6 Essentials of Design (And How to Apply Them)

Photography by Stylish Productions

Text by Bethany Adams

If you’ve ever tried to design a space yourself, you know that creating an effortlessly curated look is anything but effortless. To help make the process a little easier and encourage you to unlock your inner design guru, we’re sharing our insight into the building blocks of design and our tips for how to translate them into your own home!


Photography by Michael Hunter

While the word “theme” may invoke images of nautical motifs and kitschy décor, theme is a crucial element of the design process. Choosing a theme that speaks to your personal style can help guide your design decisions for the space—like these two different homeowners who chose to display their favorite antiques in very different ways, one opting for a European flair, the other for a contemporary rustic style. Consider creating a mood board or selecting an inspiration piece—like a textile or work of art—to help focus your vision and inform color and overall atmosphere.

Photography by Jim Bathie


Photography by Shayna Fontana

Have an idea of your color palette but not sure how to execute it? Start with a dominant color for larger surfaces like the walls, then introduce a secondary shade for elements like furniture and other large pieces. Finally, bring in an accent color for smaller décor pieces, throw pillows, artwork, and more—this is the perfect place to have a little fun and introduce something bold.

Photography by Mark Lohman


Photography by Mac Jamieson

Want to know how designers create interest without overloading a space with color and pattern? The secret is texture! Chunky knit textiles, wood furniture, silk pillows, and even grass cloth wallpapers are perfect for adding depth and richness to a design without overwhelming the eye. Start with something large—like a linen sofa or woven rug—then build off of it, introducing contrasting finishes until you reach a level of warmth that feels best to you.

Photography by Jenna Sue Design


Photography by Luke Cleland

Mixing and matching patterns is the best way to create a curated look in your home, but it can be a challenge to execute. An easy way to keep things cohesive is to select patterns that share a common color. Vary the size and scale of your patterns to keep the designs from blending into one another, and choose designs that complement but contrast with one another—like florals with geometric patterns or toile with stripes.

Photography by Mac Jamieson


Photography by John O’Hagan, Styling by Courtni Bodiford, Design by Barri Thompson

Once the foundations of your design are set, it’s time to accessorize! This is the perfect time to personalize your space with those items that mean the most to you, whether that’s artwork, books, or something entirely different. It’s also the best way to add in a little something bold if you suffer from design commitment issues, as accessories are easy to change out. Go with the colorful ottoman, the quirky painting, or the funky throw—just be sure to follow the principles of color, pattern, and texture to ensure everything about the finished product is picture-perfect!

Photography by Jim Bathie


Photography by Stylish Productions

While it’s often overlooked in discussions of interior design, function is paramount when it comes to creating the perfect space. Take time to consider your needs—whether that’s performance fabrics, like in the waterside cottage here, or a spot to jot down notes, as in this homeowner’s living room—and take them into account when planning your design. It can mean the difference between a beautiful house and a true home!

Photography by Jim Bathie

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