Key Interior Design Principles

It’s probably safe to assume that these days, compared to let’s say twenty or thirty years ago, far more of us have a reasonably sophisticated understanding of interior design. Whether or not the influence of 90s makeover shows like Changing Rooms was entirely positive – the brief prevalence of stencilled wall decorations and all the other similarly misguided cut-price design ticks of Llewellyn-Bowen and co hardly count as high points in the history of interior design – the pervasiveness of such coverage certainly inspired an unprecedented surge of interest in the all things interior design.

Nonetheless, whilst it’s true that you’re far less likely to see a living room decked out with generic Little England fare – net curtains, doilies, ducks on the wall, carriage clocks and the like – the more liberated atmosphere that prevails today could still benefit from the considered application of a few timeless design principles that, whatever look you gravitate towards, should help to bind everything together harmoniously.


Some rooms just feel ‘right’ the moment you enter them. This is probably because on some level the room has been decorated, whether consciously or instinctively, with an appreciation for what works well together so that collectively each individual element forms a cohesive, harmonious whole. Harmony is most easily achieved by employing a unified colour scheme – research complementary colours if you aren’t sure – but might also emerge from a sense of thematic or textural balance. One easy approach might be to pick out a small selection of key pieces from a particular range that are designed to complement each other (Mark & Spencer’s Autograph range of furniture for instance) and accessorise with more individual pieces that fit with the overall composition but lend the room character and personality.

Rhythm and Repetition

Just as it might help to imagine the creation of harmony in a room as analogous to painting (a visually successful painting achieves a harmonious compositional balance through carefully modulated colours, the pleasing composition of shapes and sensitive use of space) the use of rhythm and repetition in interior design might make more sense if considered as elements of musical composition first. Rhythm and repetition bring structure, formal consistency and momentum to music, all of which are also important features of successful interior design. Consider ways in which you can subtly echo shapes, lines and colours throughout a room but try not to be too mechanical, repetition is most effective when a measured degree of variation is allowed.

Focal point

A well designed room typically has at least one focal point. The role of a focal point in a room is obviously as a dominant feature but it should also be integrated – as a leading component – with the overall decorative balance of the room. A room without focal points could appear formless and fail to inspire interest but, equally, a single focal point that dominates the room might be too much of a distraction and create a compositional imbalance.