What are the 7 Elements of Interior Design?

What are the 7 Elements of Interior Design?

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They say home is where the heart is. When you think about it, our homes act as structural hearts that rejuvenate and replenish us.

They invite us back to relax and refresh at the end of the day. Our homes house our families and are where we rejoice and connect. They comfort us when we need a minute to ourselves. Homes lie at the center of most precious memories.

The character and energy we invite into our space carve a foundation that defines what we absorb and carry forth into the world. Interior design creates our home’s character and sets the energy in the space.

So what are the 7 elements of interior design, and how are they used?

The 7 elements of interior design can be thought of as a recipe that we use to build an ambiance within our home, serving as an expression of ourselves.

Design components integrate and interact within shared realms as we perceive and experience space–just like recipes, no two homes are the same.

Whether you're designing your space for the first time, you're a seasoned visual enhancement veteran, or you just want to add some flavor and spice to your quarters, we've got everything you need to know to transform your "drab place" into your "dream space."


Space can be defined as the area confined within the four walls of a room. All seven design principles affect or are affected by space. The correct use of space lends functionality and flow to a room.

Initially, as you're designing a room, consider space in two ways. First as two-dimensional space (the length and breadth of the room), and then as three-dimensional space (by adding the height).

The way you allocate floor space in any room directs foot traffic and suggests where people should go. Balance and harmony in three-dimensional space affect the perception of the size and energy of a room.

Often space is referred to by what does and what does not occupy it. This is called positive and negative space. When positive and negative spaces are balanced, it creates harmonious energy in a room.

Scale and proportion have a lot to do with the spacing in a room. For example, small objects in large rooms give an impression of vastness, and large items in small rooms lend toward a cluttered feel.

Correct use of space will buffer visual congestion or an empty, vacant feel regardless of whether your taste is minimalist or eclectic.

Positive Space

Positive space refers to the items that occupy physical space, such as furniture, art, and appliances. The presence of positive space determines where your eyes settle and what they soak up.

The more positive space is occupied in a room, the louder the energy of that room will feel. Some designers strategically implement this to create a vivacious feel.

When implemented poorly, the overuse of positive space can become visually overwhelming.

Negative Space

Negative space is when the absence of something creates an open, expansive feeling. Vacant, empty space could be between furniture and appliances, a refreshingly bare wall, or a well-lit high ceiling.

We find negative spaces in paths and passages where people move.

Use of negative space in a hallway

Negative space can be created simply by not hanging a picture or clearing a cluttered benchtop. It gives your mind a small break from sensory overload and adds sophistication to your abode.

Clear or mirrored materials can also contribute to cultivating a feel of negative space while still maintaining functional use of the space. The clarity of lucite minimizes the visual footprint of a physical piece of furniture, and mirrored items duplicate the space that it reflects. We absolutely love the spatial irony of this lucite waterfall side table because it's elegant, functional, and unassuming. Positive space is saluting negative space, so you get the best of both worlds.

Clear Lucite Table


There are three classifications of lines within a home. These are horizontal, vertical, and dynamic.

Lines draw your attention towards a focal point and create a sense of movement and flow within an expanse.

Like positive and negative space, lines require a mix and balance, depending on what you want to achieve.

Perhaps you want to create whimsical energy by layering curved lines. Or how about low-lying horizontal furniture with a curved waterfall acrylic side table to create a relaxed, loungy vibe for your living room?


Horizontal lines cast an earthy, grounded feel. They make a space appear vast and clean.

Many household entities are naturally designed with horizontal lines, and for good reason: consider countertops and tables, or wainscoting down a hallway.

In boardrooms and dining rooms, long tables and clear acrylic desks create lines that dictate formality and stability. Overuse of horizontal lines - particularly in a minimalist environment - can make a room appear bland or stark, so choose these features with careful consideration.


Visually, the first thing that comes to mind is a tall, clear set of vertical windows that entice your attention up towards a jaw-dropping elevated chandelier.

Vertical lines offer a lofty, airy feel and subconsciously lead your eyes upward. Tall doorways and windows, chests, or striped wallpapers service a room by endowing the space with height.

Too much upward focus can make a room feel small and confined.


Dynamic lines can be anything from zigzag to angular to curved lines. They create movement and visual stimulation because they actively guide your line of sight in the direction they're headed.

Zigzag staircases bring energy and life to a room. Curved and soft furniture creates a flowy sensation and unstructured balance.

Because a lot of furniture and homes are created with strong vertical and horizontal lines, a swishy art piece, or a rounded couch can provide a contrast to various other structures within a home, lending a comfortable and inviting feel.

This low lucite Z shape vanity chair is a perfect example of the zest that static, dynamic lines can bring to any room.

Dynamic lines are like the salt in bread. Too much, and it's overpowering. Too little, and it's bland. They draw and detract attention easily, so use them tactfully and sparingly.

The way different lines intersect and intersect within a space is what creates form and shape.


The three-dimensional structure of a room creates shape and is known as the form.

Shapes can be cast by millwork, furniture, and curved art or sculptures, as well as the walls and ceiling. Blending and layering form in a room can offer beautiful form and flow in a space.

Room with a strange form

In design, we recognize shapes as being either geometric (angular) or natural (unstructured).


Geometric shapes are man-made structures that structurally define the form of the room itself, or as an addition. They have hard lines, definite angles, and square edges which give off clear, neat vibes.

High or low ceilings, angled or straight walls, mezzanines, and wall niches can create dazzling geometric forms worth celebrating in your home.

Gorgeous geometric furniture, like this Lucite Console Table with Angled Legs will create a subtle, yet compelling point of geometric interest as it takes the stage in your welcoming lobby.


Natural shapes remind us of nature, and they break down structural barriers that certain furniture or room shapes project.

Sculptures, art, furniture, and even rugs are your secret weapon here.

Take, for example, this gold bubble chair with white faux fur cushions. The chair is easily maneuverable and adds a charming globe aesthetic to soften hard edges.

Very few architects design homes with outlandish natural forms as a structural feature, simply because they stand in the way of functionality. Structurally natural shapes are not exactly versatile. In extreme cases, people have built their homes around actual trees to incorporate natural form into their homes.

Adding a simple touch of natural form, from your choice in furniture or decor, will break down any rigidity in the ambiance of your rooms.

When recurring lines and forms are layered within a space, you create patterns.


Patterns are collections of lines and forms that create visual consistency within your home.

Design repetition across various walls, features, and rooms can look amazingly cohesive. Patterns are usually introduced by wallpapers, rugs, curtains, and soft furnishings. That said, there are absolutely no limitations to where you could - or should - add patterns.

For example, a patterned backsplash, ceiling, floor, or wallpaper will quickly become a visual focus in whatever space they occupy.

repeating plant patterns

Patterns can come from the grain in cushions, rugs, drapes, or wood, like this four-door triangular ribbed sideboard pattern.

But as you apply patterns to vivify your life, be wary of existing guidelines:

  • Size and dimensions of the room - a mixture of patterns can lend the illusion of more height to a wall. But in small spaces patterns may become visually overbearing and create the perception of a little room being even smaller.
  • Patterns are used in feature walls, for example in the living room. Patterns and colors can introduce a bold contrast and turn the wall into a design feature.


Lighting is the single most critical aspect of interior design. Too much lighting and a room can feel stark and visually assaulting. When the lighting of a room is foggy, it can create a gloomy feel and offset the other fabulous efforts you have contributed to your interior design.

That's because different lighting schemes denote different moods. If there's only one thing you change in your home, well-balanced and well-placed lighting will completely shift the feel of a room.

Lighting can even affect the perceived size and spacing of your home!

There are two kinds of light: natural light that reflects warmth and happiness, and artificial light that holds a functional purpose. Both of these can be layered to contribute to the feel and space of your room.

Natural Lighting

Natural light cascades through windows and doors to expose the most beautiful raw character of any room or piece of furniture.

If you're lucky enough to be building your own home, you can work with the architect and interior designer to find window and door placement options that will transform your lounge, bedroom, or kitchen into a sun-washed haven you'll never want to leave!

These can be perfectly customized to give you the feel you want.

If you're not building, natural light can be manipulated through curtains, shades, and drapes. You can even install different types of glass to regulate the character of light that enters your home.

Artificial Lighting

When natural lighting is insufficient, interior designers look to accentuate art pieces and brighten functional spaces artificially.

Artificial lighting can be still or moveable like lamps or cabinet backlighting. Artificial light is divided into three categories, each for its own specific purpose.

  • Task lighting - this is for practical functions, like work desks, overhead lighting, and kitchen lighting.
  • Accent lighting - when you have features in your home you want to accentuate, this is when you bring in accent lighting. It draws attention to precious art pieces or sculptures, shapes, and forms, or even the architecture of your home. If you have a conversational piece of furniture or art, dazzle it with accent lighting.
  • Ambient lighting - this is also known as "mood lighting," and replaces natural light after the sun goes down, and enhances the look and feel of a space. It creates visibility, and even around the ceiling or floors can create the illusion of spaciousness.


Colors send subconscious messages and create feelings. The human brain is wired to perceive tones, shades, and hues in a certain way.

Colors that mimic the natural environment in which you live - for example, earthy tones in a desert, or blues and whites at the beach - create a flow between inside a home and outside of it.

When you pick your color palette, it's a good idea to create variety by opting for contrasting and complementary colors. And don't think it's all about the walls! Color comes from drapes, furniture, carpets, and tiles, as well as paintings and appliances.

This color edge console table adds a striking dash of color to complement almost any palette, without being overbearing.

The idea is to get your coloration cohesive to make certain parts of the schema consistent. Bright palettes make your home playful and bring life to the space. Mutable tones and hues are timeless and make the space more versatile for accent furniture and art.

Yellow chair in neutral room.

They can also be used to steer the perception of space in a certain way. For example, dark colors make rooms appear smaller than they are, and light or bright colors make rooms appear bigger.

When choosing a color, ask yourself: do you want a relaxing and neutral sanctuary or a vibrant and lively spot?


Texture denotes the look and the feel of the objects and materials that are present in your home. Good designers will manipulate both to create depth and feeling.

Actual texture in walls, curtains, upholstery, carpet, or floors adds depth to interior embellishment. Little minute detailing adds interest to a room.

Tactile Texture

Actual texture comes from different materials and production techniques. Silk is smooth, faux fur rugs and throws are soft and fluffy, wood can be rough or smooth depending on the finish. The patterns formed by textures, and the coherence they create with colors, lighting, or other textures present, can pull the look of a room together.

Tactile textures involve the use of physical material, are available in three-dimensional space, and are experienced by touch and sight.

One beautiful example of tactile texture is this gold feather shadow box. It blends with a variety of materials like concrete and stone, as well as various colors and lighting schemes.

Visual Texture

Visual texture refers to the image of texture in your space. Rather than adding physical textured surfaces or objects to your space, images create the illusion of depth and texture within your space.

For example, the wooden or stone texture on wallpaper is not exactly the same as actual wood or stone, but it offers an apparition of natural elements in the home which can enhance and complement any feature you please.

They also offer a more affordable way to produce texture in your home.


The beauty of being able to decorate your own home is that you have infinite options to create the exact look and feel of your desired environment.

By distilling these infinite options down to simple fragments, and fully understanding the 7 elements of interior design, it becomes much easier to determine how each decision you make integrates and interacts with your other choices.

The idea is to have fun with your project, and allow your personality to shine through the refuge you create in your home.

Deeply understanding all elements of design is a complex task, which is why we have trained experts to guide us through the process.

If you're looking to create the perfect decor for your home, look no further than the dedicated and knowledgeable team at Clear Home Designs. We'll help you find the most luscious furniture and finishings for your abode, and guide you through building your brand new retreat.