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The 6 Principles of Design. How to design your space like the pro's

When it comes to interiors there are so many things that can make or break a space. Having an eye for design is a talent for sure. But just like any talent there are things you need to learn. Picasso did not become famous for abstract before he developed a solid foundation in the understanding of art. In order to break the rules you need to know what they are first, and as with art, interior design is much the same.

In design there are 6 principals that we learn they are:

  • Balance

  • Harmony & Unity

  • Rhythm

  • Emphasis & Focus

  • Scale & Proportion

  • Contrast

Knowing how to pull a space together starts with understanding the foundation of design and the foundation comes from understanding these 6 principles.

Lets dive in!

Principle #1


Achieved by distributing weight of objects within a space to achieve the feeling of equilibrium

What effects balance in Interior Design are factors such as:





In Interiors we want to create a visual balance within the space.

Balance can be achieved 3 ways:





Principle #2


Harmony can be thought of as when one thing belongs with another.Repetitive elements like colour, texture, shape and form is a way to create harmony within an interior

Unity can be described as many elements within a space coming together. It is when the space “feels” right and everything works together.

Principle #3


Rhythm is a pattern that ties interior design elements together

It is a way to make a room feel put together

In interiors it can be seen as


repeating elements of design


alternating 2 or more elements in a regular pattern


taking an element and decreasing or increasing one of its qualities


Principle #4


In Interior Design this is where we ask our selves what do we want to highlight within our space. (and what do you want to hide)

In commercial design we may do this through the following:

Highlighting products

Use of signage

Customer service counters

In residential design we may do this through the following:

Highlighting a fireplace



Accent walls ( Paint)

The use of Colour and Light are some of the easiest ways to achieve this design principal

Principle #5


Scale is the relationship between 2 or more objects. One that has a commonly known size. The best example is using the human form for scale.

Proportion refers to the size of parts in relation to other parts within the same object. This is harder to explain, unlike scale that is easy to visualize. Proportion you could say is where you “have an eye for design”

Creating a space with scale and proportion is a typical design element that a designer wants to achieve, however sometimes things being disproportionate add a really unique and beautiful look as well

The Golden Ration:

A mathematical equation, that is used often. It is seen a lot in nature and people generally find it aesthetically pleasing. For Interiors we can use this in reference to a room layout.

Divide a room into 2 sections. 1 that takes 2/3 and the smaller using the last 3rd. Larger section will contain the rooms main function and the smaller for something like alternative seating.

Principle #6


Contrast helps to give impact to a space.

It refers to the difference in luminescence or colour of objects in comparison to one another.

Contrast can be designed through:

Colour / Form / Space

Can be done in the following ways:

Light vs. Dark

Bright vs. Dull

Big vs. Small

Ornate vs Plain

Organic vs geometric

Feminine vs masculine

Contrast give a strong impact to a space, and it can be as simple as the use of paint.

With these 6 principles as your starting point you are ready to dive in to your own design project, using these as guides to help give you a space that makes others ask... who was your designer? and you can say... oh this... I just pulled this together myself!

Until next time...



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