Interior design is a passion of many Brits. We buy magazines, watch TV shows and read blog posts like this to learn about the newest trends, get inspiration and more. But often, the most important elements of interior design have little to do with the newest rugs or which themes we choose. These are the fundamental principles that the shows and articles don’t go into, and these are the principles that make a collection of furniture things into a wonderfully decorated room.
These are the real secrets of interior design.
1. Pay attention to the lighting.
Careful lighting is the biggest secret of interior design. Dining rooms and places where you eat should have a softer glow, whilst rooms for reading should be brighter. Pendant lights and chandeliers should be high enough to not be in the way, but low enough to keep the light focused on one area. Bathroom sconces provide more flattering light when placed on the side of mirrors, rather than on top, because they won’t cause harsh shadows to fall across your face. Lamp shades should be warm colours or lined with pink or red paint or fabric, so they will give off a warmer glow.
Best of all, however, is the ability to change the lighting to suit your needs, and that is where lamps come in. Get a mix of floor lamps, side lamps and candles. Scatter them all around the room, so you can add or take away more lighting as you like. Use the candles, as the flickering flame will create a great atmosphere.
2. Don’t let the TV dominate the room.
The general rule for television size (from an interior design perspective, anyway) is this: measure the distance in inches between the sofa to where the TV will be, and divide that by 2.5. The resulting number is the ideal size of your TV. If you want a bigger one, you can make sure it blends in nicely by hanging it on a wall to make it almost like a piece of moving wall art. It is even less obtrusive in an alcove, over a fireplace or in a closed storage unit.
3. Think about movement.
Above all else, a room has to be functional. To that end, you need to make sure people can move around the room easily. Ideally, there will be at least a metre of space around a dining table, and there will be at least 50 centimetres between the sofa and the coffee table.
To get spacing really right, think about how you use a room. When you come into it, do you usually weave around furniture to get anywhere? Try rearranging your furniture to make it easier to get around in a room. This will make it “flow” better, which will make it feel like a bigger, better designed room.
4. Make a feature of your view.
Find the window in each room that has the best view or gets the best light, and make a feature of it. Choose curtains that can act as a frame for the window, and add plants or decorative accents to the window, if you have a window seal. Put the seating area directly opposite the window, so you can look out of it from the seating. Making a feature of your best view brightens a room, makes it feel bigger and brings the outdoors in, all of which creates a more relaxing environment.
5. Keep mirrors and pictures closer to the ground than the ceiling.
Mirrors should be hung at eye height, so people can look into them easily. The average person is around 1.5 metres, so make sure the centre of your mirrors are about 1.5 metres from the ground. If you can, keep the bottom of the mirror about 20 centimetres from the top of the furniture it hangs over, too.
The pictures and artwork you want people to look at most should also be at eye height. Once you have the centre of those pieces at the right height, you can group other, less important images and pieces of art around it, both higher and lower if you like. There should be more empty wall space between the top of the pictures and the ceiling than there is between the bottom of the pictures and the furniture beneath them, however.
6. Put a piece of furniture in the middle of the room.
This applies more to lounges more than anything else, but put a piece of furniture that has an interesting back in the middle of the room. If you don’t have a piece of furniture with an interesting back, you can cover the back of a piece with some interesting fabric. This will help you create ‘zones’, where specific activities can take place. You will also avoid having a room that looks like you expect it to turn into a dance hall at any moment.
7. Hide your cords.
Do whatever you have to do to hide your electrical cords. Ideally, you’ll have sockets directly behind your electricals, but sometimes your sockets won’t be conveniently placed for your interior design purposes. In that case, use extension cords to connect your electrical devices to the socket, then run the cords behind bookcases, sofas and other large pieces to keep them out of view. You can even paint the cords so they blend in with the walls even better.
8. Think of your ceiling.
Ceilings create a lot of impact, but because we don’t look directly at them very often, we usually don’t consider them when decorating. Still, painting your ceiling can make a huge impact. Use a high-gloss paint in a room with low ceilings to create height, and use a matte paint to bring a high ceiling down. Use a metallic paint to reflect light down, or make it a bold shade if you want to a nice, unexpected pop of colour. Use a shade of cream if you want it to be neutral, however. Bright white shades all have grey tones, which can really make a room seem drab.
9. Bouquets really do pull a room together.
Chances are, all of your favourite interior design inspiration rooms include bouquets of flowers. The fact of the matter is, flowers and plants just make rooms work better. But buying and caring for flowers can be a real pain, especially when you are low on time and money.
Luckily, all flowers make a room work, not just the expensive ones. Get a large bunch of carnations. They are cheap, they are widely available at all times of year, they come in almost every conceivable colour and you can cut their stems to make them as tall or short as you like. Group a single colour of bright red carnations to create a pop of colour in a minimalist room. Cream carnations look lovely in a classy vase. A bunch of multi-coloured carnations makes a fun and funky centrepiece. You don’t need a lot of money, but you do need flowers.
10. Rules are made to be broken.
One designer will say bookcases are made for books only, and another will stuff them full of things and make it look great. One will say don’t use bold colours in small spaces, and another will insist that only bold colours work in small spaces. Some will insist on exactly six throw cushions on a bed, and others will say only odd numbers of pillows will do. One article will say accessories make the room, and the next will insist that only functional pieces should be included in interior design.
The point is, most of interior design is subjective, so all you really have to do is play around until your room is the way you like it. Besides, if you don’t like it, you can always change it back.
Now that we’ve seen the top tips from experts, tell us: what are your best secrets of interior design?