Introduction to Line in Interior Design
• Horizontal Lines: Weighty, secure, restful, stabilizing.
Vertical lines lift the eye upward and make windows, and sometimes, entire interiors, appear taller or higher. They have the ability to lift the mind and the spirit as well. As such, vertical lines are purposeful tools for architects and designers of churches and public buildings because they inspire awe and tend to diminish the significance of human scale. Vertical lines convey a feeling of strength and dignity and are quite appropriate in formal dining rooms, entryways and formal living areas, as well as offices and public meeting and performing spaces. However, this formality can bring stiffness or a commanding feeling to the interior. Too many vertical lines can cause a feeling of uneasiness and too much confinement.
• Diagonal Lines: Action, movement, interest, angular stability.
Diagonal lines are flexible because their exact direction may vary from shallow to steep angles. Diagonal lines generally suggest movement, action or dynamism, perhaps because diagonal lines are associated with going places—up or down a staircase or escalator, the taking off or landing of an airplane, for example. Interest is usually sustained longer with diagonal lines than with horizontal or vertical lines, possibly because the angles seem to defy gravity and the eye and mind are stimulated. Yet diagonal lines also can be secure, such as the reinforcing diagonals of a roof truss system.
Too many diagonal lines can be over stimulating and compete with horizontal or vertical lines.
• Zigzag Lines: Exciting, lively, rhythmic movement.
Zigzag lines are short diagonal lines that reverse upon themselves and form a regular or irregular pattern. A zigzag line can be one single line or several in a set. A set of regular zigzag lines is called a chevron or herringbone pattern, and irregular zigzag lines are typically called a flamestitch pattern. Angular zigzag lines can add energy and life to an interior. If too many zigzag lines are incorporated, however, the effect can be frenzied and agitating.
• Curved or Circular Lines: Soft, humanizing, repetitive tempo, gracefulness.
Curved or circular lines provide relief and softness to straight and angular lines and balance the harshness of too many straight lines. Curved lines give a human quality to interiors; they can be easy on the eyes and pleasing to view. A series of curved lines, such as an arcade (a procession of arches), gives a rhythmic cadence to an interior, suggesting graceful movement. In architectural components, round or elliptical segments (sections of circles or ovals), such as archways and arched transoms or fanlights, provide graceful dignity to interiors. Generously curved lines are viewed as feminine. An excess of curved lines may become too decorative and consequently, a little overpowering.
• Flowing Lines: Gentle movement, growth, linear development.
Flowing lines are irregularly curved lines that move gently in a random or spiralling manner. Flowing lines may be seen in large interior trees or climbing vines, in spiral or curved staircases, or in the lines of fine Oriental rugs, for example. Inspiration may be taken from the graceful and curved forms of growing and changing live plant forms. As we are never certain where the line will end, flowing lines can provide a great deal of interest.
Tightly curved or busy lines are most often seen in textiles and in wall and floor coverings as complicated patterns that are lively, busy or active. Tightly curved lines can add frivolity and fun to interiors. Complicated tightly curved compositions, such as those in vivid floral fabric, in area rugs or wall coverings, add life and may be visually stimulating and aesthetically satisfying. As such, busy lines may save interiors from becoming dull or boring, yet control over the quality of the design is imperative. Colours and contrasts that are bold or feature too much obvious pattern might prove displeasing and detract from the harmony of the interior.
COMBINING AND BALANCING LINES
Every interior uses lines in combination, yet often one line will be planned to dominate in order to accomplish a desired effect. Vertical and horizontal lines form the structural or architectural foundation for a building.
Angular and curved lines are used for interest, movement, relief and to humanize an interior space.