Farmhouse sink with soap tray and plants

How To Elevate Your Decor: 5 Basic Design Principles Everyone Should Know

Sometimes don’t you just wish someone could give you just a few basic design principles to start? Something that you could use as a template to easily decorate any space. Does that sound like something you’re interested in? I know when I first started I definitely would have loved something like that.

Fortunately enough, design really boils down to a few key principles. These aren’t necessarily paint-by-numbers, but they are great guidelines to help you navigate through the process. As you grow, you can eventually start to bend the rules and open up a bit more creativity. Even then, these fundamentals will still be present in your core design.


What Are The 5 Design Principles?

Not every decorator will agree on these five principles. Many will have more than five or a different five principles, but these are the key fundamentals I use in every room I decorate:

  • Layers
  • Repetition
  • Rule of three
  • Scale
  • Balance

These probably just sound like random words to you, but I promise by the end of this blog you’ll have a better understanding of how each of these seamlessly work to curate a flawless modern farmhouse interior.

The Rule Of Three

3 rustic metal candlesticks on a sofa table

This is the easiest and by far my favorite design principle. The rule of three has saved me so many times when I felt stuck decorating. It’s a very simple principle so it’s easy to follow and works every time. Arrange your decor in a group of three.

For full transparency, it’s not as simple as throwing three random objects together (don’t you wish?!). The key to making the rule of the work is variation. As you see above, there are three of the same style candlestick and candles, but the variation in height allows for enough change to work within the rule of three. This is the most basic version of the rule you can use.

However, if you would like to take it to the next level start throwing in different colors, textures, and materials. The most important thing is to ensure the height is varied on each object. For example, you could have a potted plant, candle, and candlewick cutter displayed together. If you have objects that are the same height, go ahead and add a book or something under one of the objects of the same height to mix it up.

Don’t Stop Repeating!

Green chairs & accent pillows with hints of read which tie into the red patterned rug below

Do you ever find that one of your decorations just doesn’t quite fit? Or perhaps it even stands out like a sore thumb. I can almost guarantee it’s because you haven’t followed the rule of repetition.

Don’t worry. You don’t need to run to the store (or Amazon) to buy another one. The key to repetition is utilizing the same colors, materials, or yes, the same object. Repetition creates a flow throughout the entire space tying the design together. Without repetition, your design will appear pieced together and disjointed.

Check The Scale

Wine rack filled with bottles on a small side table

Scale in design is just like life. Scale defines the size of an item in relationship to something else. For instance, a singular candle will look lost on a large table, but it will fill up most of the space on a tiny tray. This is absolutely fundamental in decorating your space.

When you dive deeper into scale, there are numerical dimensions you can use for your wall art, furniture pieces, and more. That’s all quite advanced as it greatly depends on the specifics of your exact space. When starting out, think about scale as a more generalized concept.

If you have a large wall, don’t fill it with a small mirror instead opt for a large-scale art piece or multiple large mirrors. See how this wine rack fits perfectly on this side table? On a larger table, the scale would be entirely too small and it would need some additional accents surrounding it to scale appropriately.

Maintain Proper Balance

Cutting board propped against kitchen backsplash framed by colorful pots

How weird would this display look with only the yellow and orange pitchers on one side and no red teapot? It would look quite strange, right? That’s because removing the teapot would throw off the balance of the decoration.

Balance in design is just as important as it is in life. You’ll want to ensure that your decorations are equally distributed throughout the space. For instance, when decorating shelves I like to follow the 2-1-2 rule. Place one object on either side of a shelf (or two clusters of combined objects), then one large object that fills up one shelf, followed by two more objects (or clusters).

Regardless of the space, take a step back and see how your design looks. Does the item on one side have a heavy, thick material and stature while the other is a very fine sculpture? Although it’s technically balanced 1-to-1, the weight of the objects don’t really even out. In this case, you’d want to add a heavier feeling item such as a larger potted plant layered behind the fine sculpture to create balance. Basic design principles can help you navigate your decor choices.

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