Interior Design Primer: Cornerstones of Good Design Theory

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Interior design is far more complex than just making a space look nice. The best interior designers understand that good design directly impacts how people experience and interact with a space, and work with their clients to have a deep understanding of how their space can accommodate their needs and make life easier. Whether you’re decorating a newly built home, remodeling existing rooms, or working on a home addition, knowing the core techniques designers use to create coherent  spaces is the first step to a well-designed space. Today we’ll run thorough a quick look at the core elements that form the cornerstones of interior design theory.


The functionality of a space is the foundation that underpins all other elements of design. If a space does not work on a practical level, even the most beautiful design choices will falter.

Practicality and Usability

Great interior design is highly usable for its intended purpose. All layout choices, material selections, and decorative elements must put practicality first. For example, a kitchen should facilitate cooking and conversation, with appliances and seating arranged accordingly.

Starting your design with a functional floorplan is the best way to ensure function is a priority throughout your project: Kitchens should start with a kitchen triangle, bathrooms should be planned around the core fixtures, and other rooms such as living rooms and foyers should be designed to accommodate both traffic flowing through them, and their intended use.

Accessibility and Inclusivity

Well-designed interiors are accessible and welcoming to users of all ages and abilities. This includes open layouts, cues for those with low vision, and accommodations for physical limitations. Designing for accessibility benefits everyone in the long run. For a plethora of accessibility-focused tips, check out our page on Aging in Place and our CAPS blogs

Build Around Purpose

At the end of the day, a room built for function will receive a lot more use than one built for aesthetics. If your design choices compromise the functionality of the room, it’s important to redefine your priorities and approach the room from a utilitarian mindset.


Aesthetic choices bring joy, set moods, and create visual harmony. While aesthetics are meant to complement function, poor aesthetic choices can also undermine it and make a room overwhelming or plain.


Color profoundly impacts aesthetics and psychology. Designers skillfully choose color palettes that align with the intended tone and use of each space. One of our favorite ways to find modern, popular color choices is through Sherwin William’s color of the year program. Other options include pinterest moodboards, color palette apps online, or consulting an interior designer for help.


Texture adds visual interest and helps create a unified feel. Smooth, coarse, soft, sleek – careful texture selection brings spaces to life.

One of our favorite ways to introduce texture into a space is through the use of natural stone and ceramic tile, which come in a variety of finishes, colors, patterns, and shapes. These surface finishings are versatile enough to work in either a traditional, rustic space, or add contrast to modern themes like geometric patterns and neutral tones. For a wide variety of stone and tile options in Connecticut, we recommend Genrose Stone + Tile. 


Proper lighting sets the scene. Well-lit spaces promote functionality; lighting also establishes mood via intensity, temperature, and placement. We highly recommend smart lighting as an option, as the ability to control the warmth/coldness of your lighting can heavily impact the impression a room gives. See our article on smart appliances for recommendations on smart lighting.

Psychology and Symbolism

Interior design choices impart symbolic meaning and shape how users psychologically experience a space.

Cultural Influences

Many popular design motifs are borrowed from world cultures: Feng Shio principles tend to guide Asian-inspired designs, while geometric motifs and intricate detail are popular in middle eastern architecture. If you’re looking for your home to embody your specific culture, working from the ground up using these design systems and motifs is a great way to ensure your space is designed from the ground up with your particular aesthetic and theme in mind.

Expression of Values

Designs inherently convey what homeowners value most via layout and decorative accents. A library filled with books signals learning is valued there, whereas a professional chef’s kitchen shows the homeowners value entertaining. Building a list of your individual priorities and wants, and creating a design to cater to them is key to ensuring your unique needs and values are represented in the final design.

Emotional Impact

Light, color, and other design factors subconsciously trigger emotional reactions far more than we pay mind to. A dark monotone dining room feels serious, while an airy kitchen with light wood tones imparts cheerfulness. Green tones create a relaxing, subdued feel, while reds are exciting and a great option for entertaining spaces such as dining rooms. Here’s a good article on the use of color theory in interior design.


Sustainable interior design benefits users and the environment through energy efficiency and eco-friendly building practices.

  • Eco-Friendly Materials – Sourcing local, reclaimed, recycled, or responsibly-harvested materials makes spaces greener.
  • Energy Efficiency – Strategic insulation, appliance selection, and lighting reduce energy waste, utility bills, and environmental impact.
  • Adaptability and Durability – Spaces designed for multi-purpose use and constructed from durable materials gain longevity with less waste and replacement.


Truly successful interior design reflects and enhances the unique identity of the people inhabiting the space.

  • Reflecting Personality – Your space should reflect your unique preferences: Don’t build yourself a hotel room. Design choices like bold patterns or minimalist furnishings, nods to familiar art styles like art deco or cottagecore, and other indications of your particular style should be included to make the space unique to you. While it can be daunting to make unique, bold choices for your remodel, neglecting to individualize your room can leave you with a space painted flipper grey, and with paired with neutral furnishings, you can wind up with a room that looks more like an IKEA showcase than your own space.

  • Telling a Story – Meaningful accents and heirlooms relate the family’s history and interests. While decluttering and leaning towards minimalist styles tend to be the popular choice, family heirlooms, antiques, and unique statement pieces can uplift a room and add interest, variation, and unique charm.

  • Evoking Memories – The right sensory details spark nostalgia: a grandmother’s quilt, the smell of mom’s cooking, classic songs playing in dad’s workshop. Think about the aspects of past spaces that make you feel at home, and work at incorporating those themes into your design for a distinctly-you feel. Whether your happy place is surrounded by plants, art, antique woodworking, or handcrafted decorations, make sure to identify these high-priority decorations and make space to incorporate them.

Interior design is far more than just decorating – it shapes how people interact with and feel within spaces. When design puts human needs first, addressing function, beauty, meaning, environmental impact, and individuality, the results are transcendent. Interior designers hold an exciting opportunity to positively influence individuals’ experiences in everyday life. By taking the time to understand core design principles, even amateur designers can learn to create uplifting, functional spaces that stand the test of time.


What makes Korean interior design unique?2024-01-02T19:27:31+00:00

Korean interior design is unique for its blend of minimalism, love for nature, and thoughtful use of space. It’s characterized by natural materials, functional layouts, and a serene, harmonious aesthetic that reflects the country’s cultural values and history.

What furniture is used in Korean interior design?2024-01-02T19:27:28+00:00

Furniture in Korean interior design is often low to the ground, simple, and made from natural materials like wood. Pieces are chosen for both functionality and aesthetic, with an emphasis on clean lines and minimalistic forms.

What is a Hanok house?2024-01-02T19:26:26+00:00

A Hanok house is a traditional Korean home known for its wooden structure, tiled roof, and heated ondol floors. Designed to maintain harmony with the surrounding environment, Hanoks are admired for their use of natural materials and efficient, open layouts.

How to decorate in Korean style?2024-01-02T19:26:07+00:00

To decorate in Korean style, focus on minimalism, natural elements, and functional spaces. Use neutral colors, wooden furniture, and natural fabrics. Incorporate traditional Korean elements like sliding doors or Hanji (traditional Korean paper) lamps for an authentic touch.

What color should I choose for a small bathroom?2023-12-14T17:47:03+00:00

Light, neutral colors or cool tones like light blues or greens can make a small bathroom feel larger and more open.

How do I choose a color scheme for a room with limited natural light?2023-12-14T17:47:05+00:00

In rooms with limited natural light, opt for lighter and brighter colors to make the space feel airier and more open. Reflective hues can help bounce the available light around the room.

Is it okay to mix different colors in one room?2023-12-14T17:45:55+00:00

Yes, mixing colors can add depth and interest to a room. Just ensure they complement each other and maintain a balanced look. Using a color wheel to identify complementary and contrasting colors that align with your base color is one great way to make sure the mix of colors match. Another option is using recommended matched colors based on recommendations from your paint provider.

How do I choose a color scheme for my living room?2023-12-14T17:44:50+00:00

Start with colors you love and consider the mood you want to set. For a serene space, go with cool colors; for a vibrant feel, choose warmer hues.

What’s the best color for a relaxing bedroom?2023-12-14T17:44:24+00:00

Soft, muted colors like light blues, gentle greens, and warm neutrals are ideal for a relaxing bedroom environment.

How can an interior designer use AI tools like Chat GPT in their business?2023-11-29T15:28:26+00:00

Interior designers can utilize Chat GPT for automated customer interactions, answering client queries, and providing initial design consultation, enhancing client engagement.

How do I find an interior designer?2023-10-09T13:22:30+00:00

Finding the right interior designer for your home addition project involves these steps:

  1. Research: Look for designers in your area through online directories, design associations, or recommendations from friends and family.
  2. Portfolio Review: Examine their portfolios to see if their style aligns with your vision.
  3. Interview: Schedule meetings with potential designers to discuss your project, budget, and expectations.
  4. References: Ask for client references to learn about their previous work and client satisfaction.
  5. Agreement: Once you’ve found a designer you’re comfortable with, sign a clear contract detailing the scope of work and payment terms.

Hiring an interior designer can greatly enhance the success of your home addition project by ensuring that your space is functional, aesthetically pleasing, and tailored to your unique preferences.

What do interior designers do?2023-10-09T13:21:42+00:00

Interior designers play a crucial role in enhancing the functionality and aesthetics of interior spaces. Their responsibilities may include:

  • Space Planning: Optimizing the layout for efficient use of space.
  • Color Selection: Choosing paint colors, fabrics, and finishes.
  • Furniture and Decor: Selecting furniture, lighting, and decor items that align with the design theme.
  • Budget Management: Keeping the project within budget while ensuring quality.
  • Collaboration: Working with architects and contractors to ensure design implementation.
  • Client Satisfaction: Tailoring the design to meet the client’s needs and preferences.
Do I need an interior designer for a home addition?2023-10-09T13:21:21+00:00

Whether you need an interior designer for a home addition depends on your personal preferences and the complexity of your project. Interior designers can provide valuable expertise in optimizing space, selecting color schemes, choosing furniture, and enhancing the overall aesthetics. If you want a professionally designed and cohesive look for your home addition, hiring an interior designer is advisable. However, for simpler projects, you may choose to handle the design yourself.

How much does an interior designer for a home addition cost?2023-10-09T13:20:52+00:00

The cost of hiring an interior designer for a home addition varies based on factors like project complexity, location, and the designer’s experience. On average, interior designers may charge a fee ranging from $50 to $200 per hour. Some designers work on a fixed fee or a percentage of the total project cost, typically around 10% to 30%. Be sure to discuss pricing and services with potential designers to find the best fit for your budget.

What are the most important elements of interior design?2023-10-09T13:16:06+00:00

The most critical elements of interior design are functionality, aesthetics, psychology/symbolism, sustainability, and individuality. A designer must address all these factors to create spaces that fully support their inhabitants.

Published On: October 9th, 2023 / Categories: Interior Design, Uncategorized /

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