Elements of Good Design

Good design rests upon a solid foundation of function, environment, space, style, color and texture. Whether it’s your first design or your fiftieth, understanding these principles and using them to guide your work will guarantee you a well designed space. Learn more about the elements of good design and how you can apply them to your next project.


All spaces serve a purpose. For example, the purpose of the home office is to provide a place to do work. Good design will facilitate your ability to do work, making the room truly functional. When designing, consider the function of a space before all other things. Even though you may not spend a significant amount of time in a space, a hallway for instance, the function of the hallway is to transition you from one room to the next. Good design will make the transition smooth by eliminating any obstacles in the path. This isn’t to say that everything must serve a function, just that anything ornamental should not interfere with the functionality of a space. Remember the principle of any design, “form follows function.”


Along with function, environment is an important consideration in good design. The environment of a space refers to its physical surroundings as well as the individuals inhabiting it. Bearing in mind the environment when designing is often second nature, as most are fully aware of their surroundings. If you live in a hot, dry climate you would probably not install thick carpeted floors. Natural stone or ceramic floors are a more practical choice for the environment because they stay cool and are easily swept of sand and dust. Good design will also support the people within the environment. For example, accommodate the special need of an individual using a wheelchair with wide hallways, and accessible light switch locations.


Take a look at an empty room. What are the dimensions like? Is it irregularly shaped? Is there an established focal point, like a fireplace or a bay window? Good design will always minimize the awkwardness in spaces, make small rooms seem larger, and highlight or create the focal point of a room. Awkward features like sloped ceilings can be played down by keeping the paint color of the ceiling the same as the walls. This opens up the space, making it feel less uncomfortable. Make small rooms seem larger by pulling furniture out from against the walls, it seems counterintuitive but doing this creates depth in the room. Good design will emphasize the best features of the room by balancing the space.


Personality factors heavily into the design of a space. Think about your defining characteristics. If you’re somebody who is creative, soulful and likes to express themselves, do so with your design. Modern style probably isn’t going to make you feel comfortable in its stark design and streamlined features. You will feel much more at ease in a space that inspires creativity with a mix of different textiles, art, and one-of-a-kind pieces. Always design for yourself. Trends will come and go, but they don’t really matter when your space makes you happy. Good design should be a reflection of the self.


Color can make or break a design, and choosing a color palette out of thin air is extremely difficult. It’s a good idea to borrow a palette from a painting, clothing, landscape, or even album artwork. Make sure you choose a palette based on the colors of the work and how the colors makes you feel, not the work itself or any meaning you attach to it. Think about how the color will work in the space, does it make sense? Although you may love the vibrant colors of Warhol’s Marilyn diptych, do you want to wake up and make toast each morning in a bright fuchsia kitchen? Probably not. But there are ways to use those bold colors through accessories and art on a more neutral backdrop that can give you the vibrancy you love. Another option is to choose a color scheme using the color wheel. Sticking to tried and true combinations is a foolproof way to achieve good design.


An array of textures gives a space visual interest. Good design brings heaps of different textures into a room. Imagine a room with nothing in it. It’s very boring there. Now imagine a room with brick walls, distressed wood floors, and a soft, wooly couch. Texturally it is much more interesting. Texture not only comes from what you feel, but also what you see. Visually, it creates depth in a room. Start with the floor and walls. These are the largest surfaces that display texture. Window treatments, furniture, and accents are the channels in which you can bring a variety of textures to a space. Even the smallest objects bring texture, a cashmere throw on the sofa, or the impasto painting on the wall. Texture is the easiest element to work with because it is literally all around.

Written by Erie Construction. Check out Erie Construction on Twitter for home improvement updates.

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