Interior Design 101 – A Beginner’s Guide

Often, the most compelling part of a design is how the open space in a room is utilized in order to let it breathe and also to make the room appear more tasteful.
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Creating an appealing look for an interior space can be a more challenging task that you might expect. Most people feel they have a good sense of taste, but interior design is governed by artistic principles that go beyond simply deciding what one might think looks good and what doesn’t. Interior design is grounded in concepts that have stood the test of time, and it’s a good idea for every beginner to learn the basics before getting started with any project.

Focal Point

The first part of any good interior design project is to decide upon a focal point. Some rooms have very natural focal points, such as a large window with a scenic view outside. If a room doesn’t have a clear focal point, then it will be incumbent upon you as the designer to make one. A focal point of a room can be any distinguishing feature, be it a large mirror, a fireplace or even a textured wall. A focal point should also have lines that point toward it. This means arranging the fixtures in a room to create a sense of an arrow that orients a viewer’s eye toward the focal point when someone enters the room. This requires taking into consideration what might be blocking the view of the focal point and how the space can be opened up in order to accent it.


It’s easy to look at interior design work and feel that it is mostly defined by what is placed in a room. That’s only half the story. Often, the most compelling part of a design is how the open space in a room is utilized in order to let it breathe and also to make the room appear more tasteful. The way space is used in a room is frequently critical to drawing the eye toward the focal point and other areas of emphasis in a room.image2

Specific Style Choices

Interior design demands that a room look internally consistent. This means that a room should be designed with a single governing principle in mind. There are a handful of design styles that dominate interior design today. People who want a more open look should consider checking out designs that are considered modernist or minimalist. If you’d like to create a space that’s warmer and more inviting, you may wish to take a naturalist approach. If you’d prefer something more ostentatious, then you may want to check out designs from the classical school of thought. The important thing, however, is that you commit to a single style and allow that to guide your decision making process as your work moves forward.image4

Color Choices

The style you choose will also dictate how you end up employing color in a room. For example, a minimalist design might permit you to create an open and white space that uses accent colors in order to define a focal point. On the other hand, this would seem almost garish in a naturalist design. Color choices also help define the atmosphere in a room. Darker colors will make a room seem smaller, which can be beneficial in a larger space. Lighter colors can open a small room up.image6


One of the least appreciated aspects of interior design is lighting. This is especially critical in smaller spaces that don’t have much access to natural light. How you make use of the available light in a space will determine how successful your interior design work is. Redirecting natural light by using mirrors, for example, can help you create a sense of openness even in the smallest apartment.image1


Patterns allow you to create points of emphasis in a room. A patterned chair can become the key conversation piece in a space. A relatively empty, white room can be made more inviting by installing a faux brick wall in one area. Patterns are a great way to make a specific statement when designing an interior space.


It is ultimately the materials that actually make a room come to life. If you’re trying to create a naturalist design, rustic woods will go a long way toward creating the desired effect. A few brushed metal surfaces can make a modernist space come to life. You shouldn’t limit yourself when dealing with materials choices. Some of the best interior designs around have employed daring choices for materials. For example, interiors in many re-purposed buildings make use of existing materials, such as older brick faces and aged pipes, in order to create a complement between the old and new elements in a building. Re-purposed materials are also popular choices these days when creating new fixtures. Many designers like to build tables and chairs using existing woods and pipes from a space.image8


No interior design project can succeed without planning. You need to sit down and think through every aspect of the job before moving forward. This means taking measurements of everything beforehand and transferring them to paper in order to figure out what fits. You need to have a clear budget in mind, and that also means committing to certain materials choices in order to make your money go as far as possible. You should also assess what available materials are on-hand for re-purposing, as this can help you bring a project together within a budget.

Having a plan in place also allows you to keep any contractors who might be involved with the project on-task. A plan also allows you to see that your interior design efforts function as a single vision, rather than the sum of a series of compromises and adjustments.

The critical thing when starting an interior design project is to set out a vision. Whether you’re trying to create a clean, modernist space or something comfy and contemporary, it’s important to clearly state that at the beginning and work toward it. With a clear plan in mind, even a beginner can pull off a sizable interior design effort.

Jessica Kane is a professional writer who has an interest in interior design and home decor. She currently recommends ECOS Paints, a leading vendor of superior, durable and eco-friendly paints.

Dustin Bradley, an interior designer with r(2) Design Studios, supplied the images. 

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