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Elements and Principles of Spatial Planning

Key elements and principles that we need to work with when we are considering styling a space.




To understand and/ or alter a given space the entire volume of space should be taken into consideration as a whole. The distance between the floor and the ceiling, ceiling shape, floor space and the lines used are key. The distance between the floor and the ceiling and the type of lines used predominately in that space will dictate how the space needs to be styled.  If the ceiling is high for example, then we will need to make sure we style it to bring the eye level down in order to make the space cozier.



The lines used in a space whether it is vertical, horizontal or diagonal defines that space.  Where there are French Doors in a space, those vertical lines make the space look bigger and airier.

The French Doors when used in a living room gives it grandeur and height and by having the windows frame whatever the view, it provides a feeling of openness.

Usage of horizontal windows or cabinetry provide the illusion of widening a narrow space.


Any diagonal beams and lines direct the eye upward and succeeds in giving the space height and volume and is also one of the main attributors in rendering a space large and airy.  


Shape / structure – 

It is a must to understand the shape and structure of a space to develop a functional design solution. For example, painted exposed ceiling beams and trusses will lift the eyes to the ceiling and will make a space look tall - vertical tongue and groove finishes on a wall will also similarly contribute to the sense of the space. Identifying these elements will help us with the placement of the other objects such as the furniture and accessories in the space to keep it in line with the basic tone and style we are aiming for. The area rug, the type of sofa, armchairs and the coffee table can then be decided based on the shape and structure of the space.


Colour –

The colour used in a space can change the character and feeling of a space. For example, if the colour white is the predominant colour used by the designers in a space, it provides a sense of spaciousness and calm and a feeling of a big open area. The colour white will reflect the natural light thus making the space look bright and open. If dark colours are used in a space, then the space will look smaller which will result in needing to find other ways to add colour and bring openness into the space.


As it is said that there can be no colour without light and the best light is the natural light. Designers prefer to utilise natural light wherever possible – for instance, it is on trend now to  not use curtains in the living room where there are double height doors/ French doors and allowing the light to flow in. During daytime, such a space will be bright with the natural light beaming across resulting in giving off a big airy vibe to the space.

In the night, we can utilise the moon light streaming through to create an intimate and warm atmosphere.



The textures used in a space, such as the walls - whether done up shiny or rough textured or even using smooth or textured fabric - will add to the visual sensory feelings.  From the type of rug used and the fabric used for throws and pillows a space can transform from rustic to airy and spacious in a matter of (some thoughtful design) minutes.


Pattern –

Patterns can be used for visual impact and achieve the design style we are aiming for. For example, having blue stripes on an area rug, on the cushions, the throw and using blue pots/vases on the coffee table are all examples of how patterns can be used in a space. In this case, it will be the coastal design style that we might be going for with these patterns.



Balance –

Balance is achieved when careful consideration is given to the placement of objects within a space. For example, if we take the same French doors in the living room scenario we discussed earlier and how the tall French doors will make the space look big and airy we would be at an advantage if we decide to use a big curved sofa complemented by two single chairs on the side to provide a sense balance to the space to be in line with the said tall French doors and to complement the height between the floor and the ceiling.

A balance can be achieved in a space either by formal and symmetrical or by using informal and asymmetrical placement of objects.


Emphasis –

The principle of emphasis comes through from whatever it is that is the centre of a given space . This is usually the focal point of and it is around this focal point that every other object will be placed to bring a sense of harmony and balance.


Rhythm and repetition –

This is the visual link the eye would make of all the objects in a space. Repetition can be provided by repetition of pattern, repetition of shape or of accessories. For example, the lines on a wooden floor can be reflected on an area rug with stripes which also can be extended to the cushions, throws and the pots/vases on the coffee table, etc,.


Proportion and scale-

Proportion and scale is how one object compares to another in a given space. In an  open, big and airy space, the use of big furniture in the form of the big curved sofa complemented by the two single chairs, a big candle chandelier, a large area rug and many pillows can perfectly manipulate the space without being overtly congested. Due to there being many big elements of furniture, they could be complemented by smaller accessories keeping the proportions to scale.



The elements and the principles of design should interrelate quite well in a space to render it a balanced and harmonious design.




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