Understanding the language of design

2015-11-26 06:00
Focal point: the unusual chandelier and plant below it, creates the focal point that dominates the design in this room. PHOTOS: supplied

Focal point: the unusual chandelier and plant below it, creates the focal point that dominates the design in this room. PHOTOS: supplied

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YOU may have heard various design terms from your designer, on design TV shows or seen them across the Internet, but do you know what they really mean?

Here are a couple design principles explained:

Harmony and unity

In order for a house to feel connected, you need to think of it in its entirety. You need to create some sort of flow between each of the rooms and the décor in them, as well the spaces that link rooms together such as passage and staircase.

This is achieved with a common style and theme that runs throughout your home. This is not to say that all interior design elements should be the same, but they should work together and complement each other to strengthen the whole composition.

Focal point

The focal point should dominate the design with scale and contrast without sacrificing the unity of the whole space. This is the instant point where your eye is drawn to as you enter a room.

This could be a built-in feature such as a fireplace or chandelier or piece of furniture such as a statement occasional chair.


In interior design, rhythm is all about visual pattern repetition, and rhythm is defined as continuity, recurrence or organised movement.

By repeating patterns, shapes, colour and texture or similar and complementary pieces throughout a space you create a rhythm and visual interest.

To achieve rhythm in a design, you need to think about repetition, progression, transition and contrast. Using these mechanisms will create a sense of movement in your space, leading the eye from one design element to another.

• Repetition is the use of the same element more than once throughout a space. You can repeat a pattern, colour, texture, line, or any other element.

• Progression is taking an element and increasing or decreasing one or more of its qualities. The most obvious implementation of this would be varying sizes - a cluster of candles of different sizes on a simple tray creates interest because of the natural progression shown.

You can also achieve progression with colour, such as in a monochromatic colour scheme where each element is a slightly different shade of the same hue.

• Transition is a little harder to define. Unlike repetition or progression, transition tends to be a smoother flow, where the eye naturally glides from one area to another. The most common transition is the use of a curved line to gently lead the eye, such as an arched doorway, winding path or rounded edges.


Balance is achieved when a room’s visual weight distribution is even, where each design element should work with others to create equilibrium. There are three styles of balance: symmetrical, asymmetrical, and radial.

• Symmetrical balance is usually found in traditional interiors, and is characterised by the same objects repeated in the same positions on either side of a vertical axis, for example you might remember old rooms where on each side of a room is an exact mirror of the other.

• Asymmetrical balance is more appropriate in design in these days. Balance is achieved with some dissimilar objects that have equal visual weight or eye attraction.

Asymmetrical balance is more casual and less forced in feeling, but more difficult to achieve. Asymmetry suggests movement, and results in more lively interiors.

• Radial symmetry is when all the elements of a design are arrayed around one central point. A spiral staircase is also an excellent example of radial balance.

- www.thebereed.co.za/decorexblog

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