The 7 Elements of Decorating

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Let’s talk about decorating particularly form and function and the 7 elements of decorating. To start off with measuring your room correctly to plan, that you’re decorating, is paramount. If you don’t measure correctly and you buy your furniture, window coverings, and flooring you’re out some big money. I would recommend getting professional help with that, just to make sure your measurements are correct. There are certain formulas to each type of measuring criteria that must be done properly so you get the exact measurements for the fitting of each product. Now that we have that out of the way let’s talk about form and function, which are the foundation of you’re decorating plan.

Form follows function. Since the late 1800’s and going forward this has been the criteria of Design. Louise Sullivan was the Architect that invented this saying. He was the first architect to invent the Skyscraper. So now form and function is the main criteria of Design in any aspect.
Form changes, function does not change. The Rocky Mountains will always stand erect and tall, the land around a fast flowing river, will always be changing. So the rocky mountains are the function and the land is the form. Function implies the simplicity of design. If, we didn’t decorate in the space we live in, the room would be boring to say the least.

There are 7 elements to decorating: Form, Function, Space, Colour, Light, Balance, and Texture. These 7 elements are the building blocks of your design. Form is the end result of the finished design. Form is everything that you see, the furniture, the fabric on the sofa, the paintings on the wall, the colour on the wall, and the window coverings. This is where techniques and knowing how to decorate come into play. Keeping your design balanced and flowing is key. The flow is how everything relates to each other. Even if you were to use different furniture period pieces, you still need to have that flow for balance.

The element of Interior Design is “How You Want It To Look”.  How you imagined the room to look.

Form: The first element in the 7 elements of decorating, is the shape of something and the function is its purpose. Form is 3 dimensional and contributes to the qualities of what you are doing in your design. Remember good design is recognizable. How does it look? How does it flow? How does it make me feel? In the decorating field, form is the shape of the room, how it relates, the geometric’s of the room. It also encompasses the shape of any object in the room that is 3 dimensional. Form can also be natural or man made. It can be opening or closing objects like windows and doors. The proportional lines of an object and the scale of the object is also part of the form. In decorating adding pieces of the same shape can create a harmonious environment, when you add too many shapes this can cause confusion. When you place your dominant piece in a room and add similar pieces that compliment it, it becomes much more pleasing to the eye.

Function: The 2nd, is how the object works or what its purpose is. Making your room safe and pleasing to the eye. This is done by determining the space, the requirements and what type of lighting, colours, and materials you will be using in the room. What will the room be used for? What else are you doing in the kitchen besides cooking, or, what is the function or purpose of the bedroom, do you have a desk for studying or a reading nook in the bedroom? These are simple statements but very relevant in decorating. “What will I use this empty room for”? This depends on your families’ life style, is there a family or are you a single person living in your space? The culture of the people living in the space, the events that happen in the space and the tone of the function in the space. So Lifestyle and the habits of the people living in the home dictates function.

Looking at your blue prints: Blue prints of your home can help you decide how and what can be done. They also have the floor, walls, windows, and door measurements of, the rooms on the blue print. However, remember that the measurement for window coverings will be different especially if you’re installing the blinds “inside mount”, meaning the exact measurements in three places top middle and bottom, inside the finished window not taking any deductions. We will talk more about window coverings in another article. If your doing major renovations, blue prints are a must and professional help to determine what can be done and how it can be done. A Building Contractor and Designer will save you a lot of heartache in the end.

In the diagram above is a sample of a house blue print. You can see each room and the measurements outside of the house and inside, wall to wall, the floor space, the doors and windows all have the measurements listed on them. On your blue print is everything you need to know about your house, inside and out.

Space: Is the 3rd element. The space is the area you have in the room to be decorated. The floor space, wall space, window space. Taking into consideration where the doors are, the traffic areas are and the obstacles you may have to work around, IE; fireplace or stairway. Look carefully at the area with function in mind. If you’re deciding to redecorate with the furniture you already have, is there a better way of rearranging the furnishings to better suit the room and traffic pattern? How can you optimize the space you have to work with? If buying new furniture, you will want to place that furniture in the best layout for the space. Keep in mind, once again, the traffic pattern, because you want a proper flow. The magic number for good traffic flow is 3 feet. Even the walls and window space is important for furniture placement. I have seen some people with their television or sofa up against a window, not a good idea. For one, it’s unsightly from the street and two, the sun beaming in hot on the window will destroy fabric or eventually burn out the components of the t.v. Paintings or photo placement on the wall space is important pictures should be at eye level, meaning the centre of the picture should line up with your eyes. Lighting fixtures placed in the proper location for proper illumination as well. Everything you do in the space you have will either be pleasing to the eye, or chaotic so, your correct measurements are a must for the space to be filled properly and functionally.

In the picture above the home-owner is using the colour green in different shades to her advantage, giving this room a look of nature, even the drift wood on the table adds texture and uniqueness to the room. Wood, glass, metal, and fabrics, along with the plants really speaks volumes. Nature and natural elements coexist quite well together. Here’s a question for you. Is this an eclectic or modern contemporary theme? At the end of the article is the answer.

Colour Theory: The 4th element. We talked a little about colour and how to use it in our decorating, in the article, Painting The Interior of Your Home, however I want to show you how to put a colour palette together for your decorating purpose. Remember the colour wheel? Choosing colour and how to use it. Using colour boards is a great way to put colour palettes together which I will show you in another article. It’s old school I know, but it is fun. I call it the decorating puzzle, finding just the right paint colour combo, swatches of fabric colour, patterns and textures, samples of your flooring, and window treatments then laying it out on a white painters canvas, you can pick up at the Dollar Store.
Now let’s take your living room; the rule of thumb is that 60% of the room should be your dominant colour, say White. 30% your secondary colour, lets choose Naval, and 10% your accent colour. let’s choose a pop of Rose. What do you think? Let’s see what happens. Put together this palette then email me and tell me what you think of this colour palette. Would you use this in, you’re, say bedroom? I’ll do it too and then edit it into this article when i’m done.
The dominant colour should be your favourite colour and should highly impact the rooms overall feel. Your secondary colour should compliment the dominant colour, the accent should be your pop of colour that sets the room off and can be pulled from a painting or area rug. In decorating today the favourite colours for a living room is grey, because grey hides imperfections and makes the room look larger. Blue, because it tends to bring people together and you feel vibrant and alive. It’s a good colour if you want a especially feel to the room using a sandy colour as the secondary, throw in some white here and there and then a pop of bright yellow or red. Beige because it is a neutral colour, goes with any other colour you want to use as a secondary or accent colour, and Decorators love to use it. Black although not a usual colour for a living room, is however a great accent colour on a feature wall for a contemporary theme. For 2020, according to Sherwin-Williams the most considered colour for decorating is navy blue. It is called Naval if you want to check it out. Navy blue is considered one of the best relaxing shades in the colour palette. Olive green is another favourite in 2020.

Kitchen Colour Trends for 2020: Two tone kitchens, two different contrasting hues.
1. Blue-green
2. Dark blue
3. pastel yellow
4. Gray blue
5. Black and white
6. Greyish green
7. Grey

Colour is a personal choice and it shows our character. The essence of who we are. In this picture the colour that pops out at us is blue the home-owner has used different elements of blue to enhance the white. She has pulled all the colours of the room out of the picture, which has become her focal point. See how they’ve used solid colours then transformed the look with a pattern. This room is welcoming, and happy, but also has a serene feel to it. The sofa is banked by a variation of different shaped side tables which adds interest, so your eye goes from the one table up to the picture and down to the other side that way you get the whole picture, so to speak. The green glass balls and the table lamps balance the look. The whole design is well done. Form, Function, Style, Colour, Light, Balance, and Texture are all there.

In this photo the colours once again are blues, greens, and grey. This is a very comfy room, this is an eclectic style. There are a variety of modern and period furniture. I love the fruit displayed on the table.


This living room again is an eclectic Theme, with the reds, the warm rose coloured wood. Notice the modern red sofa and the period side chairs with the pie crust table and its raised, intricately carved edge from the 18th century, typically used for serving tea or coffee. Typically a Queen Anne and Chippendale design. This colour palette works very well together. The flow, the form, the function and the style all tie in beautifully.

Light:<The 5th criteria of the 7 elements of your decorating plan, must be thought out very strategy to enhance the rest of the room. Show it off, so to speak. Why would you go to all that work to make your room beautiful then just through any cheap lighting in? This has to be one of the main elements in decorating. There are tricks to this portion of the interior decorating experience to create your atmosphere and mood.

These are:

  1. Create lighting plan
  2. Layer your lighting
  3. Make sure the lighting is doing what it is meant to do effectively
  4. Use spotlights to highlight your favourite paintings or sculptures
  5. Light up the dark corners
  6. Choose your fixtures wisely
  7. Make the lighting welcoming

These old world glass bulbs that have become popular and are a great focal feature will give you an old world look to your room, remember lighting designing has to flow. You must couple your lighting fixtures so they compliment each other not fight against one another especially in an open concept space. Choose them carefully. This fixture would be great over a kitchen island or as a chandelier in a dining room.

Decorators use light to illuminate what has been created. Light fixtures that point upwards will illuminate the ceiling. These include touchier and wall sconces, they spread light upward to give a beautiful subtle glow to the room. Lights that point down will cast light downward from the ceiling or the walls. Some lights like table lamps and floor lamps do both because they will cast light up and down.

Table lamps are great for enhancing a room and giving just a little more light for reading or for making the room a little more cozy. These contemporary chrome lamps do the trick nicely giving this space a modern feel. .

A contemporary floor lamp 

Decorative lighting creates mood, it plays with the emotions and creates a safe, harmonizing, warmth, and serenity. Light brings out the textures, colours, and shape of your surroundings, objects, and elements of the room. Even the colour of your walls will be enhanced by the type of lighting you use in the room. Lighting can not be an after thought it has to be a vital and very important part of your decorating plan. The goal is to create contrast between the light at the centre of the room and around the outer walls of the room. You want to create appeal. If you decorate your room, just the way you envisioned, but you can’t see it properly, then there is no sense in decorating it. Beauty must be enhanced by the right kind of illumination. It must be planned, thought out and applied. Creating a focal point with pendant lighting or a chandelier in a dining room or kitchen with a soft upward light will dramatically play on the design of the room. Ambient lighting will illuminate the entire room this is great for cooking, doing crafts, or reading cookbooks. Light is a powerful thing. The right type of light will lift your spirits, motivate you, and inspire you to do more. Kitchens need bright light, recessed lighting or high-hats along the outer wall will do the trick. Kitchen island will need pendant lighting to light the area. Cabinets could have led strips along the underside.

Task Lighting: illuminates a smaller area where more light is required. Task lighting should be 3 times brighter than other lighting fixtures.

Accent Lighting: will add brilliance to your favourite paintings or sculptures. Using bulbs that are brighter than ambient lighting by 3 times the brilliance as the other lights in the room. Accent lighting can be used to show the architectural features you want to enhance. Make sure that all your lighting is positioned so it does not cause glare. The halogen light makes the best accent light because of the intense brilliant light it emits.

For more on lighting please read my blog on Decorating Effectively With Light’

Balance: The 6th element in the 7 elements of decorating. This element is created by arranging items in a symmetrical way on both sides of the room, a visual pairing, as well as choosing and placing your fabrics, textures and colours in a way that it flows and compliments each other and your accessories. Using graph paper draw your room with its inside floor measurements, draw a line across the centre of your room starting at the centre point and working outwards. Now imagine your furniture and traffic patterns and draw then pieces on there to get a better view of it. Make one side the mirrored image of the other. Now looking at the objects you want to place on each side of the room, the shapes, sizes, colours, and proportions, figure out how you can place them so both sides of the room looks balanced. Do you see the picture in your mind? balance creates flow and eliminates confusion. Also, you must take into account when arranging furniture, the traffic pattern in the room. You need at least 36″ or more depending on the furnishings between each other to walk around. In the kitchen you will need 36″ to pull chairs out to sit around your table and there is room for other people to walk by. If you have an Island you need enough space to walk between the other side of the space where the range and other cabinets are, at lease 42″. The other way to balance a room is asymmetry. This is created when you have two different visual images on each side of the room. How you achieve this is by using different visual weights in the room, however it still has to have balance. This is a more difficult way to decorate, But does add interest and uniqueness to the room.

Here’s a sample of asymmetrical decorating. You can see that on one side they placed a smaller picture frame then banked it with 3 items on then the other side a larger frame and two smaller items. When you look at the whole effect it is balanced.

This proportionate picture shows a balance of items on the table everything is proportionate to each other, the plant in the background and would be classed as the focal point, it’s off set and gives height and interest to tho whole design. this is symmetrical

Asymmetrical bedroom: usually bedrooms are asymmetrical because the bed is the largest piece in the room. The wall that the bed is on is decorated in a symmetrical way. The tables and lamps balance this side of the room.

Texture: The 7th element in decorating. Texture adds life to a room, it is the pattern, the colour, the feel of the fabrics, and vibrancy of the item you are using in the furnishings, lighting, draperies, blinds, and pictures, even the walls can have texture. It is the complete picture of your design. Have you ever walked into a room and thought, “what is missing here”? Well that is what texture does, it finishes off the room by bringing your package to fruition.

Texture is said to be the sensations you feel, the external surface of an object you get through the sense of touch. Again like colour, and lighting fixtures this causes emotion and mood. Texture is a vital part of your design projects success as well. Without it there’s no sense of beauty, flow, inspiration, or emotion. What does it feel like when you run your hand over a marble counter top, or a velvet sofa? It feels smooth, luxurious and looks beautiful. These are senses that are heightened when you feel texture. Texture is conveyed both visually or tactility. It gives weight to your design. So think carefully on your choice of texture, it is a main stay of your whole decorating look and will brings balance to the room.

Rough textures like tapestry, thinking of the Victorian Era, or area rugs can make a space feel more intimate and grounded, while smooth textures like satin bring a sleek and more relaxed feel to the room, thinking of the Queen Anne era. One way to add texture is through , there are so many different colours and designs. This can be an easy way to bring colour and texture into your design or just a subtle look of creams and greys to enhance the room.

Lonerock Abstract Cream/Blue Area Rug

Abstract Cream/Blue area rug

                                  Babb Splash Polypropylene Blue/Grey Area Rug                                                                                 Polypropylene Blue/Grey area rug  


Everything you do in your decorating plan will ultimately bring character and beauty to your home. Colour speaks volumes about who you are. Your lifestyle, your tastes, your desires, and your thoughts all culminate into your design. Be bold or be subtle, it is what you want that makes your design and you’re home your sanctuary. Feel free to email me or call using the information below, let me know how you are doing in your decorating adventure.

Happy Decorating,

Phone: 403-369-6993


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