Back to Journal

Fact Check: 10 Myths + Truths About Interior Design

Facts interior design: the search that will get you far in today's exclusive, expert-led article.

facts interior design
Interior Design by Maddux Creative
Fact Check: 10 Myths + Truths About Interior Design
Clara Carlino de Paz
November 28, 2023

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
This article was originally posted on Making Space, a Substack penned by our Cofounder, Matteo Grand. Subscribe below to receive more content just like this.

In the glamorous and pragmatic world of interior design, there are a lot of misconceptions and myths floating around. From the belief that no formal education is required to the idea that interior design is all about aesthetics, it's important to separate fact from fiction. In this article, we will raise 10 facts and myths about the industry, to set the record straight. Enter with us a the museum of interior design... This way please.

What are 5 facts about interior design?

Quick-fire, TLDR. Degrees are good but not needed. There is no such thing as "forever" good taste, things change. Contrast is the most important factor in a design. Lighting must be layered (one is not enough!). And finally, technology is changing the industry.

Myth 1: Anyone can be an Interior Designer

One of the biggest myths surrounding interior design is the notion that no formal education or talent is required. Check out any depiction of an interior designer in media (Business of Home has a fabulous article about it), and you'll find the stereotype clear as day. A privileged person (more likely than not, a woman) with good taste (and too much disposable income) helps out their friends redecorate their houses with five throw pillows and a tub of white paint. As many of you know, the reality couldn't be further away from the truth.

Interior design is a complex field that requires a deep understanding of design principles, building codes, materials, and industry standards. More often than not, formal education in interior design exposes designers to design history, architectural theory, sustainable practices, and environmental psychology. It provides designers with essential technical, conceptual, and design skills. For instance, learning how to use CAD, or how to create a hospitality design that is sustainable, is something worth being educated on in a more formal setting.

Higher education, or even an interior design qualification, offers in-depth knowledge of spatial design, lighting, and environmental design principles that will help take a person's residential design to a different level. A degree in interior design not only provides designers with a foundation of knowledge, but it also helps them develop a portfolio and network with industry professionals. Fact 1: It takes much more than a degree to be an incredible designer

facts interior design

Fact 1: It takes much more than a degree to be an incredible designer

While a degree or assortment of certifications in interior design is a great way to start one's career as an interior designer, it is not the only thing that interiors firms are looking for. The world of interior design is multifaceted, demanding a fusion of creativity, practical knowledge, and a keen eye for detail.

Beyond the walls of academia, the realm of interiors asks individuals to delve deeper into the nuances that textbooks often fail to capture. Practical experience, gained through internships, mentorships, or real-world projects, serves as a crucial supplement to theoretical learning. It is within these immersive environments that designers encounter the complexities of client dynamics, project management, and the interplay between concept and execution, refining their abilities far beyond what any classroom can offer.

Moreover, the essence of creativity extends beyond the confines of a specific discipline. A great designer doesn't just focus on aesthetics but comprehends the intricate relationship between functionality, sustainability, and user experience. Modern interior designers are graphic designers, industrial designers, social media stars, project managers, contractors... And much more. An Associate’s degree can't show the extent of talent and discipline required by the interior design industry.

Also, design firms today are seeking individuals who possess not only technical expertise but also a holistic understanding of the industry's evolving landscape. Adaptability, communication skills, and the ability to collaborate seamlessly with multidisciplinary teams are qualities that transcend formal education. The modern designer is an amalgamation of a thinker, a problem-solver, an artist, and a storyteller—a role that necessitates a blend of innate talent honed through continuous learning and exposure to diverse perspectives.Myth 2: Interior Design is only about aesthetics

facts interior design

Myth 2: Interior Design is only about aesthetics

The myth that interior design is only concerned with aesthetics oversimplifies the multifaceted nature of this dynamic field. Yes, creating beautiful spaces is key. However, reducing interiors to mere aesthetics undermines its broader impact on functionality, human experience, and the overall well-being of occupants.

Interior designers are not just decorators; they are strategic thinkers who navigate the delicate balance between form and function. Beyond selecting colour palettes and furniture, they must address spatial layouts, traffic flow, and ergonomic considerations. Interiors, in this context, becomes a holistic endeavor that seamlessly integrates beauty with practicality. A well-designed space not only looks good but also enhances the quality of life for those who inhabit it.

Moreover, the role of interior designers extends far beyond choosing the right curtains or arranging furniture. They are problem-solvers who assess the unique needs and challenges of a space, whether it be a home, office, or public environment. Accessibility, sustainability, and technological integration are just a few of the complex factors that designers must navigate to ensure their creations align with the evolving demands of contemporary living.

facts interior design

Fact 2: Aesthetics are dynamic, evolving through the ages

Aesthetic preferences are not static; they evolve over time, reflecting shifts in culture, technology, and societal values. What is considered visually pleasing or stylish in one era may undergo a complete transformation in the next. This dynamism in aesthetics is a fundamental reality that designers must embrace and navigate, acknowledging the fluid nature of beauty in the design landscape.

As the history of interior design shows us, each epoch has witnessed distinctive aesthetic movements that leave an indelible mark on the design ethos of the time. Whether it be the opulence of the Baroque period, the clean lines of the mid-century modern era, or the minimalist trends of contemporary design and Architectural Digest features, aesthetics serve as a visual language that communicates the prevailing sensibilities of a society. Recognizing and adapting to these evolving tastes is crucial for designers seeking to create spaces and interior design styles that resonate with their intended audience.
Myth 3: Dark Colours Make Spaces Look Smaller

facts interior design
Bespoke furniture by Hyde House

Myth 3: Dark colours make spaces look smaller

One of the most common myths is that dark colours make spaces look smaller. However, this is not always the case. Dark colours can actually create depth, drama and contrast in a room, making it appear larger than it is.

Light colours, on the other hand, can make a room look brighter (of course!), but they can also highlight imperfections in the space. For example, if a space has little natural light, bright colours will emphasise dark shadows, making the room seem greyer rather than brighther.

Using the right amount of dark colours can add sophistication to a room, creating a visually appealing design. For an example of this in action, check out our interview with Naomi Astley Clarke. Her interior decorating style is dark, but also offers a fresh look into blacks, blues and lesser common patterns.

facts interior design
Design by Naomi Astley Clarke

Fact 3: Contrast is the most important determinant of space perception

While colour, texture, and form all play significant roles, it is the interplay of differences—light versus dark, rough versus smooth, large versus small—that truly defines the visual dynamics of a space. Contrast serves as the cornerstone of spatial perception, shaping the way individuals experience and navigate their surroundings.

One of the most immediate ways contrast asserts its importance is through the manipulation of light and shadow. Illumination disparities can create depth, emphasizing architectural features and guiding the eye through a space.

Colour contrast is another tool in the designer's arsenal. Bold differences in colour can delineate zones within a space, highlight focal points, and evoke specific emotions. The use of complementary or contrasting colour schemes can also transform a room, infusing it with energy, warmth, or serenity, depending on the desired effect.

Texture, too, becomes a means of introducing variety and interest. The juxtaposition of smooth and rough surfaces, soft and hard materials, adds tactile contrast that engages the senses. Beyond the visual, this textural interplay influences how individuals physically experience and interact with the elements within a space.

Scale and proportion, when manipulated deliberately, contribute to the overall contrast within a room. A mix of large and small elements creates a dynamic visual rhythm, preventing monotony and inviting exploration. The contrast in scale can draw attention to key features, creating a sense of hierarchy and visual interest.

facts interior design
Design by Studio Caché

Myth 4: One central light is enough for a room

A common misconception in interior design is the belief that a single central light source is sufficient to illuminate a room adequately. While a central fixture serves as a focal point and provides general ambient lighting, relying solely on it often results in poorly lit areas, shadows, and a lack of visual interest. The truth is that a well-designed lighting plan involves a thoughtful combination of various lighting sources to enhance functionality, create ambiance, and highlight the architectural features of a space. Now on to that...

facts interior design
Design by Maddux Creative

Fact 4: Good lighting design must be layered and balanced

The essence of effective lighting lies in its ability to be both layered and balanced, creating a harmonious interplay between different lighting elements. A well-lit space goes beyond the mere provision of illumination; it considers functionality, aesthetics, and mood. Layered and balanced lighting design involves the thoughtful integration of various lighting sources to enhance the visual appeal, functionality, and ambiance of a room.

The foundational layer of lighting, ambient lighting provides overall illumination to create a comfortable and well-lit environment. This can be achieved through central fixtures, recessed lighting, or wall-mounted fixtures. The aim is to ensure that the entire space is evenly lit without harsh shadows.

Addressing specific activities, task lighting focuses on providing concentrated light in areas where detailed work is performed. Examples include desk lamps, under-cabinet lighting in kitchens, and reading lights. Task lighting enhances functionality by preventing eyestrain and creating optimal conditions for various tasks.

Adding a layer of visual interest, accent lighting highlights specific elements within a space. This can include spotlights on artwork, track lighting on architectural features, or wall sconces to accentuate textures. Accent lighting contributes to the aesthetics of a room and draws attention to focal points.

Finally, integrating natural light is a crucial aspect of balanced lighting design. It not only reduces the need for artificial lighting during the day but also brings a dynamic and ever-changing element to the space. Consideration of window placement, treatments, and the use of reflective surfaces can optimize the benefits of natural light.

facts interior design
Design by Pernille Lind Studio

Myth 5: All furniture has to match

The idea that furniture must match perfectly to be cohesive is, in our opinion, passé and closed-minded. The truth is that achieving harmony in a room does not necessitate uniformity in furniture styles, colours, or materials. Embracing diversity and mixing different elements can often result in a more intriguing, dynamic, and personalized interior free of that "straight out of the catalogue" feel. Developing one's own style, in which contemporary interiors trends, different moods and natural materials coexist, gives rise to a much more eclectic and exciting type of design.

facts interior design
Design by Naomi Astley Clarke

Fact 5: Technology is changing the interior design industry

Technology is reshaping traditional practices and opening new frontiers for creativity and efficiency. The integration of advanced technologies has become a fundamental aspect of the creative process, influencing everything from conceptualization to implementation. Interior spaces have become the new frontier for technology, and we're already starting to see what it can do.

One significant impact of technology is evident in the realm of design visualization. Digital tools and software enable designers to create realistic 3D models and virtual renderings, providing clients with immersive previews of their spaces. This not only enhances communication between designers and clients but also facilitates more informed decision-making throughout the design services journey.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies have revolutionized the way designers and clients experience home renovation concepts. These immersive technologies allow users to virtually walk through spaces, interact with elements, and visualize floorplan changes in real time. Such tools bridge the gap between imagination and reality, offering a more interactive and personalized project experience.

Finally, product discovery softwares have also been transforming the industry. For example, Portaire is a free, curated directory with 40,000+ products. There, designers can discover new vetted suppliers and elevate their designs. You can join for free, today.  

facts interior design
Join Portaire for free


We hope you enjoyed this article, and gained a different perspective on the life of an interior designer. Beyond being an interior decorator, this role encompasses so much; satisfying homeowners and sustainable design principles,  abiding by any national council requirements, sourcing the best accessories, furnishings and decorations, and of course, providing durable design solutions that have a profound psychological effect on the inhabitants of a home. For more professional interior design content, subscribe to our newsletter. "Facts interior design", covered.