Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Principles of Interior Design - The Closest Things to Rules

THREAD:  Rules of Interior Design

Today I want to talk a little more about the Principles of Interior Design that I eluded to in my last post when I revealed my Top 5 Rules (aka "Non-Rules") of Interior Design.  In case you've forgotten, here are the first three:

#1 - There are no rules!
#2 - Rules are meant to be broken.
#3 - The closest you'll come to "rules" for interior design are the Principles of Design.

Let me back up a little here because while I don’t believe in any “Rules of Design”, I do believe in the certain “Truths” of design. These truths are better known as “Principles of Design” and a space cannot be successful without them.  So given their importance, let's discuss what these Principles are and what they mean.  Depending on where you look, this list can vary slightly.  For our purposes I will list the Principle and any other word I've seen to describe it.

Unity (Harmony) / Variety (Contrast)
I can give you a really bland definition of Unity like the "...arrangement of elements in an artistic work so that each contributes to the main theme"* but that's not how I would actually explain it, or how you probably want to hear it.  And I'm pretty sure that you basically already get what it means.  But just in case, I'll put it this way:  Unity means that there has to be something in your room (and/or your whole house) that ties everything together.  Some sort of common element.  (TAWNT - we will explore the various Elements of Interior Design in future posts).  However, even though it's the opposite of Unity, Variety is also included in this Principle because without it your space will be BORING!!!  In other words, don't make everything "matchy-matchy"!

Rhythm (Arrangement)
The way in which you arrange elements in a space should create some kind of rhythm, or sequence.  Rhythm is most often achieved by repetition and contrast.  Both will create movement.  When done properly, they keep the eye moving throughout the space in a pleasing and rhythmic sort of way.

Emphasis (Focal Point, Hierarchy)
Now I know you've heard of that all-important "focal point".  Every room has got to have at least one.  There can be more than one (especially if there's more than one way to enter a room) but they should not compete with or take away from the main focal point.  That's where Hierarchy comes into play.  Every element within a space has a certain level of importance which you dictate through your design decisions.  I like this explanation:
"...hierarchy occurs throughout an arrangement and reflects a complex series of decisions, which grant the totality its character.  Hierarchy grants the room its key moments of importance."*  Again, not how I would have put it, but much more eloquent!

Scale & Proportion
These two are by far the most complex Principles and although they are different, in interior design we often use the terms interchangeably.  I think that's okay because both are about comparing at least 2 objects.  With Scale you are dealing more with comparing size, and with Proportion you are dealing with mathematical ratios...WAKE UP!  I know this is turning into a snooze fest!  The important thing to remember is that objects in a space are going relate to each other.  It's up to you to make sure that they relate properly, and the best way I know to do that is through the Principle of Balance...

By far, this is my favorite Principle, and I don't think you can use any of the other Principles successfully without it.  That's why it is its own Non-Rule:

#4 - The MOST important non-rule or Principle is BALANCE.  I will explain this in much more detail in my next post.

One more thought that I want to leave you with is that when you are designing your room, you are designing an experience. You are NOT designing for a photo shoot. A room is not meant to be stared at from a fixed point. It is made to be experienced sequentially. You and your friends and family will be walking around in the space and viewing it from a variety of different angles. It's important to remember this so that you create a pleasing atmosphere, not just a pretty vignette. That right there is probably the biggest difference between Design vs. Decoration, but that's a TAWNT that we'll explore another time, in another THREAD.

Stay tuned...and please feel free to ask me any design questions that you may have!

*Quotes taken from "The Interior Dimension:  A Theoretical Approach to Enclosed Space" by Joy Monice Malnar and Frank Vodvarka

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