10 Basic Design Rules to Learn Off By Heart
Follow these simple steps to avoid rookie errors and design your room like a pro
Preparation is key to interior design. Before you do anything, start formulating a plan for where everything will go and how it will look. This is so much better than trying to design as you go along, as you’ll have the time and clarity of mind to properly consider all the options and make informed decisions. Designing on the fly adds an unnecessary element of pressure to the situation and, with part of the work already underway, you may be restricting your options.
Consider everything, from your layout, colour schemes, electrics, plumbing and storage all the way down to the minor details seen in this space, by PROhome Construction, such as decorative accessories and furnishings. That way, you’ll have a clear idea of how your finished room will look, which will help to focus your mind.
If in doubt, go big – bigger than you were expecting, bigger than you think is sensible. If you’re a little bit scared by how big it is, it’s probably right – and let this example by Honey Bee Interiors encourage you.
A common mistake is to choose furniture and accessories that are too small and look lost within the space. Rugs, light fittings, mirrors and art will often look better in a larger size, particularly in smaller rooms.
In this living room, a large rug pulls the furniture together, creating a more cohesive design. Taken out of context, some of the items are probably larger than you would expect for a room of this size, but once everything’s in place, it makes perfect sense.
Good design is all about confidence and if you want to create your perfect home, you’ll need to take your ideas and run with them. Don’t think you have to be half-hearted about things. Identify your design concepts and implement them fearlessly and with commitment to the style. If you give each element a presence, you’ll ensure the room looks intentional and well-thought-out.
Here, the deep blue paint could have been used on just one wall, but by taking it through the whole room, the designer has created a beautiful backdrop and unified the space. Similarly, rather than introducing yellow velvet with just a cushion, she’s gone for a striking armchair.
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When searching for inspiration, it can be easy to get caught up with the design styles of other people’s interiors. However, translating this into your own home isn’t always simple. Elements of the space such as the amount of natural light it receives, its shape and size, the architectural style, and certain structural features can all hinder your plans.
Look at your room or space and identify what you like about it. Try to highlight those features within your design. Similarly, when you look at your inspiration images, like this one designed by Chantel Elshout Studio, try to pinpoint what it is you love about the picture. It could be the texture of a fabric, the overall mood of the room, or the colour palette used.
Once you’ve identified these elements, you can incorporate them into your design in a way that works with your space.
When positioning any wall-hung piece, consider your viewpoint. This particularly applies to things you’ll actively look at, such as a TV or piece of art.
Since you’ll mostly be watching TV on a sofa, the centre of the screen should be positioned at eye level when you’re seated. Depending on your sofa, that’s around 1m high. This is more about function than aesthetics, but both are important elements of good design.
Art and pictures are often hung too high, so take into account the scale of the room and the average eye level. The height of the pictures in this room, by Stiff and Trevillion, make a good model to follow.
When it comes to interior design, lighting is possibly the most important factor to consider. Often overlooked or left to the end when it’s too late, lighting can make or break your design scheme.
Good lighting makes everything look better and is essential for creating moods and highlighting focal points – take this kitchen scheme by Elizabeth Bowman as inspiration. A room will also function better with good lighting, whereas too much or too little light can be frustrating. Consider your lighting levels for different moods or times of day, factoring in ambient, accent and task lighting for different activities. Plan this well in advance, as it’s one of the first elements you’ll need to tackle.
A well-designed lighting scheme, like the one in this beautiful kitchen, should work seamlessly. A room with perfect lighting looks great without you realising why.
As you walk into a room, a key focal point will grasp your attention immediately. You can see how this works here, where 2LG Studio demonstrate the idea perfectly with the large golden wall hanging. A focal point centres a room and establishes the personality and style of the space you’re in. Without one, a room can look lovely, but the eye doesn’t know where to fall first and it can lack a little distinction.
Your focal point doesn’t need to be overly dramatic or edgy if that’s not the style of the room, it just needs to have a certain presence. It could be a beautiful piece of art, a striking piece of furniture, or an architectural feature, such as a fireplace or stunning window. You can also add more points of interest to notice one by one and enhance the experience.
Good design should be functional as well as beautiful. By considering your and your household’s lifestyle, you can design a home that’s easy and enjoyable to live in. We can’t all be pristine and tidy all the time and, whether it’s kids, pets or messy individuals, it’s best to account for these lifestyle factors in your design rather than fighting them.
Incorporating your lifestyle into your design means thinking about convenient storage, a good layout flow and the types of materials you use. Create zones to contain mess, such as children’s play areas or a dedicated craft table. If everything’s been well-thought-out, it will show in your design and should, in theory, be easier to keep looking good.
Allowing some areas to be left bare is just as important as the items with which you choose to fill your room. Whether it’s within the floor layout or on the walls, a little space allows the room to breathe and prevents a cluttered look. It also creates some contrast and allows the other areas of the room to have their moment. Think of it as punctuation. Just because a space is empty doesn’t mean you have to fill it.
In this serene bathroom by Thorp Design, the walls are left bare and, despite its large size, much of the space is empty. This draws the eye to the freestanding bath and allows you to appreciate the unusual slope of the eaves without distraction.
More: How to Plan for a Bathroom Renovation
With an endless supply of inspiration and countless sources of advice, it’s easy to stray from your original design as the process unfolds.
New products constantly emerging and everyone wanting to have their say can easily put doubt in your mind over decisions you’ve previously made. However, if you’ve thought it through and planned it well, have confidence in your design and be firm with your choices, as THISS Studio were with this inky garden gateway.
Of course, there’s an inevitable amount of development in the design that might alter things slightly as you go along. Issues can arise that force you to take a different direction, but stick to your original plan as closely as you can without too much compromise.
The grass-is-greener syndrome is a huge culprit in distracting you from your goal, but impulse changes can leave your final design looking muddled. There’s always the worry that there might be something better out there and, to be honest, there probably is, but the only thing that matters is that you love what you’ve designed.
Plan carefully and implement with confidence. I have every faith in you.
Which design rules do you live by? Share your thoughts and ideas in the Comments.