5 essentials of decorating

It is interesting to find out what makes interior design stand out.  You would think in a world where everything is possible and strict decorating rules seem not to be as important, decorating would be easy. There are thousands of different ways to get design inspiration just thinking of all the magazines, interior design shows on TV and design blogs.  Decorating is becoming easier and everyone can do it.  Every style has its own name, mixing and matching is in fashion and clear rules are disappearing.

But there are still differences in professional interior design and just decorating for fun.  It is interesting to see that the same principles of decorating that were important in the past are still essential today.  I highly appreciate the skills of professional decorators.  They understand what it takes to bring out emotions and feelings in a room.

Talking about all principles and elements of great decorating becomes overwhelming, especially for someone who is not a designer. Therefore, I am pointing out five decorating principles that I consider outstanding:

1. Harmony

Harmony is about creating a consistent look of the furniture and all other arrangements.  It is like a theme that follows through a room. It is a blend of lines, forms, colors, patterns and textures.  Harmony can be achieved by thinking of the overall desired mood of the space. When the look of a room is clear and consistent harmony fills the room.



2. Rhythm

Rhythm refers to repeated patterns, shapes, colors and arrangements. The eye should move easily around the room from object to object. There is nothing that interrupts that flow.

Rhythm creates a sense of belonging together.  For example, it can be a pair of lamps or pillows with the same pattern or shape. The repetition of a feature underlines the rhythmic effect.

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3. Emphasis

Emphasis is created by a focal point of a room.  This focal can be the bed in a bedroom, the fireplace in a living room or the stove in a kitchen.  These are the most prominent pieces in the room and all the attention is given to them.  In larger rooms it is possible to have various focal points in different areas of the room. Think of a living or family room that is also used for watching television.

However, it is important that focal points never compete with each other.  Emphasis gives the room its purpose in the house and relates closely with its function.




4. Scale

Scale has to do with relationship of the objects in a room.  Objects with different sizes, that are next to each other get exaggerated. Each objects has a visual weight that affects the relationship. Even objects with the same dimension can be off scale, because of the visual weight they carry.

In general,

  • round objects have more visual weight than thin ones
  • bright colors have more visual weight than neutral colors
  • bold patterns have more visual weight than solid patterns


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5. Balance

 Balance gives a room a sense of even temper and calmness. Symmetry is an important factor to create balance in a room. Balance can also be created with an asymmetrical set up in equalizing imbalanced elements in a room. This can be achieved through color, size or shape. In rooms that are furnished unequally in one side or the other, quantity also affects balance. A room with too little or too much furniture can look out of balance. The furnishings should be placed evenly in the room.


A sculpture of balanced stones is pictured in a clinic treatment room at the UW Health Integrative Medicine program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on July 15, 2010. ©UW-Madison University Communications 608/262-0067 Photo by: Jeff Miller Date:  07/10    File#:  NIKON D3 digital frame 4393


Joann Eckstut, Sheran James, 1999

Home Redux – The Home Decorating Workbook


Erica Swanson, 2010

The Interior Design 101



Home Staging Resource, 2005 -2011

Interior Design 101 and the Priciples and Elements of Great Design




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