Elements of Design: The Importance of Line

Interior design follows the basic elements of design, of which form is one. Line, shape, volume and plane are all part of form, and while it is not as splashy as some of the other elements, like color, it is very important to the success of a design scheme.

It could be said that line is at the heart of form, as it is within the other three aspects. The characteristics of line consist of horizontal, vertical, diagonal and curved lines; define shape and volume; and highlight plane. Lines can also be seen within texture (think of the defined lines in corduroy) or apparent texture (something that appears to have texture but actually doesn’t).

The use of line within interior design characterizes the style of furniture, architectural elements and accessories in a room. For example, the Shaker style is a more primitive look, using simple horizontal and vertical lines within its pieces. Art Nouveau on the other hand is more stylized, with lots of curves and graphics. Styles of architecture and furniture are defined by how lines are used. Analyzing the use of line can give you a clue to the style period of a space.

The popular transitional style we see today has been created out of applying cleaner lines to a more traditional look, which tends to have a lot of curves and architectural detailing. Designers have essentially simplified the lines that define classic design, eliminating the fussiness, while mostly staying true to the original shape. Adding an even more sleek line to these transitional designs then moves the style to modern.

We can see the affect line has on style through how it is used in edges. Part of the decision-making process behind choosing a custom countertop is the edge design. Rectilinear lines around edging lends a modern look to a space, while a curved profile, like Ogee, brings a more traditional look.

Gallery hallway

Lines can also create movement. When you have lines disappearing into perspective you may feel like you are moving forward into a space. If you were to use only vertical or horizontal lines in a design it may feel static. You can easily play with line in a space through pattern, texture and architectural detailing.

Within interior design schemes, lines can be used in the following ways:

1) Lengthen or Shorten a Space Visually. For example, if you have a long, narrow room, how you place your tile flooring can affect the appearance of the space. Running tile lengthwise can make the room look longer because the lines diminish into perspective. If you place the tile running side to side, the room will look shorter but feel wider.

2) Create Pattern. How lines are used defines a pattern. For fabrics, the patterns are limited only by the vision of the artist who is creating them. For architectural details like the placement of tile (herringbone, harlequin, or brick), the tile’s shape must be considered. You can also create pattern by repeating shapes, like placing multiple square pillows on the back of a long couch.


3) Create Softness or Playfulness. Curved lines add a soft, more feminine feel to a space, and they suggest movement. Many times when a space feels heavy, it is because the design includes only vertical and horizontal lines. By adding curves through structure (furniture and accessories) or pattern (fabrics and rugs), you can combine different types of lines and bring balance to the space.

4) Create Geometric Designs. Geometric patterns can add much needed pop to a monotone modern space. Fabrics and tiles are good ways to achieve this look.

At Hoskins Interior Design, line is one of the first considerations within our interior design schemes. We consider the style our clients are looking for—modern, traditional, masculine or feminine—and apply the lines necessary to achieve that look. We create balance or fully incorporate a style through the lines we choose. We combine different types of lines to add interest to a room. As an element of design line is so simple, yet important to take into account when creating a space. How they fill a room will greatly affect its look and feel.

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