Elements of Design

The elements of design are the tangible expression of design components. Space, form, mass, shape, line, texture, pattern, light, and color are the necessary parts which can be evaluated separately, however are strongly interwoven to create a design


Walls, ceilings, floors, and furnishings create the divisions for positive and negative space. Positive space is the filled portion of the room; i.e. furnishings, art, accessories, and area rugs. Negative space is the surrounding area of the positive space; i.e. windows, background flooring and walls. Balancing the proportion of positive and negative space can be used to create the design style. The most important thing to remember is that each needs to appear intentional and not an afterthought in the design.

Shape and Form

The two-dimensional outline of an object is shape, whereas the three-dimensional volume is the form. Rectangle, triangle, circle, and square are common silhouette shapes. Rectangular forms can include tables, beds, and bookcases. Angular forms include pyramids, cones, and triangular design elements such as vaulted ceilings and leaning wall units. Curved forms include aches, round tables and ottomans, and drum lampshades. Historic principles state circles work best with squares and ovals work best with rectangles.


Mass is the visual weight of the form. Visual weight can be created by the material, scale, texture, and color; it is the perception of the density. For example darker and heavily carved materials may be perceived as having more mass than an object which is the same size and shape in lighter and smoother finish.


Interior designers use the term “line” to define the way your eyes move through the interior space. Vertical lines tend to create a more formal design.
Horizontal line creates a restful or casual interior.
Diagonal line creates energy.
Inverted curves or swooping lines are uplifting.
Arched lines produce anchored or grounded feelings.

Pattern and Texture

Pattern is only read visually whereas texture may be read visually or through touch. Pattern is the order or arrangement of motifs. Texture is the variation of a surface. A small pattern may be read as texture.


Lighting an interior space can be created naturally and artificially. The darker the room, the more rested it is perceived and the brighter the more energy the space will seem to have. There are 4 different types of lighting; Ambient, Task, Accent, and Decorative. Ambient lighting is the general overhead or natural lighting that helps to navigate the space. Task lighting is spot specific meant to illuminate localized area for reading or crafting, etc... Accent lighting highlights specific focal points in a room. Decorative lighting is lighting that isn’t really functional however creates an atmosphere, such as candles. All rooms should have the four types of lighting.


Color is more than name. Color is characterized by hue, saturation, and value. Hue is commonly referred to as color; i.e. red, blue, yellow, green, violet, and orange. Hues may be described as warm or cool. Saturation is the intensity or tone of the hue (bright or dull). Typically brighter colors attract more attention. Value is the light or darkness of the hue (adding white, gray, or black). Tints are lighter (adding white) and shades are darker (adding black). Lighter colors tend to recede and create the perception of space whereas darker ones enclose the space.
Monochromatic interiors use one hue in a varying saturation and value.
Achromatic is the value variation of one hue; intensity is consistent.
Analogous uses two or three colors adjacent on the color wheel.
Complimentary is the combination of opposite hues on the color wheel.
Triad is the three colors equal distance apart on the color wheel.
Tetrad is four colors equal distance apart on the color wheel.