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Mastering interior design materials: the ultimate guide

Explore the world of interior design materials with our comprehensive guide. Discover the latest trends and tips for using interior design materials effectively.

luxury hardware barbera design
Luxury hardware by Barbera Design via The Specified at Clerkenwell Design Week 2023.
Mastering interior design materials: the ultimate guide
Clara Carlino de Paz
April 8, 2024

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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.

Dear reader... If you could write everything you know about materials, would you dare to? We know we're taking on a gargantuan task, but we couldn't be more excited to delve deep into the world of architectural and design products, and how they can transform any space. From understanding the role of materials in creating a cohesive design to exploring different types of materials like natural, synthetic, and sustainable options, or even discovering how wood, metal, stone, porcelain tiles, textiles, and upcycled materials can be used to create different design themes like minimalist, industrial, rustic, and glamorous styles... This article has it all laid out for you! Are you ready to master the art of selecting the perfect interior design materials for any project?

Before we start, let us introduce ourselves. We are Portaire, a product management software that empowers designers to source, specify and schedule effortlessly. If you like this article and would like to stay in touch, subscribe to our newsletter.

Understanding the role of materials in interior design

It's hard to overstate the importance of having the right feel in the right design. The appropriate interior design material can enhance or detract from the overall aesthetic and functionality of a space – and so, choosing the right one is the art of the designer. Before we get there, let's go back to basics below.

Dark blue living room interior design
Photography by Brett Charles (@brettcharlesphoto), Design by Studio Caché

Types of interior design materials

Interior design materials refer to the various elements and substances used to create and decorate the interiors of homes, offices, and other spaces. These materials play a crucial role in shaping the beauty, use, and overall atmosphere of a space.

Within this realm, there are different types of interior design materials designers are concerned with. One one side, there's "hard materials". These include flooring materials such as hardwood, laminate, and tile; wall materials such as paint, wallpaper, and wall panels, allow for endless possibilities in terms of color and texture; furniture materials such as wood, leather, fabric, and metal; and lighting materials encompass fixtures, bulbs, and innovative lighting technologies. On the other side we have "soft materials", which include upholstery fabrics, draperies, rugs, carpets and bedding materials. Both are necessary for a balanced and comfortable design, and form part of every designers' workflow when sourcing materials.

Light wood flooring living room
Wood design by Ark One

Natural materials in interior design

Natural materials refer to elements that are derived from nature and have not undergone extensive processing or chemical treatments. These materials add a sense of warmth, authenticity, and connection to the natural world, creating a harmonious and inviting environment. With unique textures, colors, and patterns, natural materials add visual interest and depth to any room. Plus, using them promotes sustainability and reduces the environmental impact of interior design.

wood commercial space
Wood design by The Main Company

Synthetic materials for modern interiors

Synthetic materials offer a wide array of options to create sleek and modern interiors. They are not only more affordable than natural alternatives, but also durable, resistant and cleanable, making them perfect for high-traffic areas. Synthetic materials allow interior designers to achieve a variety of textures, patterns, and finishes, but of course, the sustainability of a project may be jeopardized if too many of these materials are used.

modern tap
Water tap by Dornbracht

Exploring sustainability and reclaimed materials

As interior designers strive for more sustainable practices, exploring sustainable and reclaimed materials is a great way to eco-friendly and visually appealing choices. Sustainable materials offer an excellent choice for those looking to minimize their environmental impact, while reclaimed materials bring a unique, vintage charm to any space. To learn more about eco-friendly materials, check out this article.

wooden commercial space
Reclaimed wood by The Main Company

In-depth look at popular interior design materials

Popular interior design materials have their own trends that follow cycles; just like fashion. While some materials are timeless and always remain popular, it's crucial to consider the clients' needs and the designer's style for a truly durable design. From ceramics and wallpapers to wool and copper, there is a wide range of materials to choose from. In this section, we will go through each material, and how it offers its own unique qualities. Before we go in however, remember that material choice is about creating interiors that glow with elegance and reflect the chosen colour palette; it is your's and the clients' choice on what work for the design and its objectives!

The elegance of wood in interior design

Wood, with its timeless appeal, adds a touch of sophistication to any interior design. Whether it's oak or mahogany, each type of wood offers unique textures and colors that can enhance the overall aesthetic. Its natural grain brings warmth and character to a space, making it a versatile and elegant choice for any interior design project. Here are some of our favourite wood suppliers.

Wood bedroom
Wood design by The Main Company

The versatility of metal finishes

Shiny and endlessly attractive, metal finishes offer endless possibilities in interior design, ranging from sleek and modern to vintage and industrial. This material comes in a variety of budget requirements, finishes and colours, but a few things are certain: metal is durable, long-lasting, perfect for high-traffic areas, and a great way to introduce visual interest.

luxury hardware
Bamboo grove hardware by Armac Martin

The timelessness of stone surfaces

Stone surfaces have long been prized in interior design for their timeless and elegant aesthetic. From the luxurious beauty of marble to the natural durability of granite, stone surfaces bring both style and substance to any space. In addition to their stunning appearance, stone surfaces are also low-maintenance and highly durable, making them an excellent choice for high-traffic areas.

marble backsplash
Kitchen by The Main Company

The pragmatism of porcelain tiles

Porcelain tiles offer a practical solution for interior design projects. They are highly durable, resistant to stains, scratches, and moisture. With a wide range of colors, patterns, and finishes, porcelain tiles provide versatile design options. Low-maintenance and easy to clean, they are ideal for busy areas. Whether used indoors or outdoors, they add consistency to the overall design. If you're choosing between tiles and stone surfaces, we have the perfect article for you.

traditional kitchen tile

Dyrham Dairy Ceramic by Artisans of Devizes

The comfort of textile elements

When it comes to creating a comfortable and inviting space, textile elements are your best friend. Plush fabrics and soft upholstery bring a cozy feel to any room, instantly making it more welcoming. Curtains, rugs, throw pillows, blankets, and all types of textiles offer versatility and easy customization in design.

carpet rug shop
Rug and carpet selection by Tim Page Carpets

Material selection based on design styles

Choosing materials for minimalist interiors

When it comes to choosing materials for minimalist interiors, simplicity is key. Think natural wood, glass, and metal for a clean and simple aesthetic. We recommend going for neutral colors and smooth textures, including sleek finishes like polished concrete or smooth marble. Understated patterns or plain tiles and solid-coloured fabrics can also work well in the minimalist context. Here, it's all about "less is more".

minimalist lighting
Lighting by Empty State

Material palette for industrial style spaces

Industrial style spaces are known for their use of raw, unfinished materials like exposed brick, concrete, and metal. In these spaces, reclaimed wood is a popular choice for furniture and flooring while elements like rusted metal accents and distressed leather add authenticity. Neutral color palettes with bold pops of industrial-inspired hues like black, gray, and metallics work well too. Consider incorporating industrial-style lighting fixtures such as Edison bulbs for an added touch.

industrial style lights
Pendant lights by Northern Lights

Rustic charm: materials for country and farmhouse styles

As a London-based software company, we're more than acquainted with rustic charm in interior design. In fact, we might suggest British designers are pioneering it. Looking at the commonalities in this style, we suggest the following materials for country, rustic, and farmhouse residential projects: natural stone elements, wrought iron or brushed bronze fixtures, natural fabrics like burlap or linen and finally jute or sisal rugs and woven baskets.

farmhouse kitchen
Photography by Brett Charles (@brettcharlesphoto), Design by Studio Caché

Luxury materials for glamorous designs

When it comes to creating glamorous designs, luxury materials play a crucial role; in fact, they're the "if you know, you know" components of the whole thing. If you're working for a high-end residential project, we suggest considering marble, crystal, velvet, silk, gold, metals, leather, polished wood and mirrors. The alphabet of luxury, in our eyes!

luxury lighting
Lighting design by Cameron Design House

Practical considerations in material selection

When an interior design material for your interior design project, there are several practical considerations to keep in mind...

Durability and maintenance of materials

When it comes to selecting the right house design materials, durability is key. Ensuring longevity and resistance to wear and tear is essential for materials that can withstand daily use. It's also important to consider maintenance requirements that align with your clients' lifestyle and time commitments. Opting for low-maintenance materials that are easy to clean and require minimal upkeep can save them time and effort. Evaluating factors like water resistance, stain resistance, and impact resistance will help you choose house interior design materials that can handle everyday challenges while still looking aesthetically pleasing.

Cost-effectiveness and budget considerations

When it comes to selecting interior design materials, cost-effectiveness plays a critical role. Considering budget constraints, finding a balance between cost and quality is essential. Research different options and comparing prices, and make informed decisions that allow for maximum budget utilization without compromising on design.

Material Safety and Environmental Impact

It might not be the sexiest thing to consider, but material safety and environmental impact is crucial to any and all clients. Opting for materials that are free from harmful chemicals and have low VOC emissions ensures the safety of occupants, particularly with paint and similar materials. Sustainability should also be a priority, with responsibly sourced materials that have minimal environmental impact. Additionally, choosing durable materials reduces the need for frequent replacements, while looking for materials that can be recycled or reused at the end of their lifecycle promotes sustainability.

Frequently asked questions...

What materials are used in interior design?

As we've discussed, commonly used materials in interior design include wood, metal, glass, fabric, and stone. Choosing the right material for you will depend on budget, structural needs, style and environmental impact.

What materials are currently trending in interior design?

Currently, natural materials like wood and stone are highly popular in interior design. Sustainable options, such as bamboo and reclaimed wood, are also gaining traction. Metallic finishes, particularly brass and gold, and textured materials like velvet, leather, linen and shag rugs are also up-and-coming.

How do you pick a good interior design material?

Consider the specific space's durability, functionality, and aesthetic match. Maintenance requirements and ease of cleaning should also be taken into account. Additionally, consider the cost and budget constraints when selecting interior design materials.

Which kind of interior design material looks better: natural or synthetic?

The choice between natural and synthetic materials depends on personal preference and desired aesthetic. Natural materials like wood, stone, and leather bring warmth and authenticity, while synthetic materials like laminate, vinyl, and faux fur offer durability and affordability. Mixing both, while assessing the environmental impact, creates a balance and adds visual interest to any space.

What's the future of materials in interior design?

The future of interior design building materials is moving towards sustainability and eco-friendly options, including recycled and upcycled materials. Technology advancements are enabling the development of innovative and high-performance materials. Biophilic design, incorporating natural elements, is gaining popularity.


In conclusion, mastering interior design materials is a crucial aspect of creating stunning and functional spaces. By understanding the role of different materials and their characteristics, you can make informed choices that align with your design vision. Whether you prefer natural materials for their timeless appeal or synthetic materials for their modern versatility, there are options to suit every style.

Consider the specific design themes you want to achieve and select materials accordingly, whether it's minimalist, industrial, rustic, or totally glamorous. We commend you to embrace the future of materials in interior design... And stay updated on emerging trends and innovative solutions with us.