of Interior Design

Of course, none of the interior design elements really matter if you can’t see them. Light refers to the amount, color, and type of illumination within a space.

Today, artificial and natural light are often used in conjunction to showcase any given space in its very best light. Light typically falls into one of three categories: mood lighting, task lighting, or accent lighting.

Mood lighting is used to set the mood, of course! These lights do much of the heavy lifting, illuminating the space as a whole.

Task lighting, as its name suggests, helps you utilize the space to complete a defined task. Examples include bedside lamps for reading, desk lamps for studying, and even under-cabinet lighting to keep the stovetop safe and usable.

Accent lights typically consist of more attractive fixtures. These may include pendant lights above a kitchen island, a decorative vanity light in the bathroom, or a wall-mounted picture light. 

To strike a balance in any given space, seek to balance natural and artificial light. Look to window treatments (or even strategically-placed mirrors) to dial up or down sunlight and well-placed light fixtures to illuminate everywhere else. After all, once you’ve mastered these seven elements, you’ll want everyone to see your handiwork!


No interior is complete without a little color! In the case of design, color is used to influence mood, add visual interest, and even alter the perceived size of a space. It applies to everything from wall paint to flooring to furniture.

So, it’s no surprise that all the best interior designers utilize color psychology to make a room feel just right. For example, a bedroom might be painted blue to communicate calm or gray to infuse sophistication. On the other hand, yellow tones, which denote productivity, might work better in an office, home gym, or kitchen. 

A neutral palette might make more sense if you’re staging, but a pop of brand colors can be fun in an office setting. Experiment with accent walls, furniture, finishes, and decor to successfully color your world. Just don’t forget that lighting and time of day will have an effect on the colors, too! 


Texture refers to the tactile surface of an object or element within the room. This principle is often overlooked but can instantly add beautiful depth and dimension.

Designers typically add texture by incorporating fabrics, wood, and stone to increase comfort and warmth. For example, a living room with a woven rug, velvety couch, soft throw blanket, and crocheted pillows is much more inviting than a chrome-on-chrome aesthetic. Simply put, without physical and visual texture, any space will fall flat.

Luckily, incorporating texture is easier than it looks. Layering is a fool-proof way to quickly dial up the strength of your design. 

“The layering of materials, colors and shapes all amount to give your interiors an overall texture which can define the look and feel of a space,” said Martin Waller, a London-based interior designer. In other words, incorporating a variety of textures throughout the room can instantly add balance and dimension, no matter the space.


Gingham, stripes, and polka dots, oh my! Like texture, patterns add life to a living space. These fun motifs can convey a story, draw the eye, and otherwise jazz up your design. 

From wallpaper to throw pillows, the repetitive nature of a pattern can invigorate and inspire. Floral patterns add an organic feel, while geometric shapes convey strength.

Color comes into play here as well. Dark, moody patterns can create a sense of cozy edginess, while light, ditzier ones convey cheer. 

Whatever your style, you’ll want to make sure that your design of choice is in harmony with the rest of the room to master the art of patterning. Plus, coming full circle, the scale of the pattern should be appropriate for the space. A little mixing and matching works well, but it can quickly become overkill. Add patterned pieces slowly and with intention to really wow. 

Better by Design

With principled design in mind, you’re ready to start creating. Whether you’re revamping your home office or diving into the world of home staging, understanding these seven key principles will help your design shine!

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