Interior Design

From WikiEducator
Jump to: navigation, search



The purpose of this module is to help an interior designer in making the right decisions that will create an interior that reflects personality of the occupants and one which they are happy to live in, work or travel in. The contents of this module focus on furnishing and decorating an interior space or an enclosure. Examples of interiors/enclosures include homes, vans, schools, trailers, restaurants, workshops, factories, offices, hospitals etc. All these enclosures serve several basic purposes e.g.

  1. protection against weather
  2. provision of privacy
  3. storage

Our lives are centered on interiors and most of us work, study, shop or travel inside various buildings, vehicles and other enclosures. Arranging furniture in our rooms, buying new furniture, buying rugs and carpets or even choosing a paint colour for a house, are some of the activities most of us must have been engaged in, hence, interior design should be of interest to every one.

Most of us have a natural need for beauty. This is especially so in the interiors we live in. Achieving beautiful interiors is not a matter of chance. It requires careful planning and attention to detail.

To have a better understanding of this module, you need to be clear on the meaning of terms used in ace.


This refers to the general arrangement, pattern or planning of lines, shapes, details etc.


Decorating an interior involves more than selecting the most pleasing combination of walls and coverings. By incorporating fabrics (swags, curtains, blinds, table linen, furniture covers, bed linen and cushions) you can change the décor from plain, dull and lifeless to one that has softness, warmth and vitality. Soft furnishings are an important element of interior style, being both practical and decorative. They add the last details in comfort and style.


This is from the word upholster. To upholster is to provide some interior furnishings products with padding, springs and covering material. Such products include seats, stools, boxes, mattresses, pouffes, and headboards for beds.

It is my assumption that by the end of this module, you will have transformed your interior space (home, office, hostel, room, vehicle etc) to look like a giant mirror, reflecting your character, aspirations, taste and interest. .BEST OF LUCK as you make the first step towards INTERIOR DESIGN as a career of CHOICE.


By the end of this module, the trainees should be able to: (a)discuss interior design as a career. (b)demonstrate knowledge of soft furnishings and upholstery as used in interior design.

  • discuss Design Basics in relation to
  • elements and principles of design.
  • design concepts.
  • Pattern and ornament.
  • Design in other contexts
  • analyse Design Quality under the following criteria:-
  • Function.
    • Aesthetics.
    • Materials and structure.
    • discuss colour and design in relation to:-
    • Psychological impact.
    • Colour schemes
    • demonstrate knowledge of interior design materials and their selection.
    • analyze the elements of structure in an interior space.
    • evaluate lighting plan and compare different types of lights.
    • evaluate a space plan.
    • explain the process of flowers preparation and arrangement
    • carry out a practical project in interior design.


  • 1.0 Interior design as a career.
  • 2.0 Design basics – Elements of design
    • Design Concepts/Principles.
  • 3.0 Design Evaluation Process.
  • 4.0 Colour and design..
  • 5.0 Materials - Types.
    • - Selection.
  • 6.0 Elements of Structure/Planes of enclosure: walls, doors, windows, floor etc.
  • 7.0 Lighting - Plan.
    • - Types of Lighting and their uses.

8.0 Space Planning - Evaluation. 9.0 Flower arrangement – Points to consider in flower arrangement.

  • 10.0 Practical project.





This an introduction to interoir design

Icon objectives.jpg

By the end of this topic, the trainees should be able to: (a)define the term “Interior Design”. (b)explain the advantages of formal training in interior design. (c)list down a number of details or tricks an interior designer can use to design work at minimum cost.

Icon define.gif

The term interior design is used to describe a group of related projects that are involved in making any interior space into an effective setting for whatever range of human activities are to take place there.In interior spaces, we need equipment, places to sit and lie down, surfaces where food and drink can be prepared and served, places of work, reading, conversation and music. All these activities demand special technology for storage and communication, for cooking and refrigeration and for reproduction of sound and image.

Interior design therefore attempts to make indoor spaces as satisfactory, useful, pleasant and generally supportive as possible. In interior design, comfort, usefulness and beauty must work together for success to be realized. Elements like furniture, lighting, colour and art must be dealt with carefully.

Training in Interior Design

Interior design overlaps and interlaces with related professions particularly architecture. Others include industrial design, exhibition design and stage design. Unlike most professions, interior design is not regulated by legal restrictions. No license or degree has been required to use the title and to practise. As of now, anyone can work as an interior designer, with no limitations, except those imposed by ones own levels of skill and experience. For most people with career objectives in interior design, a sound study is probably the most reliable route to full involvement in the field. Some designers have developed their abilities without formal training.

Formal training may be given with a single course or may involve a complete college program. Most self taught interior designers have started with a room or two, perhaps designing and re-designing the same space until they find workable, satisfying solutions. As experience develops, a sense of what training will be most helpful may also evolve. Formal study is often more helpful and more meaningful when it follows or is simultaneous with practical experience.


The creation of an elegant interior space is an exercise in creativity that reflects the designer’s exceptional taste and style. When designing interiors, it is advisable to start with what is available before shopping for replacements. Interior designers always rely on a few minor tricks to change the entire look of an interior space. It is therefore important to note that elegance in interior design is found in details such as:

  • Using inexpensive materials with trimmings to give curtains a

luxurious look.

  • Putting a wall hanging here, a flower vase there or a boldly painted wall against other plain ones will make a big difference in an interior for little cost.
  • Arranging framed photos and other artifacts into a pattern to decorate a wall.
  • Turning an ordinary print or poster into an extraordinary piece of art by having it professionally framed. This can make an inexpensive print look sophisticated by the use of elaborate frames.
  • Taking a more leisurely approach to decorating an interior than doing it at a go. This might involve picking up interesting pieces over several weeks, months or even years.
  • Painting an interior space or repainting furniture and wooden floors as a cheap way of adding style.
  • Carrying out decorative painting techniques such as ragging, combing, stenciling and glazing.



By the end of this topic, the trainees should be able to define the following professional titles used in the field of interior design: - (a) Interior Decorator (b) Interior Designer (c) Space Planner (d) Office Planner (e) Architect (f) Industrial Designer

(a) INTERIOR DECORATOR This is the designation most widely used and understood by the general public today. The term implies a focus on the decorative, ornamental and movable aspects of interior design i.e. colour, furniture, rugs, drapery, and the fixed details of mouldings, paneling and similar small elements that can be introduced into an existing space with relative ease. A decorator is capable of producing work of top quality.


This term describes a professional approach to interiors that puts more emphasis on basic planning and functional design than decoration implies. In Europe and U.S.A., the term interior architect refers to designers who deal with the basic arrangement of spaces, layout, room arrangements and manage technical issues such as lighting. Interior designers may work as individuals, in partnerships or in firms that can grow quite large. The term contract design is used for this kind of practice. It refers to the fact that components and construction work are arranged for under contracts.


Since non-residential buildings are usually constructed as floors of open undivided space, layout planning becomes an important first step in their design. Space planners also provide full interior design and decoration service.


Just as in space planning, office buildings are rented by the occupants as floors of open undivided spaces, hence, office layout planning becomes an importance first step in the design work. Office planners have to be also conversant with interior design and decoration work.


Trained in basic building construction, architects are prepared to design buildings, from the foundation up. In many cases, the architects design includes many interior elements like room shapes, door and window locations, details and selection of materials and such elements as lighting, heat and air conditioning, plumbing and related fixtures.


Designers or design firms specializing in industrially produced objects work on products such as appliances, furniture, machinery and automobiles. Some products of industrial design such as furniture, hardware and light fixtures, become elements used in interior design. Exhibition design, although considered a specialized kind of interior design, often comes within the area of industrial design.


  • Interiors are also referred to as enclosures. Examples include:-


A designer’s aim is to make the realities of a designed space express, in an appropriate way, a set of ideas that he/she wishes to communicate. Form, materials, furnishings and accessories are some of the items the designer uses to achieve this goal. Basic design begins with the study of individual elements that go together to form a total look. These individual elements include line, form, colour and texture. These elements have physical and psychological characteristics that are essential in creating effect. They will also guide you in placing your furniture and in selecting colour schemes for the interior space. We have to put all these basic elements together to decorate and achieve aesthetic properties. We can also achieve other effects that we might want in each interior depending on how we put these basic elements together.


Since vision is the primary sense through which the design and the ideas behind it will reach an audience, basic design must be concerned with the field called visual perception. This area of study is both scientific and artistic. The study explores the ways in which the visual sense works to build a mental understanding of objects, spaces and total environment through sight. A human mind pieces together its understanding of a three dimensional object from the information it receives from both eyes. In addition, eye, head and body movements supply a flow of changing images that, put together, create a mental model of reality. This model can then be held in memory and viewed in the absence of the actual object.

In addition to the understanding of reality that comes with vision and movement, a viewer receives impressions of a more abstract, even emotional character. An object or place may look quiet or lively, cheerful or depressing, solid or vaporous. A fire or bright sunlight is hot or warm and so the colours red and orange are associated with heat. The soft forms of cushions and draped fabrics are associated with the sensation of softness. Visual Impressions. n addition to the understanding of reality that comes with vision and movement, a viewer receives impressions of a more abstract, even emotional character. An object or place may look quiet or lively, cheerful or depressing, solid or vaporous. A fire or bright sunlight is hot or warm and so the colours red and orange are associated with heat. The soft forms of cushions and draped fabrics are associated with the sensation of softness.

Vertical Lines

These suggest stability and immobility, dignity and permanence. The vertical columns of buildings suggest solidity and permanence. Vertical lines generate the psychological impression of steadiness, strength and simplicity. Objects with vertical line contours are simple. Vertical lines are characteristic of types of furniture. Vertical lines are commonly seen in form of stripes, checks, plaids and herringbone designs on fabrics. The direction that vertical lines take will vary the effect of lines. Vertical lines express formality and masculinity e.g. a man’s bedroom would be best suited for vertical lines.

Horizontal Lines

These suggest rest. Human experience of the horizontal reclining position in rest and sleep reinforces this perception. Floors and ceilings are normally horizontal and this gives space a sense of normality. Horizontal lines give the effect of relaxation as well as breadth. If you intend to achieve a restful interior space, it is suggested that you emphasize the use of horizontal lines in your wallpaper, drapes, lampshades, picture arrangement, upholstery and furniture. Horizontal lines pre-dominate in an interior that is informal and feminine. A lady’s bedroom would avoid vertical lines in plain or patterned surfaces.

Oblique (Diagonal or Sloping) Lines

These suggest movement, and activity. Angled lines are always transitional, between vertical and horizontal. While there is only one horizontal and one vertical direction, oblique lines can take an infinite number of angular slopes. Diagonal lines are restless, dynamic and give a feeling of instability. The combination of oblique lines in alternate directions (called zigzag) gives a sense of restlessness. It is used to symbolize lightning. A sloping ceiling or wall makes a space seem active, lively, even possibly disturbing through its implication of movement.

Curved line

This is the path of a moving point that continually changes its direction and gives a curved line. Curving forms occur more often in nature, hence, making us to perceive curvatures as more natural and freer than straight lined forms. Curved lines promote softness. They are light-hearted in appearance and have an effect of being cheerful. You should be careful not to over do curved lines as this can create an ornate appearance.

II FORM Forms convey fulfillment and completeness. The eye perceives the appearance of an interior space. A designer can make a ceiling appear lower or higher. A wall can be made to look further away or even closer. Triangles give an effect of balance and unity. These are used widely in home decorating as they can balance the movement of the room with lampshades and furniture groupings. When circles are used in mirrors, such as mirrors in oval frames of pictures, a designer can create a pleasing effect of variety and contrast. Oblong forms are mostly used in interior decorating as they can provide more selections and appear more subtle.


Colour is a very important element in interior decoration. This is so because:

  • it sets the tone of the interior with the chosen colours.
  • it provides background.
  • it creates harmony.
  • it accents other design elements in an interior.
  • it creates*variety.
  • it can be used to change the size of the room. Dark colours recede,

hence, making the room look bigger while warm colours advance, making the room smaller

  • cool colours (green, blue green, blue and blue violet) make the

room appear restful, cool and soothing.

  • bright colours attract attention.


This is the roughness and smoothness that is detected by our sense of sight and touch. Textures have a psychological affect on interiors. Rough textures look masculine or rugged while smooth textures appear formal. On the other hand, coarse textures contrast with fine textures. The beauty of an interior space is achieved by projecting variety and unity through the use of different textures. It is important for an interior designer to team up items in an interior so as to create unity and variety.


  • Two dimensional forms:

A plane is a completely flat surface, created by intersecting lines. Planes are two dimensional, with length and width. (ii) Three dimensional forms Adding depth to a two dimensional form crates a three dimensional form. Furniture, some architectural elements (such as columns or stairs) and buildings are three-dimensional.


In organizing line, surface and hollow space, a number of basic concepts will enter into design decisions. One of the most important concept is proportion. Others include balance, size, scale, harmony, unity, variety, contrast, rhythm and emphasis. Proportion With this design concept, the interior designer deals with sizes, shapes and spacing. There is need for every piece in the interior to harmonise with others, to be in scale with one another and produce an attractive interior. Furniture in the interior space needs to be in proportion with other furniture, as the groupings in the interior need to be in proportion with one another. The designer should keep in mind the size of the interior space when deciding on proportions. As an example, a large item like a wall unit should not be made to dwarf other items in the interior space. Where the interior space is large, then massive pieces of furniture are suitable and marked contrasts in the interior have a very positive effect. The comparative relationships of proportion can work on any or all of the following four levels:

  • Within one part: - as in comparing the length to width of an object.
  • Among parts: - as in comparing the size of the pelmet to the size of the curtain.
  • Part to the whole: - as comparing the total area of the tablecloth covered by the tablemats.
  • Whole to environment: - as when relating the size and shape of a dining table to the shape and size of the dining space.

The terms golden ratio, golden mean and golden section all refer to a proportional relationship that satisfies a certain requirement.


This principal concerns the achievement of a state of equilibrium between forces. Balance can be achieved in several ways. The most obvious balanced relationships are symmetrical, in which the arrangement of forms on one side of an imaginary central dividing line, axis or plane is the mirror image of the other side. A good example of such bilateral symmetry is the human body and the forms of many living creatures. This balance is therefore associated with the beauty of nature. Symmetrical balance can also be achieved around a large number of axis. This is known as Radial symmetry, which establishes balance around a central point e.g. Sun button-cushion which has pleats radiating out from a central point. Asymmetrical balance brings into equilibrium elements that are equivalent but not matching. This concept in which different things of different size or weight seem to come into balance through placement can also apply to shapes, colours, sizes and other aspects of objects.


We think of things as large or small in relative terms, in relation to both the human body and other things. A large living room may be much smaller than a large church but it appears large in relation to an adjacent small entrance hall.


This refers to the proper proportion of an object or space to all other objects, to human beings and to the space to which it belongs. Designers achieve good scale by choosing elements that seem to be of an appropriate size for the space they will inhabit, that relate well to human dimensions and above all, that look their actual size.


In order to achieve harmony, all the varied components of an interior space must relate to each other and to the overall theme of the design. When all the elements in the interior (from style of furniture to the colour scheme) work together, a unified whole is achieved. One way of achieving harmony is through repetition. Another way of achieving the same at minimum effort is through balance. Similarity, through the use of similar types of objects, also achieves harmony.


This allows the viewer to see a design as a whole rather than seeing it as a collection of elements. All the parts of a design relate so well as to create a unit in which nothing can be added, taken away or altered without changing the totality. Matching or coordinated patterns, closely related colours and stylistic consistency all lead to harmony and unity, but they also carry the threat of monotony, as in the room in which everything matches everything else in an obsessive way.


This is the counter veiling qualities of harmony and unity that can relieve monotony, giving the eye a number of different shapes, textures, colours or details to look at.


This heightens values through comparison. A light colour will seem lighter when placed near a dark colour and a large object larger when placed next to something small. In this context, contrast and variety may be viewed as ways to punctuate harmony and unity and therefore, heightening the space’s overall impact.


This concept relates visual elements together in a regular pattern. It can be achieved by repetition. The use of rhythm should be appropriate to the situation. Since repetition can lead to monotony, it must also be balanced against the need for variety.


One of the ways to transmit meaning in design is through emphasis. This ensures that important elements look important while minor elements look subordinate. This is achieved through balancing size, placement, value colour and selection of materials. As an example, a bright coloured object in a quiet space calls for attention. Carpet, ceiling colour and lighting can be treated to appear natural, almost unnoticeable. Alternatively, a colourful and strongly patterned rug or a spectacular light fixture can be an emphatic focus, in which case the other elements would be deliberately subordinated.


Pattern Smooth surfaces are defined only by their limits, edges or corners. A patterned surface has visible presence in every part of its extent. Like colour, pattern can make a surface more or less important, or a space seem larger or smaller than it actually is e.g. stripes running vertically make a surface seem narrower and higher while those running horizontally, make it look wider and lower. The elements of a pattern can create and convey messages. Geometric Squares and naturalistic curves imply different attitudes. In addition to such expressive qualities, pattern has the ability to hide or at least to minimize soiling and visible traces of damage.

(ii) Ornament Ornament refers to visual extras with no practical purpose but added to introduce variety. Ornaments must have a relationship with the object or space they adorn. Ornaments can also be valuable communicative tools.

(4). Dining Room

The main source of lighting should be over the dining table. Free standing lamps (like floor lamps) provide ambient lighting for the dining room. Candles are also a favourite in dining rooms. Pendant lights (like chandeliers) are the best choice as they provide both general and task lighting. When chandeliers are used in the dining room, a better effect is achieved when they are placed on a high ceiling. A dimmer switch can be very useful here in adjusting the intensity of the light, thereby, creating a cosy mood. Since the dining room is a functional area, overhead lighting is a priority.

(5). Bathroom

Bathrooms require vapour – proof fittings. The bathroom mirror requires special attention. The position of light by the mirror should be such that the face is lit adequately. Wall bracket lights, wall mounted uplights and wall-mounted reflector lamps are good choices. Some diffused glass light can be used on either side of the mirror to provide general illumination. Alternatively, a halogen down light from the ceiling can also be used effectively. A fluorescent strip light can also be used over the mirror for good results. Candles can also be used for bathroom lighting.

(6). Study Room This interior space should have good light which is adjustable for reading and writing. Task lighting by the use of table and floor lamps is the best choice.

(7). Corridors These interior spaces require subdued lighting. Gloom should be avoided particularly in hotel corridors where guests need to see the room numbers clearly.

(8). Stairways These should be well lit to prevent accidents. The light can be set into the stair itself or along the wall just below the hand rail. In case the lights are overhead, the fittings should be placed at each end of each flight of the stairs.

(9). Entrance Hall The entrance hall to any establishment should look inviting and the lighting should be in keeping with the character and atmosphere of the place. During the daytime, a visitor is likely to perceive the entrance as dull and dim after coming in from outside. To improve the appearance of such an interior, a chandelier or other pendant type of fitting may give general lighting. Alternatively, an overall lighting of the ceiling by the use of cornice lights can be used quite effectively. This kind of lighting reflects light from the ceiling and the use of light colours on the same enhances the effect achieved. General lighting of the entrance hall can also be achieved by the use of wall brackets or pelmet type fittings. In cases where height allows the construction of a suspended or false ceiling, concealed lamp fittings (recessed down lights) can be effectively used.

Mirrors can also be fitted on the entrance hall ceiling to reflect light. This also gives the impression of greater height and may provide an interesting reflection of the light fittings. Its is advisable to light the entrance hall in such a way that some areas receive brighter light so as to attract the guest’s attention to such places as the reception desk. Task lighting in such areas also enable the guests to clearly see the register as they sign the same.

(10). Lounge

The atmosphere in the lounge should be one of comfort and restfulness. Much consideration should therefore be given to lighting this interior space, bearing in mind that not all parts of the space require the same degree of illumination. Recessed downlights and wall lights (giving light that is limited to the perimeter of the room) provide some degree of general illumination without creating the impression of brightness. Local lights (table and floor lamps with portable fittings) may be used where necessary.

(11). Food Eating Places

There are many types of commercial places in which food is eaten. The atmosphere in these places vary accordingly.

(i) Cafeteria The service in this interior space has a quick turn over and a high degree of illumination is vital. Counters and tables can be lit effectively by the use of fluorescent lamps, pendant fittings and even panel lights.

(ii) Restaurant Subdued lighting is good for this interior space, especially at night. Table lamps and candles are the best choices.

(iii) Banquets and Luncheons

High general lighting is usually the best. Fluorescent lighting is a good choice as it provides no highlights. Due consideration should be given to lighting effect on the colour of food.


Light fixtures, fittings and devices are of great importance to the efficiency of the lighting system and the decoration of the place in which they are used. When choosing fixtures, fittings and devices, consideration should be given to the following:- (i) Durability and finish of the materials. (ii) Dust collection and ease of cleaning. (iii) Temperature reached after prolonged use. (iv) Weight. (v) Ease of replacing lamps.

(1). Lampshades

Glare, which is harmful to the eyes, can be eliminated by the use of suitable shades. Appropriate shades for various lamps may be chosen from a very large number of shapes, sizes and materials. Shades should be pleasing to look at, whether lit or unlit. Shades may be of glass, plastic, parchment, fabric or even metal which is generally cellulosed and sometimes perforated. When selecting shades, it is important to bear in mind that:

(a)Transparent shades increase light distribution. (b)Translucent shades give light with a gentle glow. (c)An opaque shade will channel the light towards it’s widest opening. (d)A fabric shade in pleated form creates a more subtle mood and diffused light than one with regular edges. (e)A shade for a standard lamp should be in correct proportion to the base. (f)A shade with a cut-out decoration will reflect a patterned light. (g)The height of a shade, (in general) should be similar to the distance from the base of the light to the bulb socket.

(2). Bulbs The bulb or tube determines the intensity of the light. Bulbs for artificial lighting should be chosen according to the requirements of the room and the mood you would like to create. Red and yellow tinted light will create an intimate, warm mood while green tinted light will create a cooler serene mood. The three main types of bulbs are halogen, incandescent and fluorescent. The latter uses less energy compared to others. Halogen bulbs yield more light than incandescent light bulbs. Halogen lamps are also longer lasting.

(3). Sockets

Sufficient sockets should be provided in different positions in the interior space. Sockets facilitate the use of portable fittings for floor and table lamps. These are quite necessary in interior spaces such as the lounge. The floor sockets should be covered when not in use to prevent the trailing of flexes.

(4). Light Switches

Switches should always be positioned in the most convenient spot, preferably next to the door or next to the activity that you need the light for. To maximize efficiency, planning for switches location should be based on the flow of movement through the interior space. For flexibility of the mood, dimmers become very useful. In the bedrooms, it is advisable to have two-way switches, to be worked from the door and the bed. For bathrooms, the switches should be either outside the room or of the cord type. Water proof fittings are recommended for bathrooms.

Icon activity.jpg
  • State ten factors that should be considered before buying light fittings and devices.
  • List down five typical steps followed when planning lighting.