Design 101

The 3 Principles of Interior Design

Account for function, mood and personality in any decorating project with these pointers.

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Image courtesy of Phillips Collections.

Mood

The mood or feeling of a room is created by your choice of colors, the style of furnishings, the amount of texture and pattern you choose and your accessories. Since there's so much to think about when creating a mood, establishing a theme through the selection of an inspiration piece can make this portion of a decorating project much more fun and interesting. Here are the factors you need to address when setting a mood:

  • The inspiration piece: The easiest way by far to decorate is to start with some source of inspiration. A decorative pillow, a favorite scarf and even a magazine photo are good places to begin. Select your inspiration piece wisely, and be sure it makes you feel good when you look at it. It's the basis for selecting your theme, colors, patterns and textures.

  • Theme: Analyze your inspiration piece and develop a theme name for it. For instance, a needlepoint pillow with a botanical design on a black background may inspire a title like "formal botanical garden." Be descriptive with your theme name and all sorts of supporting ideas will come to mind. Botanical prints, striped walls, greens and floral colors, formal fabrics and furniture, dark woods and black accents all fit this particular theme.

  • Color cues: Color should always support the theme. Many times, the colors that are most appropriate are found in the patterns and design of your inspiration piece. Generally, it's best to choose three colors in a room: a dominant color, used for walls, carpeting and fabric backgrounds; a secondary color, found throughout the room in fabrics and accessories; and an accent color, used sparingly to give energy and excitement to the room.

  • Patterns: Stripes, checks, florals and plaids are just a few of the patterns to consider as you continue supporting your theme. It's all right to mix patterns as long as you do three things:
  1. Keep the background color the same.
  2. Make sure all patterns share the same colors.
  3. Vary the scale or sizes of the patterns. 
  • Texture: Too many smooth, shiny objects or too much nubby, rustic texture becomes tiresome. Use variety to keep the room interesting. Even a pattern can be used as texture. Many prints look dimensional and therefore add depth to a decorating scheme.

  • Furniture: Aside from being functional, your furniture plays an important role in supporting your theme. Some pieces may function well but their style or color may stick out like a sore thumb. Try to salvage it with slipcovers, tablecloths or paint. If it's a lost cause, remove it from the room.

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