The 4 Elements of Good Design
Interior design isn’t purely about letting your creativity run free, it’s also about the layering
and interplay between elements of the room. Good design comes from creating an overall
effect, not from any one item, colour, texture or material. To achieve this, your design
should pay equal consideration to symmetry and balance; scale and proportion; impact; and juxtaposition.
SYMMETRY AND BALANCE
The human brain craves symmetry. It creates a sense of order in our chaotic world and
soothes us with tranquillity and calm.
Very few of us have the luxury of starting with a symmetrical canvas in our homes. We have
to find ways to bring balance into asymmetrical spaces. This is where my grid system comes into its own. Emphasising the vertical and horizontal planes of a room adds order.
HOW TO CAPITALISE ON VERTICAL AND HORIZONTAL LINES
Begin by creating a central focal point and work your grid out from there. In a dining room,
it could be the table, or in a bedroom, it’s most likely to be the bed. Follow the strong lines
of your central piece and echo them throughout the room.
There are so many ways to accentuate the vertical and horizontal planes, so be creative.
For the vertical, consider:
• Tall vases, standing lamps and sculptures
• Artwork or mirrors in long portrait frames
• High-backed chairs
• Floor-to-ceiling wall runners
Create horizontal lines with:
• Low, long tables
• Wide pendant lights
• Artwork or mirrors in landscape frames
Use the grid system to draw attention to matching items, such as a pair of chairs, lamps or
shelves either side of a fireplace. This draws attention to the symmetrical aspects of a space and detracts from structural disproportion.
Stick to just one or two key pairs. A room that takes pairing too far looks predictable and
unimaginative. Too much of anything creates imbalance, even symmetry.
ADD SOME ASYMMETRY
Every room needs a star piece of some sort, whether that’s a stunning vintage chair, an
elaborate headboard on a bed or a piece of industrial furniture. This one item adds interest
against the calm of symmetry and pairing. It creates balance. Make sure your focal piece
echoes other aspects of the room. It needs to link to colours, forms or textures to make it
belong in the space.
SCALE AND PROPORTION
The boldness of over-scaling and the subtlety of under-scaling can transform the mood of a room and enhance its architecture.
If you want to create drama or a sense of space, consider adding one or two over-sized
items. To give height to a room, choose a piece that exaggerates the vertical plane. Try a
gargantuan floor-standing mirror, a double-height headboard over a bed or a big, central
pendant light over a dining table. To give width or length, go for a large, long table or sofa.
Over-scaling only works against a backdrop of proportion. It’s the contrast of one or two
large pieces against other smaller, similarly scaled objects that creates the impact and
Miniature objects that reflect the form, texture or colour of nearby items add a little wit.
The object itself doesn’t crave attention but instead brings balance that you feel first and
see later. Imagine a dining table with three single white roses in low vases, each below a
white, over-scaled pendant light. It’s the referencing that adds dimension to the design and brings pleasure to those that notice it.
Aside from being functional places where we live, eat, sleep and relax, our homes are where we can freely express who we are. Every room needs an impacting piece that screams our style and delivers a surprise. Impact offers a very public display in a private space, for the enjoyment or amusement of all that enter it.
Your star piece can be anything you desire — a brave piece of art or furniture; a dazzling
chandelier that drops three floors down a spiral stairwell; an injection of colour; a
sumptuous fabric or a tactile texture. Whatever you choose, you must love the statement
you’re making and be delighted to live with it.
Maximise on the drama by making the star of the show visible from other parts of your
home. A sculpture in your living room might be framed in a grand entrance hall mirror when you open the door. A shadow casting light on a mezzanine floor might throw geometric patterns that are visible from the floor below.
Alternatively, you can use your star piece to shock and surprise. It might be an extravagant
bath behind a screen or an over-scaled vintage chair in the corner of a room.
Give your statement piece plenty of space to breathe. Think of it as the protagonist in the
story of your room. All other elements of design should add to the narrative, not compete
Juxtaposition is the key to bringing balance and interest to a room. It underpins everything
from your choice of colours and flooring, to accessories and lighting. Juxtaposition isn’t
simply placing two starkly different items next to each other to create contrast. It’s finding
objects, themes or materials that bring out the character of each other. Juxtaposed design is like yin and yang. Somewhere in-between the difference is an interconnectedness. Yin
needs yang to fulfil its potential and vice versa. Crystal vases sparkle brighter when sat on a
matt black fire surround as opposed to white polished marble. Satin cushions on a velvet
upholstered sofa make the velvet appear richer and satin silkier.
These essential elements of a room all work together to achieve a common aim — balance.
You can’t have good design without it