How to Decorate using Principles of Design- #1 Repetition with Variation and #2 Texture and Pattern
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How do you know how to decorate? One thing that really helps me know how to decorate is the Principles of Design. This was drilled into me for four years at college studying Fine Art. The great thing is that these principles apply to all art forms and in this case interior design. I’m going to explain how they connect and apply to interior design and decorating.
Principle of Design #1 Repetition with Variation
This is one of my very favorite design principles to tie a room together! This principle is also known a unity and variety. It is so important to good design.
Let’s talk about Repetition with variation in the photo above. The tan wood chest in the foreground is repeated in color in the owl photo, the mirror, and part of the butterfly image. Repetition is happening in the color and value (how light or dark it is) of these elements. However, the variation comes in with the fact they are different textures- one is wood, one is shiny gold mirror frame, and one is a print.
Black is also repeated several times in the chairs, the light fixture, antlers, butterfly frame, and pattern on the pillows. There is variation in that these are all different textures and items.
To explain this better I’ll give you an example of repetition with little to no variation below.
When you go out and buy a matching 14 piece set you have lots of repetition with no variation. I still remember one of my art teachers saying, “Same, same, same is boring, boring, boring.” It is the truth.
In my remodeled bathroom, I repeated the gold tones in multiple places. The mirror frame, the cabinet pulls, and the bamboo shades are all repeated tones but different textures (wood, bamboo, shiny). The dark navy value in the cabinet is repeated in the wallpaper and the fixtures. In this case they aren’t the same color but close to the same value (how dark they are) and so they are still a repetition but have variation.
One last example of repetition with variation to bring it home. Lauren Liess uses the same neutrals and warm beige colors all throughout her living room. The same neutrals are repeated over and over but it is not boring because of the different textures (leather, wool rug, metal, flower, velvet) and variation in how light and dark the neutral colors are.
Principle of Design #2 Texture/ Pattern
I have mentioned texture a lot already in talking about repetition with variation. Texture and pattern in a room can make a huge difference. You want to have a lot of variety in textures because it really makes a room interesting.
What is texture in terms of interior design? Texture is the surface feel, appearance, or consistency of an item. It can be either tactile or visual.
Here is a list of examples:
Shiny, matte, velvet, knit, wool, pattern, stone, wood, rough, smooth, bumpy… just look at the example of Lauren Liess’s living room again above with textures in mind. She uses almost all of the ones I’ve described!
Depending on your decorating taste you may like certain textures more than others. For example a more stone, smooth, shiny textured room would lean towards a more modern design. Or a velvet, wool, pattern, and knit textures would lean towards a cozy country design.
Brooke at Nesting with Grace does a great job of using texture to create a cozy country interior. There are lots of soft knits of differing sizes, velvet in the chairs, linen texture of the sofa, the wood pattern wallpaper on the back of the bookshelves and more.
Over at CB2, they use straight lines and wood, shiny hard surfaces textures to make a more modern look.
In an art painting, if I use textural and thick paint, that immediately becomes more of a focal point and visually brings it forward. That’s why most artist don’t paint skies with thick paint because they want them to recede into the distance.
The same is true for an interior. The more heavy texture you have on a surface the more it will become a center of interest. However, this is not always the case.
This is our den room currently. This room has a heavy texture with the stone of the hearth but it actually isn’t as strong as a center of interest as the bookshelves. The bookshelf really stands out because of high contrast and busyness of the books.
With Principles of Design #3 I will talk about symmetry and balance, something our den is really lacking with it’s one bookcase.
Design Principle #1 Repetition with Variation.
Repeat aspects of your design throughout the room. Often this is a color or tone repeated in different items.
Variation in a room design of repeated colors and tones is often in the form of different materials and textures used.
Don’t be tempted to buy matching sets.
Design Principle #2 Texture/ Pattern
Textures can determine the vibe your home embodies. Soft knits, fabrics, velvets are more cozy. Hard stones, woods, shiny surfaces are more modern.
Texture and pattern can draw your attention as a focal point.
Use lots of different textures for a great design.