How to Develop an Interior Design Concept – 5 Basic Principles

As an interior designer, when you need to develop an interior design concept, there are some simple and basic principles you need to follow, but it must start with a conceived idea. Your design concept is what lays the foundation for the visual components that make up part of the total design package. Without a concept, you can't convey a vision.

How do interior designers develop a vision, help clients visualize it, and turn it into a reality?

First of all, to achieve success in a project, your interior design concept must consider function, beauty, and versatility. The design idea must be a well-thought-out solution brilliantly put together.

Some clients know what they want (some think they do) but will require your services to put it all together in a professional manner. Many others depend on a designer to help and will give full support to their professional suggestions.

5 Basic Principles of Developing an Interior Design Concept

To develop a great concept is not so hard and there really aren’t any hard and fast rules about how things should or should not be, but there are five basic principles that are good to follow. These principles can be used in most interior design situations for any design project ranging from designing a tiny apartment to creating a great restaurant interior or a 5-star hotel suite.

These five principles are inter-related, yet each is important in its own right and help in making the interior not only attractive but comfortable and inviting as well. They, however, need to ‘work together’ to allow an interior designer to create a unified feel within any space. They are:

1. Colour

2. Scale

3. Style

4. Space planning

5. Functionality

Interior Design Model 
Source: By Akinpelu Adeyinka [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (


This is the most basic concept of all and is the fundamental one that will tie a design together. There is usually one main (primary) colour, a secondary colour, and a minimum of two other supplementary and complementary colours to consider. When you have more than four, the result can become garish.

For an eclectic style interior, you may add a couple more colours, depending on the size of the room. On the other hand, using fewer than four colours will give a minimalist look. This is fine as long as it’s what a client prefers.

There must also be a mix of solid colours, patterns, and textures. They must be combined in such a way that the designer believes will bring beauty and enrichment to the room.


This is the next important aspect that ensures a design concept works out beautifully. Depending on the size and volume of a room(s), all objects placed within it must be well-related scale-wise.

Most clients don’t know about the importance of scale and this is where the expertise of a professional comes to play. When the scale of anything is at odds with everything around it, it makes the interior very unattractive.

For instance, if large or over-sized pieces are used in small rooms, space ends up looking cramped and stifled. Even if you have the greatest colour mix, it will still look unpleasant if the furniture and other interior accessories are at cross-purposes, scale-wise.


Every interior designer has his or her own unique style, but the simplest and somewhat popular theme is the eclectic style. Eclectic interior themes are generally informal and encourage a comfortable and relaxing feel. The design concept can be an eclectic-modern mix or an eclectic-traditional combination. It is also one of the simplest styles any designer can put together.

It is important that whatever style is chosen, minimalist, eclectic, country, urban-modern, or bohemian, every décor item and other interior features must work in harmony with each other.

Space Plan

The space layout is very important as well. There must be a thoughtful plan of space and functional zone allocations. Every interior designer is aware of this. It doesn't matter whether the scale is right, the style is to-die-for, and the colour scheme is pleasant, the design concept will fail if items and objects are not positioned to the best advantage. All the while, the designer must ensure to maintain an aesthetically pleasing look.

A good rule of thumb is to choose and decide on a focal point in the room. Once that has been determined, it's easier to place primary elements like a sofa, tables, divan, elaborate wall art, etc... well. When these primary furniture items are in position, placing enhancing accessories around them will become easy.


Always remember that function precedes style. There is no point having or developing the most luxurious interior concept if it’s not functional enough to meet the needs of its occupants. It must be well-designed, functional, and versatile (especially small spaces), and created to be an efficient space that suits its occupants’ lifestyle.

For instance, there must be solutions to storage issues. This is one of the most important requirements in small homes and offices. A kitchen, for example, must be aesthetically pleasing as well functional and must be designed in a way that its user can work effortlessly from one function to another. 
And balconies in apartment homes can be converted to gardens. If it is too small to ‘bring the outdoors’ in, creating vertical gardens is a great option. The balcony becomes functional this way, instead of serving as dumping space for broken down bicycles and discarded appliances!

Interesting books:

Presenting a Design Concept to a Client

If you are an interior designer and you’ve created your design concept fully, you are about ready to present your idea to your client. Make sure that your packaged proposal:
  • Conveys your concept with ample 3D visuals. This way, the client knows and sees exactly what you are proposing. This makes them trust your work because they have a clear vision of what you are offering.
  • Includes descriptive statements that communicate the purpose of your interior design concept.
  • Addresses all the client’s needs, especially since they are open to your suggestions.
  • Reflects what will work best for your client while clearly explaining how something they want may not work.
These basic principles are something every professional interior designer must consider for any project to work successfully whether it is a low budget design project or a high budget one.

Each aspect must be given due recognition so that the final design will result in the creation of an interior that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but one that is versatile, functional, and calming.

Further Reading: