Mastering the Basics: Expert Tips for Applying Design Fundamentals

Think Interior
6 min readMay 1, 2023


As an interior designer, it’s essential to understand the fundamental principles of design. These principles are the foundation of any successful design project and can make or break the final result. Whether you’re just starting your job or looking to refine your skills, mastering design basics is necessary.

An interior design academy offers courses that cover design fundamentals as part of its curriculum. In this article, we’ll share expert tips for applying design fundamentals to help you create stunning and cohesive spaces.

Start with a Concept

Before diving into the details, it’s vital to establish a concept or theme for your project. It will guide your design decisions and ensure that everything fits together seamlessly. Start by thinking about the overall mood and atmosphere you want to create and any specific design elements you want to incorporate. From there, you can develop a cohesive vision for the space.

When beginning a design project, starting with a concept is important. It will help guide all your design decisions and ensure your final product has a cohesive look and feel. The concept should be based on the space’s purpose and the client’s needs.

For example, if you’re designing a restaurant, your concept might be centered around the type of cuisine served, the atmosphere you want to create, or the target audience you’re trying to attract. This concept will help guide your color choices, furniture selection, and overall design aesthetic.

Pay Attention to Scale and Proportion

Scale and proportion are essential components of any successful design project. The size and placement of furniture and décor items can significantly impact a space’s overall look and feel. When selecting pieces for a room, consider the scale and proportion of each item to the others. Be sure to balance larger items with smaller ones and create visual interest through contrast and variation.

One of the essential design fundamentals is to pay interest to the scale and proportion of the elements in a space. Scale refers to the bulk of an object or space about other elements in the room, while proportion refers to the relationship between different parts of an object or space.

When designing a space, it’s crucial to consider the scale of the furniture and decor pieces you choose. A room cluttered with large furniture can feel overwhelming, while a room with too many small decor pieces can feel disjointed and need more cohesion.

To achieve a balanced look, consider the size of the room and choose furniture and decor pieces that are proportional to the space. For instance, a large sofa can be a great choice for a spacious living room, while a smaller loveseat or armchair may be more appropriate for a smaller room.

Use Color to Your Advantage

Color is one of the most influential pieces of equipment in a designer’s toolbox. It evokes moods, creates visual interest, and ties a room together. When selecting colors for a space, consider the mood you want to form and choose colors that complement each other. You can also use color to highlight specific design elements or create a focal point within a room.

Color is a powerful means of interior design, and using it well can make all the difference in creating a visually appealing and harmonious space. When applying design fundamentals, color is essential to set the mood, establish a theme, and create visual interest. Here are some expert tips for using color to your advantage:

Understand Color Theory

Color theory is the foundation of using color in interior design. It involves understanding the color wheel, a circular arrangement of colors that shows their relationship to one another. The three primary colors are red, blue, and yellow, forming the basis of all other colors. Secondary colors, such as orange, green, and purple, are created by mixing two primary colors. Tertiary colors, such as blue-green or red-violet, are formed by mixing a main and a secondary color. Understanding color theory will help you create a color scheme that is visually appealing and harmonious.

Use a Neutral Base

Initial with a neutral base is a great method to establish a cohesive color scheme. Neutral colors can be used as a backdrop for bolder colors. They also work well as accent colors to provide balance and contrast. Using a neutral base will allow you to experiment with different colors without overwhelming the space.

Consider Texture and Pattern

Texture and pattern can add depth and visual interest to a space. When selecting materials and décor items, consider the texture and pattern of each item and how it will interact with the other elements in the room. Mixing different textures and patterns can create a dynamic and layered look while using similar textures and patterns can create a more cohesive and calming atmosphere.

When designing a space, texture, and pattern are important elements that can add depth, interest, and visual appeal. Playing with texture and pattern allows you to create a more dynamic, layered space that feels cohesive and intentional. Here are some tips for incorporating texture and pattern into your designs:

Mix and Match Textures

Experiment with combining different textures to create a rich and varied feel. Layer a plush rug over a sleek hardwood floor or drape a chunky knit throw over a leather sofa.

Vary Scale

Mix large-scale patterns with small-scale ones or use a range of textures in different sizes. It can help create visual interest and balance in your design.

Consider the contrast: Contrasting textures can be especially effective in adding depth and drama to a space. For example, pairing a rough-hewn wooden table with a glossy metal lamp can create an interesting tension between the two surfaces.

Pay Attention to Lighting

Lighting can create or break a space, so it’s essential to get it right. Consider the natural light in the room and how you can enhance it with artificial lighting. Use various lighting sources to create different moods and highlight different design elements. Be sure to consider the scale and proportion of lighting fixtures in the rest of the space.

Regarding interior design, lighting is an essential element that can significantly impact a space’s overall look and feel. Proper lighting can create a warm and welcoming ambiance, while inadequate lighting can make a space feel cold and uninviting. Here are some guidelines for using lighting to enhance your design:

Determine the Purpose of the Space:

Before selecting lighting, consider the purpose of the space. Is it for relaxation, work, or entertainment? The purpose of the space will help you determine the type of lighting that is appropriate.

Layer Your Lighting:

Layering your lighting involves using different types of lighting to create a multi-dimensional look. Combining ambient, task, and accent lighting can help create a well-lit and inviting space.

Choose the Right Bulbs:

The type of bulb you choose can affect the overall ambiance of a room. Warm-toned bulbs, such as incandescent or LED bulbs with a lower Kelvin rating, can create a cozy and intimate feel. On the other hand, cooler-toned bulbs, such as fluorescent or LED bulbs with a higher Kelvin rating, can create a bright and energizing feel.

Focus on Functionality

Design is not about aesthetics; it’s about functionality. Consider how it will be used when designing a space and by whom. Make sure that the space is functional, practical, and beautiful. Use furniture and décor items that serve a purpose and create a comfortable and inviting atmosphere.

When designing a space, it’s important to remember that aesthetics alone won’t make a space great. Functionality is just as important. Great design is a combination of both form and function. Here are some guidelines to keep in wits:

Determine the Primary Use of the Space

Before you start designing, determine the space’s primary use. It will help guide your design decisions and ensure that the space is functional for its intended purpose.

Consider the Flow of the Space

When designing a space, it’s important to consider how people will move through it. Ensure a clear path from one area to another and enough space for people to move around comfortably.

Maximize Storage

Clutter can quickly make a space feel chaotic and disorganized. Make sure to incorporate plenty of storage options into your design to help keep the space organized and functional.

Choose Functional and Comfortable Furniture

Make sure it is both functional and comfortable. Consider the needs of the space and the people who will be using it.


Applying these expert tips lets you master design basics and create stunning and cohesive spaces. Remember to start with a concept, pay attention to scale and proportion, use color to your advantage, consider texture and pattern, light, and focus on functionality. You can create beautiful, functional spaces that impress you with these fundamentals.

You can research home interior design schools online and find an academy that suits your needs and offers courses that cover the design fundamentals you are interested in learning.



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