Even when you're not an expert on interior design, you know what it feels like when you walk into a well-designed room. You can sense how everything feels cohesive and put together. It somehow just feels right, and very harmonious. That sense of harmony is the culmination of all other basic interior design elements and principles coming together in the one place.
Read this blog for practical ways to create a beautiful harmonious interior in your own home, that feels just right to you. This means designing your space so it feels as if you're walking into your own sanctuary when you enter your house but also considering the impact your way of living has on your health.
What is Harmony in Interior Design?
Harmony is the sense that all of the elements of your design fit together. It’s a feeling of peace and cohesiveness. It’s not just that all elements fit well together, it is more the sense that the whole space is better for every element in it. Everything is in its place and just the way you like it. The furniture is placed for optimal flow, in an easy and comfortable way. Lighting is how it should be, not harsh or dark. The home decor is balanced.
In order to understand how you create harmony (the final piece of the puzzle in the design process), it's a good idea to have a grasp of design fundamentals. Although you can easily spend years studying the nuances of design and the many varying takes on how to be successful at it, there are a handful of basic elements and principles. Elements are the ‘building blocks’ of a space when you assess it, and principles are the ‘tools’ used by an interior designer, and then applied to the space. The interior design principe 'Harmony' is the final principle.
I vividly remember studying these interior design elements and principles, and the first thing I did upon closing my books, was to start moving furniture around in my living room. The balance hadn't been quite right, sight lines were obstructed and it didn't really flow. All of a sudden it clicked why. Even with only minor changes in my home, with elements that were already there, I created a more harmonious look in an instant.
Before giving you some very practical ways to create harmony in your home, let me give you a very brief summary of the interior design elements and principles that you can build on, for when you start designing your own space.
The 7 Elements of Interior Design
When designing a space from scratch there are 7 key elements that most interior designers and decorators rely on to make sure it is balanced.
You obviously start with the space you have to work with. It is determined by the boundaries of the room and provides you with the subject area. Knowing the overall size and where doors and windows are located is essential to a seamless design. Space that is filled with furniture is known as positive space, while empty space is known as negative. Striking a balance between positive and negative space makes it feel inviting.
Lines define a space and create a sense of direction and feeling. There are three types of lines to consider; horizontal, vertical and dynamic (for example curved or diagonal). Horizontal lines are often found in tables, chairs and similar furnishings. Vertical lines are typically from doors, windows and tall structures like bookcases. Dynamic lines invite action or draw the eye into a certain direction, for example a staircase or a vaulted ceiling.
Shape refers to the shape of furniture, millwork, artwork, decorative accessories and even to the shape of the entire space in general. Square shapes tend to embody strength while curves and rounded shapes evoke softness.
Light is essential to any interior space, as it is the means by which we can see our surrounding environment. The feeling of a space can be completely transformed by altering the intensity, placement and colour of light, which makes it a very powerful tool.
As the designer, you usually have both natural and artificial light to consider and manipulate. A balance of both is required to ensure the room is pleasant from morning to night. The available lighting also informs the best colour choices for the space as it helps determine how bright it will be at any moment.
Colour is the fun element that everyone wants to play with. Colour brings a room to life and can be used as a complementary or a contrasting element. It is often based on colour psychology to ensure the right feelings of the room are being set.
Texture refers to the characteristic of anything we feel or touch. It is visual as well as sensory – we feel through seeing. The purpose of texture is to add depth and interest. Adding colour, texture and patterns is an easy way to harmonise a space without the need for major design updates.
Finally, using patterns you can add interest and excitement. Patterns are defined as any repetitive decorative element.
If we compare Interior Design with a cooking recipe, these basic elements can be considered the ingredient of the dish. But separate ingredients don't make a great dish. It's all about how you prepare it, the way you put things together.
In interiors, the elements of design are the parts that define the visual. The principles of design, on the other hand, are all about how a person uses these elements to create a visual and convey a message or a certain mood.
The 5 Principles of Interior Design
Many of the ways you could create more harmonious home involve mastering the interior design principles (harmony being the last principle). When you know the basic interior design principles you can transform any space to look and feel fabulous.
In design, balance creates a feeling of equilibrium. It is the idea that when you walk into a room and everything has its place. When a design composition has balance, it just feels right. Balance is created not just through shape, but through color, pattern, and texture as well.
As in music, rhythm in design is all about creating patterns of repetition and contrast to create visual interest. It's about repetition of design elements that help to create movement within a space. You can achieve this for example by using the same color or shape at different intervals. Its purpose is to move your eye around the room.
The principle of emphasis in interior design is the process of creating focus within a designated space. The idea could be to draw the attention to a real eye catcher or perhaps to divert the eye away from a less desirable aspect of the room.
Proportion and Scale
When thinking about proportion and scale you want to think about the relationship between furniture, accessories, building materials, occupants etc. in relation to one another and the overall space. Proportion refers to how well all those elements fit together. Scale refers to how well they actually fit in the space.
Harmony is created when all these elements and principles act together to create a unified message. It creates a sense of restfulness.
Designers have many strategies for creating a sense of harmony in a home, and they will differ depending on style preferences or client needs and wants. Whichever way they design, all would agree a harmonious look is not synonymous to dull or predictable. A space could be filled with loud colours and bold patterns but still evoke a sense of calm because the elements are used consistently throughout a space to create a pleasant sense of cohesion.
This could involve:
A common element of shape
A common element of colour
A common element of texture
A common size
Similar detail characteristics
A common decorative style
Let's focus on the design principle 'harmony' as in my experience that's what people struggle with the most. They know what they like, might even have all the elements, but don't know how to put it all together.
I will give you some real practical examples on how to achieve visual harmony in your home.
8 Ways to Create Visual Harmony in your Home's Interior
1. Check the visual balance of the space
Make sure that one side of a room doesn’t look “heavier” than the other. If you look at your space with a helicopter's perspective, do the items in your space seem equally distributed? Or do you have a lot of 'bulk' on one side of the room, which isn't balanced with something of equal visual weight on the other side? This doesn't just need to apply to furniture or other 'things', this could be valid for colour as well. Visual balance doesn't always have to be super obvious, or involve balancing multiples of the exact same object. You can also achieve balance in weight for example by placing a lazy chair next to one corner of the sofa, and a large plant on the other side.
2. Add more symmetry
In reality most rooms have a certain amount of symmetrical concentration. Normally, dining tables have an equal number of chairs on either side; else it would feel off. People generally have trouble handling asymmetry. When something is symmetrical it's easier for our brain to process.
An easy way to add more symmetry is to invest in multiples of the same item, and have them match across a room or side-by-side. Curtains are a great way to create the look of symmetry. Matching chairs or a sequence of windows can too. Be careful with being too matchy matchy however. I am personally not a fan of buying items that belong to the same line, simply because you lose the opportunity to create real interest by adding individual statement pieces and talking points.
3. Don't forget negative space
People tend to fill up their spaces with all the items that can possibly fit. Take a bookcase for example, generally you see people fill these to the brim. It's actually the art of editing and leaving things out that creates a harmonious feel. This doesn't just apply to shelves and cupboards of course, but to the space in general.
Probably the clearest definition of negative space is simply that it is the space between things; the empty or blank areas, or the “holes” where the room shows through between the main design elements (your furniture and decorations for example). The art of designing for negative space is to intentionally leave some room for the eye to rest.
4. Connect design elements
By connecting the design elements in your space visually using common characteristics, you allow for a restful gaze. As mentioned before, please don't make everything match, but a room full of elements that connect to one another somehow visually will have a bit more harmony than one that is full of a lot of different looking elements that don’t seem to relate to each other at all.
5. Define the areas within a space
Most modern homes are open concept now, with large living areas often combining the living room, with the dining and the kitchen. Want you don't want is create the sensation that your design elements are free floating through the space. Grounding seating areas with a rug for example, is always a good idea. Find ways to visually divide the space, without the need for walls. What you see a lot these days for example, are attractive room dividers that mark where one area ends and the other one starts.
6. Limit the number of materials
Using similar base materials throughout the home, also creates a sense of harmony. The easiest example is to use the same flooring from one space to the other. Or perhaps the same type of fabrics for the curtains (even if the colours differ). Pick a metal you love and use it throughout your home. This way you could link light fixtures, faucets and shower heads, for example.
7. Expose what's already there
Leaving some of a house’s structural elements on display — its brickwork or steelwork, for instance — can create a sense of harmony.
8. Layer with texture
This is probably my favourite. Use a mixture of textures to add personality and style to your home. Combine natural fabrics, different patterns, plants, wood, and accessories with your furniture. All of this gives the room more personality and depth. If colour is not your thing, layer in texture. Ton-sur-ton is great to create a harmonious look. Ton-sur-ton literally means tint on tint in French. For a luxurious look, you choose different shades of a beautiful dark color.
Harmony at Home beyond Visual Design Elements
So far we have focused on visual design elements to create harmony in our home's interior. However, given we live in such busy times and are constantly connected to the outside world, creating a sanctuary in your home has never been more important, and the focus on health related matters is increased. To achieve optimal health in our modern world you need to consider creating a healthy and harmonious home for optimal health and wellbeing.
8 Ways to Create a Healthy Harmonious Home
Here are 8 things you can do to help create a more harmonious home aiming to improve your and your family's health.
1. Clean the clutter
This one is obvious, right? It's impossible to be 'zen' when your place is a mess.
2. Go for natural and organic materials
Include organic cotton, linens, timber, hemp, jute, sisal and wool. These materials are good for you and the planet.
3. Choose what makes you happy
Who cares what's on trend, a harmonious home is only harmonious when you feel at home. It doesn't matter what the designer says, the neighbours have or what you see on TV, if these design choices are simply not your thing. If the space around you is inherently you, you have created harmony.
4. Bring the outside in
Many studies and research show the benefits of connecting to nature. Aim to create spaces in your home with lots of natural light and views and make strong connections to the outdoors where possible. Bring fresh flowers in from the garden and add a few indoor plants. There are a fair few easy-care plants which have been proven to improve air quality. Open the windows daily, even if for a short time. This is far better than adding artificial scents.
5. Consider noise and soften sounds that make you stressed
In a modern home with lots of hard surfaces and open spaces, noise can be amplified. Use rugs and soft furnishings to help calm this down.
6. Add texture
OK, admittedly this is also covered under visual design elements bringing harmony but humans are sensory creatures. Add some pieces of furniture and soft furnishings that encourage you to touch them.
7. Create a 'me-space'
Whatever your thing is, create a space for it. For me it's my office. It is the only space in my home that's truly mine and offers me the opportunity to retreat when the rest of the house is a bit too much for me.
8. Consider a technology free zone
Alright, here is my disclaimer, I am hopeless at this. BUT it truly is a good idea to zone your technology. Do you really need to take your phone to bed? Or watch television in the bedroom? For me the answer is probably yes, but hey, we all need something to still work on right?
I hope this blog has given you some food for thought on how to create more harmony in your home. Feel free to share or comment below, I am always happy to hear from you.
Would you like to learn more about Interior Design? Or perhaps become an interior designer yourself? Follow my footsteps and study Interior Design with The Interior Design Institute where I could be your personal tutor. Click here to read more and receive a discount.