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Mastering the Art of Negative Space: Embrace the Void in Interior Design

As an interior designer, I am always on the lookout for new and innovative ways to create a beautiful, functional, and harmonious space. One concept that is important to take into consideration is the idea of negative space. This design principle is all about the void, the empty space that surrounds objects and furniture within a room. It may seem counterintuitive, but embracing the void can actually make a space more inviting and visually appealing.

In this blog post, I will share how to master the art of negative space in interior design. I will explore the concept of negative space, its importance in interior design, and the psychological effects it can have on those who inhabit the space. Additionally, I will provide practical tips for creating a balanced floor plan and furniture arrangement, incorporating negative space in interior decorating, maximising small spaces, and avoiding common mistakes.

pink monochromatic contemporary living room

So, let's dive into the world of negative space and learn how to embrace the void to create stunning, well-balanced interiors.

Understanding the concept of negative space

Negative space, also known as white space or empty space, is the unoccupied area within a room. It can be found around, between, and within objects, furniture, and architectural elements. In interior design, negative space is just as important as positive space, which refers to the area occupied by physical objects and furnishings.

The concept of negative space comes from the world of art and design, where it is used to create a sense of balance, harmony, and visual interest. In interior design, negative space serves a similar purpose. It helps to create a sense of calm and order, allowing the eye to rest and giving the room a more spacious and airy feeling.

modern streamline office

To truly understand and appreciate negative space, it is essential to recognise that it is not merely the absence of objects or furniture. Instead, it is a purposeful and intentional design element that can be used to enhance the overall aesthetic and functionality of a space.

The importance of negative space in interior design

Negative space plays a crucial role in creating a well-balanced, visually appealing interior. By leaving certain areas of a room unoccupied, we can draw attention to the objects and furniture that are present, creating a focal point and adding a sense of depth and dimension to the space. Additionally, negative space can help to prevent a room from feeling cramped or cluttered, providing a sense of calm and serenity.

In today's fast-paced, consumer-driven society, we often feel the need to fill our homes with possessions and furniture. However, this can lead to a sense of chaos and disorganisation. By incorporating negative space into our interior design, we can counteract this tendency and create a more harmonious, visually appealing environment.

Moreover, negative space can also improve the functionality of a space. For example, by providing adequate room for foot traffic and ensuring that furniture is not placed too close together, we can create a more comfortable and convenient living environment.

open plan living and study space

The psychological effects of negative space in interior design

The way we design our living spaces can have a profound impact on our mental and emotional well-being. Negative space, in particular, can influence our mood and behaviour in various ways. Here are some of the psychological effects that negative space can have on those who inhabit a space:

  • Relaxation and stress relief: A room with ample negative space can evoke a sense of calm and tranquillity, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. This is particularly important in spaces where relaxation is the primary goal, such as bedrooms and living rooms.

  • Focus and productivity: Negative space can also help to improve focus and concentration, making it an essential design element in home offices and workspaces. By providing a clear, uncluttered environment, we can minimize distractions and improve our ability to focus on the task at hand.

  • Perception of size: Incorporating negative space into a room can create the illusion of a larger, more spacious environment. This can be especially beneficial in small apartments and homes, where maximizing the perception of space is essential.

  • Emotional balance: Our surroundings can have a significant impact on our emotional state. A well-designed room with a balance of positive and negative space can create a harmonious atmosphere, promoting a sense of emotional balance and well-being.

modern dining room

How to create a balanced floor plan with negative space

Creating a balanced floor plan is the first step in incorporating negative space into your interior design. Here are some tips to help you achieve this:

  • Evaluate your space: Begin by examining the existing layout of your room. Identify areas that are overcrowded and cluttered, as well as those that feel too empty or underutilized. This will help you determine where adjustments need to be made.

  • Prioritize function: Consider the primary purpose of each area within the room and ensure that there is adequate space for activities and movement. For example, in a living room, it is essential to have enough space for seating and conversation, as well as for foot traffic and access to other rooms.

  • Create balance: Aim for a balance between positive and negative space, ensuring that no single area of the room feels too crowded or too empty. This may involve rearranging furniture, removing unnecessary items, or adding new pieces to fill gaps.

  • Consider focal points: Identify the focal points within the room, such as a fireplace, artwork, or a large piece of furniture. Ensure that there is sufficient negative space around these elements to draw attention to them and create a sense of visual interest.

mid century modern living room with classical features

Furniture planning and arrangement for optimal negative space

Once you have a balanced floor plan, the next step is to focus on furniture planning and arrangement. Here are some tips for incorporating negative space into your furniture layout:

  • Choose the right furniture: Select furniture that is appropriately sized for your space, taking into account both the dimensions of the room and the available negative space. Avoid oversized pieces that may overwhelm the space or undersized pieces that may leave too much empty space.

  • Create zones: Divide your room into distinct zones for different activities, such as conversation, dining, or relaxation. Ensure that there is adequate negative space within each zone, as well as between zones.

  • Experiment with placement: Don't be afraid to experiment with different furniture arrangements to find the best balance of positive and negative space. This may involve moving pieces around, rotating them, or even removing them altogether.

  • Provide visual breathing room: Allow for some empty space around and between furniture pieces to create a sense of visual breathing room. This can help to prevent a room from feeling cramped or overcrowded.

open concept modern living space

Tips for incorporating negative space in interior decorating

Now that your floor plan and furniture arrangement are optimised for negative space, it's time to focus on interior decorating. Here are some tips for incorporating negative space into your decor:

  • Choose a minimalist decor: When it comes to decorating with negative space, less is often more. Opt for minimalist decor that is simple, clean, and uncluttered. This can include neutral colour palettes, simple patterns, and unadorned surfaces.

  • Use negative space as a design element: Negative space can be just as important as positive space in creating a visually appealing design. Use negative space as a design element in itself by incorporating interesting shapes, patterns, or textures into the empty space.

  • Embrace asymmetry: Don't feel like you need to have a perfectly symmetrical decor to create a balanced look. Embrace asymmetry by placing decor items off-centre or in unexpected locations, using negative space to balance out the overall composition.

  • Include natural elements: Incorporating natural elements into your decor, such as plants or natural materials, can enhance the calming and relaxing effects of negative space. Additionally, these elements can help to soften the overall aesthetic and create a more inviting atmosphere.

modern light bathroom with wooden accents

Maximising small spaces with negative space techniques

Negative space can be particularly useful in maximising small spaces, making them feel larger and more spacious. Here are some techniques for incorporating negative space into small spaces:

  • Use light colours: Light-coloured walls and furnishings can help to reflect light and create the illusion of a larger space. Avoid dark colours, which can make a space feel smaller and more enclosed.

  • Optimise storage: Clutter can quickly overwhelm a small space, making it feel even more cramped. Incorporate storage solutions that make use of negative space, such as under-bed storage or floating shelves.

  • Create visual depth: Use negative space to create visual depth and dimension within a small space. This can be achieved through the use of mirrors, artwork, or other decorative elements that draw the eye deeper into the space.

  • Choose multi-functional pieces: In a small space, every piece of furniture needs to be functional and practical. Choose multi-functional pieces, such as a sofa bed or a storage ottoman, that can serve multiple purposes.

minimalistic bathroom

Common mistakes to avoid when using negative space

While negative space can be a powerful design tool, there are some common mistakes that should be avoided. Here are a few to keep in mind:

  • Overcrowding: Overcrowding a room with too much furniture or decor can negate the benefits of negative space, making the room feel cluttered and overwhelming.

  • Ignoring function: While negative space is important from an aesthetic standpoint, it should never be prioritized over function. Ensure that there is adequate space for movement and activities within the room.

  • Being too matchy-matchy: While it can be tempting to match all of your decor and furnishings, this can create a static and uninteresting look. Instead, mix and match different textures, patterns, and materials to create a more dynamic and visually appealing design.

  • Failing to balance positive and negative space: Finally, it is important to balance positive and negative space throughout the room. While negative space is important, it should never be allowed to dominate the space to the point where it feels sterile or uninviting.

nomadic style bedroom

Conclusion: Transforming your aesthetic with negative space

Incorporating negative space into your interior design can have a significant impact on the overall look and feel of your space. By understanding the concept of negative space, its importance in interior design, and the psychological effects it can have, you can create a well-balanced, visually appealing environment that promotes relaxation, productivity, and emotional well-being.

Remember to create a balanced floor plan, optimise furniture planning and arrangement for optimal negative space, incorporate negative space in interior decorating, and maximise small spaces with negative space techniques. And, of course, avoid common mistakes like overcrowding and ignoring function.

With these tips and techniques, you can master the art of negative space and transform your aesthetic into one that is both beautiful and functional. So go ahead, embrace the void, and see the difference it can make in your interior design.


Would you like to learn more about Interior Design? Or perhaps become an interior designer yourself? Follow in 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.

dining room


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I am Marieke, a Dutch Australian interior designer, business executive, tutor, content creator and social media influencer.


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