The Art of Interior Designing

Interior designing is a program in the applied visual arts that prepares individuals to apply artistic principles and techniques to the professional planning, designing, equipping, and furnishing of residential and commercial interior spaces. 

It includes instructions in computer applications, drafting and graphic techniques. It also includes studying the principles of interior lighting, acoustics, systems integration, and color coordination. 

The other aspects of interior designing are furniture and furnishings; textiles and their finishing; the history of interior design and period styles; basic structural design; building codes and inspection regulations. 

by Sonalee Sarkar
1 year, 7 months ago

Since the earliest times of civilization, man has taken shelter in various forms that nature provided. Man started with living in caves to protect themselves from the weather and from wild animals. If they had any problem of space within the caves they solved it by arranging and rearranging their goods to get more space. This gave the idea to link one cave with another cave and divide the vertical space to get more space. 

All this reshaping of caves was to make living more and more comfortable and this is the stage when the concept of interior designing developed. Source: IITC Reference Guide- Edition 2011.

Photo: Elsie De Wolfe has been credited with the creation of the interior decorating profession.

Elsie de wolfe was also known as Lady Mendi. She was an American actress, interior decorator, and author of the influential 1913 book 'The House In Good Taste', and was a prominent figure in New York, Paris, and London society. According to The New Yorker, “Interior Design' as a profession was invented by Elsie De Wolfe. During her married life the press usually referred to her as Lady Mendi and she is known as America’s first decorator.

Elsie de Wolfe, also known as Lady Mendl, (December 20, 1865? - July 12, 1950) was ...
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Interior Decoration is a creative and satisfying art. Interior designing is the use of minimum space to the maximum utility. Decorating a home either to improve its function or to reflect the client’s personal taste is called interior designing. This includes renovating an older home or designing/ decorating a new home. 

But creating a personal decorating style and developing it into a workable design does not happen overnight. It is in fact an evolutionary process starting from making the layout with the required measurement changes, allocating the furniture at right places, creating a floor layout, an electricity layout etc. 

For the study of Interior Decoration, learning of basic principles is the most necessary factor. Designing and Decoration are expressions of personal style. Interior designing is not only the size and/or shape you have to decorate but also how the objects are used and put to its maximum advantage. 

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Often the terms interior designing and interior decoration are used simultaneously but
despite being inter-related, there are a few basic differences that keep them apart.

Interior designing is planned to the smallest details. It creates something functional out of the object. Interior decoration on the other hand does not plan the functional details, but instead provides an aesthetic (beauty) value to the designed object. 

Let’s understand this better with the help of an example. Designing a chair should include- giving it a back rest, a seat, four legs and an armrest. Decorating this chair means giving it an aesthetic look like having a curled back; seat is fixed with tapestry or having curved legs etc. 

Decorating, thus means adding more value to the basic structure in order to enhance the beauty of the structure. It is said interior designing can include interior decoration but interior decoration does not include interior designing. Hence, the work of interior decorator starts where the work of interior designer is completed. 

Photo: Elsie de Wolfe design of a living room.

Find out the key differences between the practices of interior design and interior decorating.
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Along with the principles of interior designing it is also essential to know the requirements for interior designing. Here, requirements mean the needs and wants the client has for a particular room, house or office as a whole. If we design the room/ house/ office without keeping in mind the ideas of the clients then you will never be considered a good interior designer. It is always necessary to satisfy the need of the client cause like they say “The customer is King ”.  

Different types of room have different environment. E.g. some furniture may be common to all rooms while some furniture may be typical for particular rooms. It is always necessary to keep the client’s taste in mind while listing the requirements in order to have maximum utilization of space. It is also important to have proper furniture arrangement on paper in the actual scale prior to making any physical changes. Some of the basic requirements for different rooms are as below:-


  • Kitchen platform
  • Stove
  • Sink
  • Drawers / Cabinets
  • Crockery, Cutlery, Recipe book stand
  • Trolleys
  • Shelves

Living Room

  • Sofa set
  • Centre table
  • Chairs
  • Dining table
  • Wall used for art piece, paintings, lampshades, photographs
  • Wall unit / Tv unit
  • Curtains

Bed Room

  • Bed
  • Bed side tables
  • Wardrobe
  • Chairs
  • Curtains
  • Wall hangings, posters, photo frames, book shelves

Children's Room

  • Wardrobe
  • Desk
  • Book shelves
  • Bed
  • Side table


  • Reception Counter
  • Receptionist Chair
  • Visitor's Chair / Sofa
  • Cabinet to keep files / papers
  • Wall pictures
  • Center table for magazine
Inner Office
  • Desk
  • Main Chair
  • Visitors Chair
  • Filing Cabinets
  • Drawers / Cupboards for stationery
  • Side table
  • Book shelf
  • Magazine stand

Any establishment will be designed keeping in mind the requirements of the establishment.

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Earlier in the lesson we read about the basic principles of design. Let us now understand them in a more detailed manner. These are guidelines for using the elements of design to create valuable good functional designs. 

The description of these principles are not rules but are guidelines to help create a unique design. There are five main principles in design: Harmony, Unity, Repetition, Proportion, Balance, Rhythm and Emphasis. 


Harmony can be explained as relationships between objects.  This means that one element of designing is related to another element in designing. Hence to achieve proper designing you should first create the idea in the mind. Creating harmony between objects act as guidelines for better designing. Harmony is created between various elements of design like, shape, size, colour, forms, texture, lines. For example, if there is a triangle, a square and a circle in the same room and all are of the same colour then there is harmony created between the elements even though the objects are of different sizes.


Unity is the expression of the sense of wholeness in the design. Whenever there is harmony there will be the presence of unity. In design terms it means that all parts of a room i.e. its layout, furnishings, colour scheme, patterns, wall coverings are arranged in such a manner that there is harmony between all elements which in turn leads to unity among them. Sometimes in order to create unity in a room, the room may turn into a dull and monotonous room. Thus to break the monotony you can use different textures, lines, tones, contrasting colours etc.


Unity is often achieved through repetition. Repetition of colours, shapes, or sizes in objects can help to harmonize the design. E.g. while selecting a sofa set we choose the same shape, size and similar tapestry to cover it. This helps to form continuity in the design by repetition of elements. Similarly other objects in the room like lampshades, wall cupboards or units, curtains etc. can help to bring about harmony in the room by repetition.


This refers to the consideration of the weight, shape and size of the object. This principle demands that all space dimensions should be pleasingly related to each other. To choose the correct proportion you should essentially choose the most appropriate size first. Each object should be in proportion to the other as well as with its surroundings i.e. the wall, roof, windows etc.For example: a huge dining table squeezed into a tiny dining space is out of proportion with the size of the room and perhaps out of proportion with the nearby furnishings. The colour on the wall or a wall paper can make a room seem larger or smaller, higher or lower. Therefore, very often colours are used to their advantage of making a disproportionate room look proportionate.


Balance is the achievement of equilibrium in design. There are two types of balance – Formal Balance and Informal Balance. Balance depends on ideas, space organisation, colour selection or proportion of sizes. In other words balance is created with the association of elements by achieving the right interaction between them.

As seen in the above diagram, formal balance also known as bisymmetrical balance is achieved when the arrangements are planned symmetrically (in proportion) on both the side of the central axis. This includes unity, dignity, progress etc.

As seen in the above diagram, informal balance also known as asymmetrical balance is achieved by placing the arrangements at an unequal distance from the central axis. This includes excitement, activity etc. It is when there is variety of arrangements but yet it is harmoniously balanced in the distribution of form, line, colour, light etc.


Rhythm in design is set by the movement of the eye across the design. The design is supposed to guide the movement of the eye in an organised and systematic manner to form a sort of rhythm. If a room has visual unity, sense of balance and an overall feeling of continuity, it expresses rhythm as well. Rhythm can also be achieved through repetition and alterations. Often placement of pictures, curtains, cushions etc. help in forming rhythm.


Emphasis means giving a room focus so that it can bring importance to its space and creates a center of interest that attracts the eye and holds its attention. It centers the interest to the most important thing. The emphasis object has to be more dominating than the other objects. This can be achieved by using bright colours, decorating things, using unusual shapes, wall hanging etc. Often, contrast is used to create an impact of the idea. If there is no contrast used, then the dynamism (liveliness) of colours will go unnoticed.

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Drawing is our medium of language. While drawing we express our emotions, concepts and ideas. Elements of design are the basic tools to create design. Becoming familiar with these concepts will help us create better designs.

A Dot / Point

A dot or point is nothing but it does exist. It does not occupy any space but helps in creating a design. A point or dot has no dimensions i.e. no width no height. It is the first element of a design thus a beginning of design.


When a point moves it creates a line. A line has length but no breath or thickness. Hence a line is dependent on a point.

Set Of Lines

The uses of more than two lines are called set of lines. This is used in-order to divide and create more spaces.

Types Of Lines

There are vertical lines that are those lines that move upwards and downwards. There are horizontal lines that are those line that move side wards. There are curved lines that form the shape of a curve and that look flexible and gracious like that on curtains, sofas. Lastly there are diagonal lines. Diagonal lines are lines opposite to each other and these lines give a dynamic (constant change) look. for example, in staircases.


A shape is made up of lines and hence it is two dimensional. There are three dimensional shapes too. Two dimensional shapes are flat while three dimensional shapes are solid. The combination of horizontal and vertical lines form square and rectangles. While the combination of horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines form triangular shapes.

A form is a non-geometric shape which does not have any definite shape and thus cannot be given any definite name. They are usually formed by using curves. It can be enhanced by using of tone, texture and colour.


Colour can play a large role in the elements of a design. The colour wheel is used as a tool and colour theory as a guide for mixing of colours. A colour wheel also known as colour circle shows the relationships between primary, secondary and complimentary colours etc. 


Space refers to the area concerned with the designated design. For two dimensional design like paintings, drawings etc. the space is the flat surface. For three dimensional designs like architecture, flower arrangement, sculpture the space is the solid area.


While decorating, it is essential to keep in mind the lighting arrangements. The amount of doors and windows and the amount of sunshine each room gets should be considered first. Artificial lights like spotlights, terrace lights, ceiling lights, etc are as important as sunlight.


It means the way the surface feels or is made to feel. It can be used either to enhance or repel the look of the element depending on the pleasantness of the texture, For example: marble gives a smooth feel. Texture depends on the material used and can change with age and usage. Texture can be natural or man-made.

The elements and principles of design are the building blocks used to create a work ...
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Colour has been explained earlier in this lesson, but we need to understand color on a more serious and deeper level, in interior designing.

What is colour?

Colour to scientist is reflected light, while for most of us it is an innovative and individual thing. What makes a design work is its colour. Colour is key to successful decoration, as it has the capacity to bring life to any design. If it is used properly then it can transform an ordinary room into a classic room. Similarly if it is not handled properly then it can destroy the most beautiful and proportionate room. 

Light makes colour visible to the eye. Eye is the instrument and light is the medium through which we can see the colour. Colours are the most basic and trusted tool used by a designer to handle decoration of a space. Colour has an effect on our mood too. Particular colours have different effect on each individual. In interiors, colour effect can be used for wall paints, polish on furniture, pictures, artworks, curtains, furniture, lights etc.

Qualities of colour

As space has four dimension i.e. length, breadth, width and height so does colour have four aspects or qualities. They are: - HueValue, Intensity and Temperature.

Hue: - Hue refers to the name assigned for a particular colour, for example: red, yellow, green, blue, orange etc.

Value: - It refers to the lightness or darkness of a colour. By adding white it becomes a lighter colour thus called TINT and by adding black it becomes a darker colour thus called SHADE. For example, pink is a tint of red as it has white added to it- its primary colour being red, and brown is a shade of red as it has been darkened by adding black.                                       

Intensity:- This refers to the purity of colour. A colour in its purest form is white and has the greatest intensity. In interiors, dull colours are used on walls so that it gives a comfortable living space, whereas bright colours are more often used to grab attention. It is very essential to use the right intensity in a colour as one correct colour can change the look of the room.                                        

Temperature:- It refers to the quality of colour that gives warmness and coolness of the colour. Any colour that contains red is warm and any colour that contains blue is cool. Shades are usually warmer than tints. E.g. golden yellow is warm while lemon yellow is cool. There are two categories of colour- Warm colours and Cool colours.

  •  Warm colours: - They are also known as active colours. They motivate us and      increase our working speed but also give a small appearance to the room or object. These are very lively and cheerful colours. E.g. red, yellow, orange.
  • Cool colours: - They are also called passive colours. They have exactly the opposite effect to warm colours. They are perceived as soothing and calming colours. They give the feeling of spaciousness. E.g. blue, green, violet.

Colour Wheel

The colour wheel comprises of twelve basic hues i.e. three primary colours, three secondary colours and six intermediate (mixture of primary and secondary) colours. These colours are equidistant from one another on the colour wheel.

Primary colours: - Hues are red, blue and yellow colours that cannot be made by mixing other colours.

Secondary colours: - Hues are green, orange and violet colours obtained by mixing two primary colours.

Tertiary colours: - Mixing of primary colours with adjacent secondary colours gives intermediate colours. E.g. orange red, orange green.

The colour wheel gives us an opportunity to experiment with new colour combinations that have not been tried out before. They can also be placed next to each other with the help of colour wheel for evaluation.

Colour scheme and types of colour scheme

The combination of one or two hues along with their tints and shades to bring a desired result is called a colour scheme. Colour scheme helps in making the interiors look pleasing, it creates a certain mood as desired by the functionality of the room like a relaxation mood or an active mood, and it also helps to make the room look smaller or bigger. The types of colour scheme can be divided into three: - Related colour scheme, Contrasting colour scheme, and Triad colour scheme.

Related colour scheme: - They share a common characteristic and are closely related to each other on the colour wheel. They are further sub-divided into: - Monochromatic colour scheme, Analogous colour scheme, Warm colour scheme, and Cool colour scheme. As warm and cool colour schemes have already been explained, lets understand the other two colour schemes.

  • Monochromatic colour scheme : 

These are colours which feature only one hue in them in the variety of shades and tints. In other words only one colour is used with its different values and intensity. This scheme
gives a spacious and a calm feeling. For example, blue with its tints and shades can be used in a boy’s bedroom for the bed, cupboards, study unit etc.

  • Analogous colour Scheme: -

This is also called adjacent colour scheme. This is a combination by using the neighbouring colours on the colour wheel. It generally uses one colour as its major colour and the two neighbouring colours as its secondary colours. E.g. orange as a major colour and its two secondary neighbouring colours i.e. red orange and orange yellow.                                            

Contrasting colour Scheme:- Two colours which are opposite to each other are called contrasting colours. One could be a warm colour and the other could be a cool colour. Contrasting colour scheme is further divided into- Neutral colour scheme, Ccomplimentary colour scheme, Double complimentary colour scheme, Split complimentary colour scheme. 

  • Neutral colour scheme: - 

In this only black, white and grey colours are used. It is very useful in interiors to those people who want to enhance the objects. IT can be used by people who want to display their arts or merchandise. E.g. a boutique can use neutral colours as their background in order to enhance the look of their displayed clothes/ shoes etc.

  • Complimentary colour scheme: -

They form an I on the colour wheel. These are colours used opposite to each other on the colour wheel. It is not necessary that they need to be used in their purest form for
e.g. red green but also can be used in their many values and intensities. For example: red pink and tint of green i.e. strawberry pink and tint of green which can be used as a background colour for an ice cream parlor.

  • Double complimentary colour scheme: - 

They form an x axis on the colour wheel. They are a set of four colours on the colour wheel arranged into two complimentary colours.For example: yellow orange and their respective complimentary colours i.e. violet blue. Also red colour with its complimentary green colour. Thus a tint of yellow orange on the wall, blue curtains, red lampshades, green cushion covers etc can make a room really pop.

  • Split complimentary colour scheme: -

In this scheme they forms a y axis on the colour wheel. One colour chosen on the colour wheel with two adjacent colours opposite to it. For example: blue as one colour and the two adjacent colours opposite to it i.e. red orange and yellow orange.                                            

Triad colour scheme:  -  

They combine the three equidistant colours on the colour wheel.For example: three primary colours red, blue and yellow or three secondary colours i.e. violet, green and orange or its intermediate colours ie. yellow orange, red violet and blue green as seen above. This scheme is very good for modern interiors. Its successful when you use one of the bright colours with two of the grey tones.

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Interior design is one of the most creative art forms. It is important because we always use it to either to renovate our homes or offices and / or decorate our new homes or offices. 

We have learned the elementary concepts of interior designing in this first lesson. This will help to clear your basics of interior designing and help you to study the higher levels in a much easier way if you opt to go for further studies in interior designing.

Some of the famous interior decorators to mention are-Elsie De Wolfe, Frances Alder Elkins, Dorothy Draper, Petra Blaisse, John Saladino, Samuel Botero, Philippe Starck.

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3. Interior Designing and Space Selling – IITC Edition 2011

4. The Celebrity Net Worth

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1. The Evolution of Interior Designing
2. The Meaning of Interior Designing
3. Interior Designing and Decoration
4. Requirements For Interior Designing
5. Principles of Design
6. Elements of Design
7. Interior Design and Colour Theory
8. Conclusion
9. References
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