An introduction to interior design

The interior design industry is just over 100 years old, however it was only recently considered a reputable career path and is now acknowledged as a profession. It has evolved as a highly specialised study that requires years of study and experience.

To be successful in the industry, you need to be creative and have a comprehensive understanding of the various elements of interior design. The interior design profession starts with the art of decorating and embracing form and function.

Interior design history 

In 1900 the term Interior Decorator came about. The decorators had no study or academic record, but they seemed to have the gift of style, logic, and natural talent.

The first solid movement towards this career becoming something of recognition was thanks to Elsie de Wolfe. 

Elsie de Wolfe became the first Interior Decorator to publish the first interior design book in 1914, the name of this book was The House in Good Taste. She was considered the first American professional Interior Designer.

Elsie de Wolfe had a strong belief in creating an overall design statement, this statement was harmony. She believed that this statement needed to reflect the woman’s personality and not the husband earning power. 

De Wolfe introduced a startling freshness to the elaborate, heavily fringed, and tasselled Victorian design sensibility of her time. 

What is interior design today? 

Interior design is the art and science of enhancing the interior of a building to achieve a healthier and more aesthetically pleasing environment for the people using the space. (Interior design – Google Arts & Culture, 2021) 

The interior design profession

The interior design profession is multifaceted. Some of the elements and functions that form a part of interior design are concept developments, space planning, contractor and client communications, site inspections, construction management, and design execution.

An interior designer creates and executes the brief by selecting and implementing the furniture and structural elements. They consider and apply all design elements.

Interior design is more than just applying colour to a wall or fabric to a cushion. Interior design gives purpose and function to space. 

An inadequate design space will impact the functions and the lives of people inhabiting that space.

Interior design styles

If you are interested in interior design, you may have heard about modern, contemporary, or art deco. Each has its own characterises, flavour, and finish.

1. Modern style

There is a difference between modern and contemporary. 

A modern interior is clean with simple colours and schemes. The colours generally include black and white, incorporating a few other primary colours. The furniture would replace the historic style and use glass and steel. 

While a contemporary design style incorporates a blend from different eras, whereas the modern design is from the 20th century. It started with German and Scandinavian architecture. It comprises practicality and logic. The sculptures and paintings are chosen according to functionality and not form. 

It has elements of functional and clean lines. The colours include black and primary hues. Modern art is used. The core idea is to create clutter-free homes that fulfil a practical purpose. 

2. Contemporary style 

The style can adjust according to the room. For example, a contemporary kitchen is a mix of old and new that welcomes all family members to be social. As this style is a popular choice, it often is found as ready to assemble pieces. These pieces are generally both contemporary and beautiful. 

The style incorporates a modern way of living. It is inspired by minimal, modern, and historical design eras. It offers an orderly appearance using clean lines and smooth surfaces. The floor plans often use natural light, and lighting fixtures are from different eras. 

Energy conservation is a vital factor. They make use of eco-friendly or recycled materials. The colours are natural with a bit of brightness, either in a painting or a sofa. 

The heart of this design style is various styles without emphasising a particular one. It creates a home that displays the unique and fresh personality of the people who live in it. 

3. The mid-century style 

The Second World War (40s to 60s) inspires this style. The style uses vivid colours with plenty of indoor plants and furniture. 

The heart of this style is timeless and comfortable. A painting or artifact is the focus of the living area. 

There are clean lines, spare surfaces, and simplicity. Highly saturated colours are present as they are symbolic of the 50s and 60s.

A flow between the inside and outside the house provides substantial space for social activities. It leaves ample-shared, common areas around the house. This style is best suited for social individuals.

4. Electric interior design

It creates a home rich with layers and ideas from the design era and styles from different centuries. It is about getting inspiration from a variety of sources. It uses contrasting style elements, colours, and textures. There are hundreds of options. The end product will depend on how the individual chooses to express themselves and a specific impact. 

Light and dark colours are incorporated. The darker colours create warmth. Ensure you are keeping people interested but not overdoing it. The design style ensures that everything has a place in each room.

Interior design personalities   

There is a big misconception that Interior Designers are probably all artists. For a designer, drawing is not a creative process like for an artist. Drawing is a way of thinking and communicating. It is how they develop and deconstruct concepts and ideas.  

Creativity comes in so many different forms within the Interior design industry.

Personality 1: The creative 

The creative will use artists, mood boards, and presentations. They develop concepts using fantasy, colour, and other elements. 

Personality 2: The planner

Creativity is in the puzzle. Planning the space to ensure optimum functionality. Working with requirements and needs to create the best traffic flow. Perfectly designed rooms are essential. Creativity is found in the way you plan your space. 

Personality 3: The technical boff 

Creativity in detail drawing after drawing. They sit with a drawing for hours, ensuring all the technical details are correct. The thrill is in the detail. Creativity is the detail of the drawing. 

Personality 4: The communicator 

Creativity in words and coffee dates with each client, onsite meetings with contractors coordinating what and when each part of the project needs to be in place. Daily meetings with clients presenting the project and helping them visualise the artwork. Creativity is the way that makes the client feel or see what you are trying to create before you have started.

 How would you go about finding your design style?

Finding your design style may be as easy as taking an online quiz. Sometimes it predicts the design style you want correctly, and other times you may disagree. Here are a few ways you could manually find your style. 

1. Take a look at your wardrobe.

Notice the different fabrics, colours, and patterns you often choose. Do your clothes represent a timeless and natural look, or do you like the flashy labels? Your natural fashion sense will give you an idea of your interior design style. You could use similar fabrics for drapery and pillows.

2. Look at who inspires you.

Have a look at the homes of your role models. The chances are they may have a design style that you like too. 

3. Refresh your perspective 

Take the time to look through magazines or explore new places. You do not physically need to go. You can also virtually visit different places around the world. There is nothing as inspiring as traveling and absorbing ideas from a new location. Analyse the textures and colours you like the most. 

4. Mood board

Use images or clippings to make a collage of all the designs you like. Interior designers usually ask the clients to bring as many inspirational pictures as possible. These include art, travel, nature, movies, etc. It can also include things that evoke feelings.

Interior design principles 

Here is our recipe to create a well-designed space:

The elements of design (or the artwork) 

These are the tools we use to create the concept and define the vision. They are the base tools an interior designer uses to design the project.

The principles of design (the artist)  

The principles use elements to create the vision or project. Their use will determine a well or poorly designed space.  

The elements and principles of design are put in place to represent a set of guidelines or rules to assist the designer in creating functional and aesthetically pleasing designs.

The goal is to use our principles to tactfully combine design elements to create a visual representation of an idea. 

Starting with our elements 

Element 1: Lines

A line is a linear mark that can describe a shape or outline something. The line is not necessarily something created by a pen or pencil. It can also be created with furniture, a wall, or even a door frame. Think of lines as the perimeter around a form or shape, the silhouette of an item. Lines are the base and starting point to pretty much everything. 

Line types: 

Lines can be thick or thin, vertical, horizontal, or diagonal, or they can even create texture. The effect a line can have in a space is vast. There is a level of psychology that plays a role in the use of lines. 

Element 2: Colour

Colour has an impact on the emotion within a space. It makes it a helpful tool and an element that needs a lot of thought before application. 

Element 3: Form 

Form refers to lines coming together in a three-dimensional way. It adds depth, length, and width. This element gives depth to a room. 

There can also be a psychological aspect when we deal with form, in the way that it can make a space feel masculine or feminine. 

Element 4: Light 

Light is a vital element as it affects how we perceive colour, texture, and space. 

Element 5: Pattern 

A pattern is the repetition of line and form or other design elements. We see them in fabrics, rugs, wallpaper, and art. 

It is also in the use of light within a space. We can use patterns to add playfulness, life, and creativity to a space. Use them carefully not to overcrowd a room.

Element 6: Texture 

Texture is how a surface feels to the touch or the sensation felt. It is important to consider texture when dressing parts of your space that will be high traffic zones or frequently used.

Element 7: Space 

There are two basic types to consider: 

  • A 2D space includes width.
  • A 3D space uses height and volume.

Diving into the principles of design

Design principle 1: Balance 

Balance refers to the visual weight and how one side of the space is harmonised or balanced. When you look at a room, and it feels welcoming, it may mean that this space has accomplished a level of balance. 

Symmetrical balance 

Is your traditional concept of balance when one side is of equal visual weight to the other. Like a scale as an example which has 1kg on either side. 

If you had to fold the image in half, it is more or less identical on each side? Well, there are different kinds of balance. 

Radial balance 

Using a circular format achieves balance. Objects radiate around a central point. 

It is probably the least common form of balance but can be used to create a statement or feature within the space. It is associated with stairs, round dining tables, or chandeliers.

Asymmetrical balance 

Is used often, although it is the most difficult. 

The focal point is still the centre, but there are an odd number of objects. It is preferred as it achieves a more natural and casual feel.

Design principle 2: Emphasis 

It draws attention to a focal point. It may be an object, artwork, or furniture piece within a room that needs to grab all the attention within the space at first glance. 

These elements emphasise a focal point within the space. They take visual priority. 

Design principle 3: Contrast 

Contrast essentially means opposing elements are together.

Design principle 4: Rhythm 

We can almost compare rhythm in interior design to rhythm in music. The thread that ties all the choruses, bridges, and stanzas together in a song.

Our thread is the pattern that holds our principles together. It guides the eye through the space, like a song. 

Design principle 5: Detail 

The focus that a designer puts on the detail within the space. That may be the detail of colour, form, light, or any of our elements.  

Design principle 6: Unity

Unity is when similar elements are combined. It creates a feeling of calm, peace, and harmony. 

Design principle 7: Harmony

Harmony is when things seem to belong together. A harmonious space contains everything that works together perfectly. The result is pleasant, with everything exactly where it should be.

Design principle 8: Cohesion

Harmony and unity create cohesion which helps people recognise patterns. 

In conclusion, interior design is a lot more than simply choosing a few pillows and paintings. We need to gain an in-depth understanding of the individual’s personality and style. When we use our knowledge and talents we can create the perfect home interior. 

If this blog post lit those interior design desires then visit our interior design course page and sign up to upskill yourself in this profession.

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