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10 Essential Interior Design Elements for Your Home

Do you wonder what are the basic design elements you need in your home? Do you get confused when you shop if you really need a piece of furniture? Here are 10 essential interior design elements for your home – ones that well-designed rooms should have.

These interior design elements play an important role in creating living spaces that are comfortable and attractive. Regardless of your design style, these essential interior design elements will never go out of functionality.

Making impulsive furniture choices can be expensive. Whatever your home decor budget, purchasing the best items you can afford is always the best plan.

The first thing when outfitting a room is to access your needs, your budget and the important elements of your home’s interior. The needs of a living room are different from the needs of a kid’s bedroom. 

These 10 essential interior design elements for your home focus on living spaces: the areas that we live in, entertain in, and except for kitchens and bathrooms, spend most of our home interior budget on.

Your “Capsule” Wardrobe” and Your “Capsule” Home Design Elements

To give an analogy for essential home decor design elements, let me share a personal story. 

Many years ago, I worked with a wardrobe expert. She came to my house and “cleaned out” my closet. 

Then we went shopping to find my “capsule” wardrobe. It included classics like the “little black dress”, black dress slacks, a black blazer, white slacks, a classic white blouse, and pretty black pumps.

She explained that a capsule wardrobe is the basics, the “bare minimum”, if you will. The clothes that will take you through any season, stage in life, and lifestyle. I’ve always remembered her advice.

Although I’ve added many new pieces to my wardrobe since then (a lot more color, for one thing), I still have all those items because they are classic and well-made, and I always feel good when I wear them. Thank goodness I can still get into them!

Every person’s wardrobe will be different based on lifestyle, do you work outside the home, what type of job you do.

I’ve been watching Suits for three months and I drool over the clothes the ladies in the show wear – granted they are all professionals in the legal field. 

Our home decor is the same as a wardrobe. 

First of all, let me define “capsule home decor pieces”:

Capsule home decor items are the foundation pieces of your home design: 

  • They are well-made of quality materials and will last for years. 
  • They are timeless in function.
  • They are not trendy but will work with current trends.
  • They are stylish and, generally speaking, will not go out of style. 
  • They add beauty, function, and sophistication to any room. 

Different professional decorators are going to have a variety of items on their capsule home decor lists. But, for the most part, those lists will include the majority of these 10 essential pieces that everyone needs in their home.

Let me say this before I share this list. My dad always told me this: buy the best you can afford. Save up until you can purchase quality, well-made items that will last. He was right.

At the end of this post, I’ll share a Printable of this list for you to keep handy.

What You Need for Your Home: Interior Design Elements Every Home Should Have

All interior designers have their personal list of “must-haves” for room design. I’ve garnered this list from my experience working with more than one professional interior designer over the years, interior design books and my own experience outfitting multiple homes.

You’ll also notice that this list isn’t about a color scheme or style (modern design, traditional, mid-century, etc.) It’s not about filling up empty space. These key elements of interior design are what create a beautiful home that is livable and functional.

NOTE: The images below are either from our home, stock images, or from the Internet. I’ve given credit where due. They are meant as examples of the item.

1.  Custom Wool Rug

A classic wool rug will last for years. I’ve bought inexpensive rugs made of man-made fibers. When they needed to be cleaned, the carpet cleaners won’t touch them because they won’t withstand the cleaning process. (I have such a rug in our dining room right now.) 

We recently ordered a 100% wool rug to our size specifications for our living room and new seating area. It’s classic, will never go out of style, and can withstand traffic. It’s a higher pile and is big enough to group our furniture on.

beige wool rug

2.  Wood Chest of Drawers/Dresser

Another classic piece that is functional and provides plenty of storage. For clarity’s sake, a dresser is usually wide and short (think horizontal lines), while a chest of drawers is narrow and tall (think vertical lines). I’ll use the term “dresser” for both pieces of furniture.

Dressers can be used in an entry, family room, living room, or bedroom. 

Make sure your piece is high-quality solid wood and has well-made metal hardware.

We have two antique pieces: the one in our entry stores china and silver; another in our bedroom serves as my nightstand and clothes storage. Each of our guest rooms has a vintage chest of drawers. All are beautiful pieces that will last much longer than we will.

3.  Statement Lamps

Natural light is every room’s desire, but every room needs artificial light for functionality.

A lamp that makes a bold visual statement is one of the most important essential decorative items. Lamps can become focal points. Use a cream linen shade for a lamp that will pass the test of time. 

We recently bought two lamps for our living room that provide classic style, color, and pattern. They have literally changed the ambiance of the room – it now has a more sophisticated feel to it. I can’t imagine ever tiring of them.

living room sofa and table

I found the lamps at an antique mall here in Dallas.

blue lamp

A reader let me know that the same lamps are available online.

4.  An Overscale Mirror

Mirrors add character to any space and bounce light around a room. Whether it sits on the floor or above a console or dresser, a statement mirror will become a focal point. Find one with a unique frame or shape.

oversized mirror with gold trim and planter of white tulips and chair

5.  Stone Accessories

Decorative pieces in onyx, alabaster, or marble are timeless. They can be antique or modern. You can mix the two styles because neither will go out of style. I have a couple of small stone accessory pieces that have great character.

6.  Statement Side Chair 

A side chair can be in a classic or modern style. It should be well-made of wood, have beautiful fabric, and have clean lines. And these days, swivel chairs combine style and functionality. 

two modern side chairs in front of a large mirror

Our most classic chairs are the three Bergère chairs in our living room. Two of the chairs match (technically, they are fauteuil chairs*) and are in our new seating area. I plan to refinish the color of the wood.

The other one belonged to my parents and had been in a guest room for years. It’s the only piece of furniture from my parents that I have. We recently brought it downstairs to the living room and it is perfect in its new spot. I hope my kids will want them.

*Both the fauteuil and Bergère chairs are upholstered furniture designed for comfort. The main difference between these two chairs is in the arms. The fauteuil chair features open arms on its sides. The Bergère has closed panels between its arms and seat.

We recently reupholstered the Bergère chair and it is truly a beautiful piece of furniture.

blue chair with wood accents

We recently added swivel chairs to our living room. The style is a classic soft barrel and the fabric is high-performance. They have added more “livability” to our main living space. 

We also love our new swivel chairs for their comfort and functionality. The side table from Wayfair. I painted the base of the table for a more custom look.

white swivel chairs and blue and white painted table

7.  Original Art

Art evokes emotion. Art provides a focal point, color, pattern, and texture to our living spaces. Good art doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should project quality. Find pieces that you love. Invest in the best pieces you can afford.

This piece of abstract art above our mantel becomes a major focal point in the living room. It was not expensive (purchased from an artist on Etsy), but it has the look and size of an original.

modern abstract painting in bright colors on white mantel
canvas painting from Etsy, blue and white vases from Ballard Design, candlesticks from vintage store

8.  Handmade Ceramics

Vases, vessels, and sculptures are the decorative pieces that add interest to our rooms. If you can afford pieces by artisans from Italy or Portugal, then do so. If not, search for pieces that are well-made, have interesting shapes, and are enjoyable to look at. I love the vintage ceramic vases and sculptures that I have found over the years.

blue ceramic planter with a plant in a modern style
courtesy of Anthropologie

9.  Classic Sofa

A sofa may be one of the most expensive pieces you buy. It is also a piece that demands quality materials and construction. A cheaply made sofa will not last, but a well-made one will last for years.

The style should have clean lines and good proportions. Use high-performance fabrics for long-lasting enjoyment. And your sofa must be comfortable.

Here is our new custom-made sofa. A designer at NFM in Dallas helped us find the sofa and helped us customize it with fabric, wood-tone legs, and cushion style. It took nine months to arrive, but was well worth the wait.

10.  Coffee Table

A coffee table provides function and a design aesthetic. Regardless of the materials (wood, metal, stone, glass, lucite), look for quality construction. The shape and scale should be appropriate for the space.

A coffee table is one capsule piece that can have a unique shape, but rectangle, square, and round will always be in style.

brass and glass coffee table styled with accessories

Do you have to limit your basic interior elements to just these pieces? No, but your home would be lovely and fully functional if you do. 

A couple of things that aren’t mentioned are bookcases, window treatments and side tables. I’ve been looking for a drinks table to sit by our newly upholstered Bergere chair for a couple of months. Is it a requirement for our comfort? No, but it will add some functionality for the person sitting in the Bergere chair. 

How many of these capsule pieces do you have?

I counted and I think I have all 10 basic items. It’s taken many years of collecting and curating to gather them.

This side of our living room has several basic capsule pieces.

white sofa with coffee table, lamps and ceramics

Finding and purchasing capsule pieces for your home is not like a “big reveal” that happens overnight from the big box stores. It’s a labor of love and discernment over time.

Would you like a Pretty Printable for your home decor files? Get these 10 Essential Capsule Elements for Your Home.

10 essential design elements for your home graphic

Here are other home decor helpful posts:

collage of home decor ideas for lamps, art, wall arrangement, and mirror

I hope that you learned something new from this list of essential interior design elements. Be sure to PIN it to save the guidelines.

pin for later graphic in blue
collage of essential design elements
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