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The Ultimate Guide to Interior Design

Done well, interior design is alchemy.  It can instantly change a space, a mood – even a life.  As Winston Churchill famously declared: “we shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”  Whether you’re planning a do-it-yourself project or looking to hire a specialist designer, read this Ultimate Guide to Interior Design to ensure your projects end up in interiors heaven.

What is interior Design?

The 7 Principles of Interior Design

  • Balance
  • Rhythm
  • Emphasis
  • Contrast & Variety
  • Scale & Proportion
  • Unity & Harmony
  • Details

How to Hire an Interior Designer

  • Designer or Decorator?
  • Establishing a Budget
  • Finding Your Style
  • Doing Research

Doing it Yourself: 6 Tips for Perfect DIY Design

  • Know yourself
  • Make a design plan
  • Pick a colour palette
  • Following the 7 Principles of Interior Design
  • Using layering & texture
  • Accessorizing

Now Get the Look: Guide to Top Interior Design Styles

  • Transitional
  • Maximalist
  • Bohemian
  • Memphis
  • Scandinavian
  • Minimalist
  • Industrial
  • Shabby Chic
  • Mid Century Modern
  • Modern Coastal
  • Rustic
  • Traditional


luxury interior design

Luxurious interior design with agate feature wall


At its simplest, interior design is the layer of decoration on the interior of a building. But in reality, it is much more than that. At its core, interior design is about creating interiors that function well and enhance the well-being of those who use the space. Good interior design not only looks beautiful but also improves overall quality of life.  The practice of interior design combines both art and science: it demands the understanding of a space, insight into the pscyhology of living in a space, and the creativity to introduce colour, shape and texture to best create a cohesive and pleasing environment.

As a practice that involves so many skillsets, its practitioners come from many different backgrounds.  Depending upon the country they operate in, an interior designer may not need official qualifications (for example, they do in the USA and Australia but not in the UK) – but some core principles apply whether or not formal training in interior design is necessary.  All successful interior designers – and so all successful interior design projects – come from combining creativity, organisational skills, attention to detail and the ability to communicate your ideas clearly (whether this is to clients, suppliers or installers).

In this guide, we’ll cover off key aspects of interior design, such as the 7 Principles of Interior Design and the elements of the main on-trend interior design styles.  But remember – design is always personal, so rules can be bent (and sometimes even broken).  As David Hicks said: “The best rooms have something to say about the people who live in them.”




The 7 Principles of Interior Design are guidelines for creating a well-designed space. Designers incorporate these principles into every design plan to create interiors that are both beautiful and fully functional. While each principle is important on its own, in a truly successful design, all 7 principles work together and complement each other.



The 7 Principles of Interior Design - balance

Balance in interior design requires an equal distribution of “visual weight”. Visual weight refers to how heavy or substantial an object appears to the human eye. Items that are large, solid, dark, or colourful will seem heavier than objects that are small, thin, open, or light in colour. To achieve good balance, divide a room into four equal quadrants. Each quarter should appear to contain roughly the same volume of furnishings and objects.




The 7 Principles of Interior Design - rhythm

In music, rhythm occurs when a repetitive beat (or combination of beats) creates a musical pattern. Rhythm in interior design helps create a cohesive space with good flow by using repetition to help move the eye around the room. Repeated elements can be anything from a colour or pattern, to finishes and materials, to shapes and styles.



The 7 Principles of Interior Design - emphasis


Emphasis in interior design refers to a central element that acts as the focal point of a space. Common focal points include architectural features such as a fireplace or picture window. If a room does not have any noteworthy architectural features, a piece of art or furniture can also be a focal point.

The focal point should be the first thing you notice when you enter the room and serve as an anchor for the space. Once you have identified the focal point, you can create emphasis through furniture placement and with the use of colour, light, and texture.




The 7 Principles of Interior Design - contrast

Contrast and variety create visual interest and prevent interiors from feeling boring. Contrast provides drama and draws attention while variety adds personality and diversity.  Create contrast by placing elements of striking difference next to one another. You can achieve this effect with the use of colour, shape, and space. You can also use different colours, fabrics, and finishes along with unique furniture pieces to add variety to a space.



The 7 Principles of Interior Design - scale


Scale and proportion work together to ensure that objects in a room look like they belong there and also relate to one another. Scale refers to the size of objects within a space, while proportion refers to the size of one object in relation to another.



The 7 Principles of Interior Design - unity







Unity and harmony create a space that feels cohesive and ensure that all the elements in a room feel like part of a whole. Unity is achieved when an overall theme is followed that guides the design and ensures that all pieces relate to each other. Decorating with items that have common colours, patterns, shape, or style will help create a harmonious room.



7 principles of interior design - details






Incorporating the above 6 principles will create a space with good flow and balance that feels well put together. But the details are what makes a room come to life. The details are easy to overlook but can have a big impact on the overall look and feel of a space.

Decorative details include items such as trim and embellishments on textiles, architectural accents, and hardware, handles, and flourishes. Other less obvious details involve common features such as wires from lamps and electronics, faceplates for outlets, and quality of workmanship






interior designer at work

Interior designer working on plans

Hiring a professional interior designer to redecorate your home can be a sound investment. Many people feel they can handle the job themselves but end up making expensive mistakes that far exceed the cost of a designer. Your designer should be someone who you trust, feel comfortable sharing your opinion with, and gives you confidence in their ability to turn your vision into reality.  Make sure you consider these four points before hiring someone to work on your project.


Designer or Decorator?

When beginning a design project, you’ll have to decide whether you need a designer or a decorator. An interior designer must be certified (in some countries: for example in the USA and Australia, but not in the UK) and should be called in if your project is large scale and requires moving walls or changing the layout of a space. A decorator is trained in design and can help you choose new colours, furnishings, and textiles and create a plan for how they should all go together. Once you understand the scope of your project, you’ll be able to decide whether a decorator or designer is right for you.


Establish a Budget

The first thing to determine when starting a design project is your budget. Furnishings and renovations can add up quickly so it’s important to know how much money you have available and to stick to the budget. Allow some room for contingencies because unexpected issues almost always arise.



luxury interior design

Think about what your style is – be smart with your budget to create the extra feeling of luxury


Find Your Style

In order for your designer to create the space you are dreaming of they have to be able to see your vision. Spend time on design sites such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Houzz collecting images of spaces you love that inspire you. This will give your designer a feel for your taste and provide a starting point for your design.


Do Your Research

Now that you know what you want, it’s time to find the right person to help you get there. Ask friends and coworkers who did their design and spend time online looking for designers with great reviews.

Visit designer’s websites and review their portfolio to see if their aesthetic meshes with yours.  Once you meet with a designer, be sure to ask a lot of questions to ensure you are a good fit both personality and style-wise.




If you decide to embark on your interior design project without the help of a professional, you can avoid potential headaches by taking the time to carefully research and plan your project.  Use these 6 simple tips to ensure the perfect project.


1.  Establish Budget and Style


interior design loft style

Just like when hiring a professional designer, the first steps to managing your own design project are to determine your budget and find your design inspiration. When doing your own design, you are responsible for managing all expenses. So, it’s important to budget out your costs ahead of time or you could run out of money early in the project.

Using an inspiration image and establishing a design style will also help you stay focused and on budget. Following one design style will create a cohesive space that looks well thought out. To learn more about current popular design styles, see our breakdown of Top Interior Design Styles at the end of this guide.



2. Make a Design Plan


interior designer planning

Before you do any shopping, sit down and make a design plan. Start by assessing the décor and furnishings you already own and decide what will stay and what should go. This is a great time to edit your possessions and let go of anything that’s outdated or no longer useful.

Consider how you want to use the room and what items you will need to make the space functional for you and your family. Now make a list of the new furniture and décor you will require to complete the design.

Carefully measure the room and make a rough sketch of the space and write the room measurements on the sketch. This plan should also include measurements of furnishings that are staying in the room and the size of spaces any new items will fill. Take this plan and your list with you whenever you shop to guide your purchases and help prevent impulse buys.


3. Pick A Colour Palette


interior design grey palette

The color palette should impact every aspect of your interior design. While you should choose colours you like, you also need colours that work well together and complement the fixed finishes in your home.

A great way to select a colour palette is to start with a piece of artwork or fabric that you love and pull colours from there. To correctly balance the colours throughout the space, follow the 60-30-10 rule. 60 percent of the room should be the dominant color, 30 percent should be the secondary color, and 10 percent should be an accent color.


4. Follow the 7 Principles of Design


7 principles of interior design

When it comes time to implement your design plan, be sure to reference the 7 Principles of Design that are discussed above. The Principles can be applied to your design in the following ways.

  • Determine a focal point and emphasize it with the use of other décor elements.
  • When buying furniture pay attention to scale and proportion.
  • Look for consistency among finishes and materials to create rhythm and harmony.
  • Stick to a specific design style for a unified space.
  • Add contrasting items to create drama and provide variety.
  • When laying out your furniture try to achieve visual balance.
  • Pay attention to the details and take the time to put finishing touches on the design.


5. Layer in Texture


interior design texture

No matter how beautifully a room is designed, without texture the space will feel flat. Mix plush fabrics like velvet and faux furs with rough materials like jute and linen. You should also include a combination of textures in the hard surfaces as well. Rough wood and stone paired with smooth glass and metal will add interest to a space.


6. Try accessorizing


interior accessorize

Accessories can help pull a design together and take an interior from OK to outstanding. Start by curating your existing collection of accessories for pieces you want to keep. Consider items such as travel souvenirs, photographs, and artwork that reflect your interests and personality.

When shopping for new accessories, look for pieces that fit with the room’s aesthetic and color palette. Items such as flowers, trays, candlesticks, and vases that can be used together to create attractive vignettes. The most pleasing arrangements feature objects grouped in odd numbers (groups of 3 work well) and a combination of tall, short, and medium sized accessories.




Discover the 12 hot styles in interior design at the moment.  Use our simple tips to achieve the look.  Of course, interior design is all about establishing your own style in a space: so experiment and don’t be afraid to take inspiration from different styles.  If in doubt, refer back to the 7 Principles of Interior Design to ensure you end up with a cohesive project.


1. Transitional


transitional modern luxury interior design

Modern luxury interior design with blush pink bedding and copper detailing


Transitional design involves a combination of contemporary and traditional design elements to create a modern and luxurious interior. Dark wood, plush upholstery, and clean lines are some of the trademarks of this ultra-popular design style.

To create this style:

  • Strike a balance between contemporary and traditional pieces.
  • Stay neutral. Transitional décor features a neutral base with pops of colour added through textiles which can be easily changed out for a fresh look.
  • Accessorize lightly. To maintain a clean, open feeling keep accessorize to a few pieces that add interest and draw attention.
  • Avoid ornate details. Transitional furnishings feature clean lines and simple style.
  • Add luxurious touches such as plush materials and reflective surfaces to elevate the space.

2. Maximalist


Maximimalist decor with Asian chaise longue, Seletti light and floral wallpaper


Maximalist décor features a mixture of colors, patterns, and textures within a singular design style. It’s a glamourous and luxurious style that follows a “more is more” aesthetic.

To create this style:

  • Stick to one design style. To prevent a maximalist space from feeling overwhelming, keep different colors, patterns, and textures within a single style.
  • Create a Connection. Choose a common element that repeats throughout the room to create a cohesive look.
  • Prioritize function. Plan a layout that has good flow and meets your needs, then layer in color, pattern, and texture.
  • Layer up. Add layers of colour and pattern throughout the space. Incorporate wallpaper, area rugs, artwork, pillows and throws and feel free to double up.

Wallpaper featured is XinSong01 in Dark Copper by XinSong.

3. Bohemian


bohemian bedroom interior design

Bohemian bedroom with kitsch floral cushions


Bohemian interior design is an unconventional and artsy Moroccan-inspired style.  It features an abundance of colours and patterns with a fun and free-spirited vibe.

To create this style:

  • Incorporate colours. From metallics to jewel tones to deep, saturated colours, anything goes in bohemian design.
  • Mix patterns and don’t worry about matching. Pillows, area rugs, blankets, curtains, and tablecloths are just some of the areas to add pattern.
  • Use a variety of materials. It’s OK to combine linen and sisal with silk and cashmere.
  • Shop second hand. A truly bohemian space is filled with unique, well-loved pieces you won’t find in a big box store.
  • Embrace foreign objects. Include décor from around the globe to create an international vibe.


4. Memphis


memphis group interior design

Memphis Group style interior design


Memphis design is a bold and quirky style with an 80’s flair. Filled with graphic elements, geometric shapes, and primary colours this brash style established by the Memphis Group is not for the mild mannered.

To create this style:

  • Pick a primary colour palette. Red, blue, yellow, and green are all you need to create this style.
  • Feature bold graphic prints and patterns. Squiggles, lines, and funny shapes are go-to components of Memphis style.
  • Choose unconventional furniture. Look for modular pieces with surprising, post-modern shapes.
  • Forget function. This is one design style that prefers fun and outrageous over simple and practical.
  • Skip the natural materials. Instead opt for futuristic finishes such as plastic, laminates, and illuminated items.

Wallpaper featured is Super Abstract in Pastel by Supermundane.



5.   Scandinavian


scandinavian interior design

Scandinavian bedroom interior design


Scandinavian décor is a centuries-old style that features cozy, comfortable spaces and clean, simple design. The ultimate goal is a home that maximizes natural light and generates feelings of contentment and well-being.

To create this style:

  • Maximize natural light with white walls and remove window coverings.
  • Choose a neutral colour palette inspired by nature. Select muted shades of amber, moss green, dusty rose, or ice blue paired with plenty of white.
  • Use natural materials to create an organic space. Incorporate as much wood, leather, cotton, linen, and (faux) fur as possible.
  • Eliminate clutter by removing items that do not serve a purpose.
  • Accessorize with plants instead of knick-knacks.
  • Create interest with layers of texture.


6.   Minimalist


minimalist interior design

Minimalist interior with sculpture and blush pink chairs


Minimalist décor focuses on surrounding yourself with beautiful things that serve a purpose or bring you joy. This modern style features clean surfaces, sleek lines, and open space and provides a calm haven from a hectic world.

To create this style:

  • Edit and embrace negative space. Discard, recycle, or donate everything that isn’t useful or meaningful.
  • Adapt a neutral colour palette. Use a base neutral such as cream, grey, or beige and add interest by layering in different shades of one colour.
  • Accessorize with plants to bring life to a room without adding clutter.
  • Combine beauty and function by selecting attractive pieces that serve a purpose.
  • Use texture to add warmth and interest without adding clutter.



7.   Industrial


Industrial interior design

Industrial interior design with wooden table and authentic exposed brick walls


Industrial design was born from the trend of converting old factories and industrial warehouses into residential spaces. This edgy and slightly masculine décor style exposes the bones of space and embraces raw materials.

To create this style:

  • Bring the inside out. Expose ductwork, pipes, and original brick walls to showcase their beauty.
  • Embrace raw materials. Cement, wood, and metal dominate in industrial décor.
  • Adopt a moody colour palette. Natural materials create dark backdrops, add colour with warm subdued tones like cranberry, olive, or mustard.
  • Leave things unfinished. Raw wood, unpainted concrete, and stripped-down furniture are all OK.
  • Focus on form and function. Choose pieces that are well-built and do a specific job really well.
  • Make a statement with lighting. In minimalistic industrial spaces, lighting can serve as both art and a focal point.

8.   Shabby Chic


shabby chic interior lores

Shabby chic interior with abstract wallpaper


Born in the 80’s in Santa Monica, California, Shabby Chic interiors combines rustic farmhouse decor with French provincial style. It features a relaxed blend of timeworn furnishings and soft, cozy textiles and focuses on beauty, comfort, and function.

To create this style:

  • Start with a soft colour palette. Use warm creams, pale greys, and soft, pale colours with lots of antique white.
  • Allow Imperfections. Scratches, watermarks, chips, and wrinkles give a piece history and add to the charm.
  • Repurpose ordinary objects into beautiful shabby chic treasures. Use old windows, doors, shutters and architectural details in unexpected ways.
  • Remember to include some chic. Incorporate ornate details and luxurious touches to elevate the space.

Wallpaper featured is Dreamboat in Blue


9.   Mid Century Modern


mid century modern interior

A mid-century modern interior with patterned cushions and period furniture


Mid-century modern designs are known for sleek lines and organic shapes with an emphasis on function. This timeless style had its heyday in the 40’s and 50’s but has remained in vogue ever since.

To create this style:

  • Incorporate geometric patterns. Look for funky geometric wallpaper, fabrics, and flooring to create a mid-century vibe.
  • Look for furniture with skinny, peg legs that holds less visual weight.
  • Choose wood furnishings. Add tables, sideboards, and chairs made from teak, walnut, oak and rosewood.
  • Include iconic furniture styles. Mid-century designers are responsible for some of the most iconic furniture styles including Tulip tables, Eames chairs, and Barcelona chairs to name a few.
  • Replace your lighting with sputnik pendants, globe lights, and wood and linen table lamps.



10. Modern Coastal


Modern coastal interior design

Coastal interior design with pale blue clapboard walls and shell accessories


Modern coastal design is an updated version of beach and coastal styles. This casual style has a clean, breezy feeling without all the kitsch associated with nautical décor.

To create this style:

  • Let the light in. Think bright, open, and airy to create that beachy feeling. Open doors and big windows with minimal treatments are key.
  • Go natural. Incorporate plenty of natural elements such as wicker, rattan, wood, cotton, linen, seagrass, and jute.
  • Embrace coastal colours. Choose lots of white, with sandy beiges and watery blues and greens to bring the hues of the beach inside.
  • Choose relaxed and casual furnishings. Low maintenance pieces made with weathered wood and comfortable slip-covered seating are coastal staples.



11. Rustic


rustic kitcjen interior design

Rustic kitchen interior design with shabby chic wallpaper


Rustic design is a simple, rugged, and comfortable style with a natural aesthetic. Reminiscent of a country cabin, rustic décor features raw, organic elements that create an inviting atmosphere.

To create this style:

  • Fill your home with natural materials. Rustic interiors feature an abundance of leather, wood, stone, and iron.
  • Choose natural, earthy colours. Include a variety of wood tones, paired with deep hues such as burgundy, brown, amber, or forest green with off-white and cream to lighten things up.
  • Allow things to remain unfinished. Raw wood and unfinished stone add texture and create a casual, relaxed space.
  • Focus on comfort. Choose plush, oversized furniture that invites you to curl up and relax.
  • Bring in beams. Wood ceiling beams are a staple of rustic design.
  • Add a reclaimed wood accent wall to give a modern home a more rustic vibe.

Wallpaper featured is Oh La La in Verdigris.

12. Traditional

traditional interior design

Traditional interior with damask wallpaper and velvet curtains


Traditional interiors are serene, elegant and well-thought-out. Traditional style is influenced by classic European décor and creates a formal and sophisticated ambiance.
To create this style:

  • Choose a dark OR neutral colour palette. Traditional interiors often feature very neutral colour schemes with cream or beige paired with dark wood. For those that prefer colour, use rich, deep shades such as navy, forest green, and burgundy.
  • Incorporate detailed woodwork. Look for decorative legs, carved moldings, and ornate frames.
  • Use dark woods with a smooth finish, create contrast with cream and beige textiles.
  • Decorate with classic art, antiques, and pieces with history.
  • Create symmetry by buying furniture in pairs and placing items on either side of a central axis.
  • Add architectural features such as columns, arches, cornices, and crown molding.

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