The seven crucial elements of interior design

Jon Ingleton asks experts to share their insights into the building blocks of design

The seven crucial elements of interior design
Appreciation for the quality of an interior design is considerably enhanced by considering how each of the seven elements has been used

Shape, light, colour, line, texture, space and pattern – the seven elements of great design work in harmony to create aesthetically successful interiors that function effectively and engender the appropriate mood among the people who inhabit a room. Although there is some conflict within traditional wisdom about whether form warrants inclusion as an eighth element, CFI takes the view that a three-dimensional shape is, fundamentally, still a shape.

Forming an opinion about the quality of the interior design of any space becomes significantly more rewarding if you are able to consider how each element has been used – both in isolation and in terms of its interplay with the other elements in the room. This report explores the core components and acknowledges the role that each individual element plays in the overall interior.

Shape – Derek Barkas, owner of Barkas Design

Design is a three-dimensional discipline, so it will always be impacted by shape because it adds meaning and creates interest. Shape has an almost imperceptible influence in our lives and yet it is the reason why great design becomes so successful – for example, it’s why a classic car becomes so loved and revered.

Shadow and light are factors as shape influences tactility, visual texture and flow. Feng shui teaches us that shape is as important as any factor in our environment, aiding flow or ‘chi’. Shape must encourage chi and never be impeded. We use these principles often in general arrangement planning, where smooth and circular shapes are encouraged to create a preferable sensory response. A curve can break up a narrow space and bring life to low ceilings, which is always a challenge on ships.

Shapes are tactile and beautiful and they are practical – for example, pantries are usually rectangular because it optimises space for storage. Shape selection can also create impracticalities. A circular bar, for instance, causes challenges for equipment as you try to fit squares into curves.

We spend many hundreds of man hours on shapes to decide room proportions, bow designs, profile designs, window shapes and funnels, with each one playing together to deliver universal harmony.

Light – Francesca Bucci, president of BG Studio International

Daylight triggers our circadian rhythms and greatly contributes to our health and wellness, so it’s a crucial factor in interior design. The Observatory located on the forward part of the top deck on Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Flora, a luxury mega yacht purposely designed to navigate in the Galapagos islands, was designed with full-height windows to provide the most amazing view of the spectacular Galapagos nature. Here, natural light filters in from the windows, reflecting on the light-coloured floor and ceiling, ultimately giving the effect of a much larger space. As the light becomes softer in the evening hours, the wood tones of the library walls acquire the shades of the beautiful sunsets. At this point everything is ready for the guests to lounge by the window wall and enjoy the most spectacular starry sky straddling the southern and the northern hemispheres.

Colour – Iñigo Oliver, commercial manager of Oliver Design

Colour dictates the personality of a design. The personality that we selected for the lounge and bar onboard Naviera Armas’s Volcan del Teide was inspired by nature to represent a feeling of wholesomeness, orderliness and being grounded. It is a simple and strong message supported by a natural colour palette that has very positive associations for brands.

Multiple shades of browns and greens were used in a self-selecting colour scheme made up of different grades of natural wood, a sand-effect carpet mixed with a real sand garden with seashells, bamboo under the stairs, braided resin furniture and a splash of green in the plants. The lighting incorporated sky-blue accents to complete the effect and create a relaxing and natural environment for passengers to enjoy.

Texture – Ann Bada-Crema, executive creative director and owner of Launch by Design

Texture is an important sensory requirement in interior design – not just for touch but also for the way that sound and light react to different textures. And it’s particularly important in a children’s environment, such as Camp Ocean Sharks Area on Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Freedom.

During this project, the literal form of texture was more challenging to deliver due to the strict antimicrobial standards in the marine sector. Recognising that texture is an important sensory element when designing youth spaces, we rose to the challenge by delivering texture through the use of custom graphics on the walls, which were supported by a visually textured flooring finish to create an underwater theme. In short, we produced custom-designed water graphics to create the illusion of texture throughout the space. Texture is either tactile or visual or both. It can be smooth or rough, hot or cold – texture can be real or perceived.

Line –Matt Fyvie, design associate at SMC Design

Line is a fundamental part of a design and is the start of a creative process which forms a blueprint of an idea. Lines can be interpreted in many forms and, whether they are broken, continuous, thick or thin, they can take your mind on a vivid journey of form and structure. Sweeping lines can emphasise movement and organic forms, while longer, straighter lines can mean a more ordered and simpler approach.

Lines can be seen in everyday life subconsciously and unexpectedly and can lead one’s eye to a particular area. A line can be a powerful tool and can be used to transform and scale many things, such as mapping our cities or the smallest iteration of a product.

In the atrium onboard Saga Cruises’ Spirit of Discovery, vertical lines accentuate the height of the space while lines of different weight in the artwork tell a more intricate detailed story of the design. Sweeping architectural lines of the staircase create a sense of movement and free-flowing forms provide an eye-catching connection between decks.

Space –Tomas Tillberg, managing partner of Tomas Tillberg Design

When planning of the interiors for a passenger vessel, space is a concept with countless faces. The many aspects that play a role in decisions about space allocation must harmonise not only with the conceptual characteristics of the product, but also with the operational and technical demands.

Guests and crew will always desire a larger and more comfortable space to stay and work in, so there is a delicate balance in determining the optimum spaces for each throughout a ship. More space means more size and weight that needs to be carried for the life of the vessel. This will impact many things on a variety of levels, such as fuel consumption and maintenance. Therefore, the space plan is managed from the very beginning at the general arrangement level. The designs and specifics of each space and the experience that is desired for the guest follows with each having their own unique set of space requirements.

Pattern – Alan McVitty, founder of M Studio

Our brief for the new Britannia Club restaurant on Cunard’s Queen Victoria was to create a contemporary interior that would also reflect positively on the cruise line’s rich heritage. We took inspiration from patterns and motifs from the Cunard archives. These designs were interpreted into glass and textiles which anchor Britannia’s evocative, glamorous modern design for intimate dining.

Deep blue hues in the design mirror the sea views throughout providing a consistent understated and sophisticated flow of colour. Bespoke mahogany dividers with decorative inlaid glass and brass establish the interior architecture, while antique mirrors with backlit panels and Bohemian glass chandeliers help distribute the light and hues of the sea throughout. Custom fabrics and carpets complement one another. Outside backs of the dining chairs have been upholstered in embossed leather and contrasting fabrics to enhance the scheme. All of the architectural and soft furnishing elements come together to create a contemporary room inspired by historical patterns.

This article was first published in the 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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Jon Ingleton
By Jon Ingleton
14 July 2020

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