10 Principles for the Design of Interiors

FCBStudios partner Tom Jarman identifies ten principles for the successful design of interiors.

Copyright Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Architecture, for me as a child, was set slightly apart. It was something you went to rather than something you inhabited. In an attempt to set out what makes for good architecture, I have come up with ten principles, many of which seem obvious, which underpin those aspects that one should consider when designing an interior.

1. Materiality

Try to use materials as they are, for a purpose to which they are naturally (but not necessarily obviously) suited. Fakery is ultimately disappointing and flimsiness is worse, though embellishment and decoration can be enriching.

2. Purpose

All elements of an interior must play a part in and support the activity anticipated for the space. Conversely, if the activity is indeterminate or subject to change, loose fit is good.

3. Interaction of Parts

Each component part interacts with another, and complementarity and contrast are powerful ways to articulate form in space. If it’s an existing interior find a complementary interaction and tune in carefully…

4. Sensory Environment

Develop strategies to manage light, air, sound and touch, understanding the technical and psychological components for each.  Use tools to control the environment in a purposeful manner to reinforce the other principles identified.

5. Orientation

Understand the potential of spatial/volumetric interactions and visual cues to indicate, orient and guide.

6. Composition

A series of spaces that are not immediately clear can be more intriguing. Capitalise on possibilities for volumetric interlocking and complexity, when it serves the activity to do so.

7. Analogy

Recognise the value of analogy in creating a cohesive thematic thread. Precedents of barns, caves, castles, quarries, forests all speak to us in different ways and have powerful atmospheres that can be a useful point of departure.

8. Typology

Learn from the best examples and recognise that you don’t need to start from scratch. Others have been here before us and we can learn from them.

9. Look outside

Distil elegant and meaningful interactions with the immediate context. Work out the nature of the interaction you want to achieve and develop it thoroughly.

10. Really look outside

Some of the most valuable insights come from beyond the architectural profession: from art and design, but also science, technology and the humanities. Read widely and let it interact openly and freely with your creative output.

Tom Jarman

This essay is part of the St Catherine’s Papers, and was originally presented as a short talk at the Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios 2017 Awayday.  

A full programme of talks can be seen here.

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1. Little Moreton Hall, Long Gallery, Sussex © Richard Croft

2. Double height central hall space in which all life takes place. Bayleaf Farmhouse, Wealden Downland Museum, West Sussex. ©  Angus Kirk 

3. Hamar Museum, Sverre Fehn © Flemming Ibsen

4. National Portrait Gallery – note the green walls © Herry Lawford

5. New Art Gallery Walsall, Caruso St John – The Garman Ryan Collection, The New Art Gallery Walsall © George Benson, Stereographic, courtesy of New Art Gallery Walsall

6. Oslo City Hall © Oslo City Hall 

7. St Paul’s, Bow Common, Robert Maguire and Keith Murray © Steve Cadman