Remodeling and Home Design

Interior Design 101: Design Principles

This week I wanted to go back to the basics, Interior Design Basics. Do you find yourself flipping through magazines or Interior Design Blogs with wonder and amaze at each picturesque vignette and wonder how to make your own space just as beautiful? Some people have been blessed with a natural ability to see a vision and bring it all together effortlessly, and then there are others who don’t. Believe it or not you too can get that professional look with these basic principles, applying these can help you decorate a room like a pro.

  • Proportion and Scale
  • Lines
  • Balance
  • Harmony and Rhythm

Let’s dive a little deeper into each of these, and be sure to get our Intertior Design Quick Reference Guide down below when planning your next room!

Proportion and Scale

Proportion refers to how one object relates to another object in terms of size. For example, an oversized coffee table would be out of proportion if placed in front of a small scale sofa. Instead it should be paired with a sofa with a grandeur stature.

Scale refers to how an item relates to the size of a room. Using the above example the oversized coffee table would be best placed in a larger living room, if placed in a smaller room it would appear crammed and out of place. 

Note: Though they actually mean two different things, proportion and scale are often used interchangeably. Be sure to pay attention to the context so you can ensure you are seeing the same vision.


Lines define a space. Walls, floors, ceilings, and cabinetry all create lines in a room. Here are some important points to remember about lines:

  • Vertical lines can make rooms seem taller and wide spaces seem narrower; they lend an air of formality to a room and a sense of grandeur.
  • Horizontal lines do the opposite; they widen narrow spaces, bring the eye level down creating a sense of intimacy and are very contemporary.
  • Diagonal lines convey a sense of energy to a space.
  • Curved lines soften the sharpness of rectangles and squares


Balance refers to the symmetry of objects within a room. Balance can be created through shape, color, pattern and texture. A room that is well-balanced will feel comfortable and relaxing. There are 3 types of balance:

  • Symmetrical balance occurs when you arrange items or objects the same way on both sides of a real or imaginary line. One side mirrors the other. For example, a console with two chairs placed on each side of it. The chairs must be identical or at least the same weight and size.
  • Asymmetrical balance creates symmetry by using objects that have the same visual weight, but are different is size, shape, color and texture. An example would be placing a group of tall table lamp on one side of a shelf and putting a short, wide vase on the other side. If you keep the proportions correct, the grouping will be balanced.
  • Radial balance is achieved when you arrange objects around one central focal point. An example would be a round dining room table with chairs sitting around it.


Harmony results when all the design elements relate to one another in some way, creating a visually pleasing space. One way it can be achieved is by using one color throughout a space, but in different textures, shapes or sizes. Or you can combine patterns and prints as long as they have the same scale, motif or color palette. They don’t have to match, just share something similar.

Rhythm is about creating patterns of repetition and contrast that move the eye around the room. It can be achieved by repeating the same color or shape at different areas in the room. For example, taking one color and picking it up in fabric or upholstery and again in accessories and artwork.

Sometimes it’s easy to see when an item is out of scale or proportion. Other times, it’s not always as obvious. You can help train your eye by studying photographs of professionally designed rooms. Really look at them to get a feel for why it works. Look at how the different elements relate to one another and what principles they are using from the list in this post. Once you have a good grasp on them, start applying these principles of design in your home. It may take some practice, but once you get the hang of it, your eye will naturally train itself to pick up on these things with less effort.

Happy designing!

~DRH Style Team