The seven elements of interior design: Line

This series on the Pooky blog looks at the seven elements of interior design: space, texture, line, form, colour, pattern, and, of course, light. In the third post we look at line, and how the verticals, horizontals, the straight lines and the curved, can frame and make a space...

It is tempting to think of line as the simplest element of interior design but, as we discovered when we started to look more closely, line is fundamental to the harmony, visual appeal, and ambience of a room or space. We overlook the importance of line at our peril but, thankfully, by following some basic principles we can get it right – and that makes all the difference. 

What’s more, once we start paying particular attention to line, it’s impossible to ignore it. Just think of the impact of the soaring upward lines of cathedrals and other ancient buildings. Awe inspiring or what? Cathedral architects understood a thing or two about how line works…

Photo by Gregory Hayes via creative commons.

So join us on a short exploration of line in interior design, its different forms and how they work, and how to make the most of line in your home. To help you, we’ve also put together a collection of Pooky lighting that illustrates the finer points of line.

Let’s talk about lines

astman taylor booksIf “books do furnish a room“, full-length bookcases make ceilings seem loftier. Room by Astman TaylorImage credit.

One of the first things that children learn to draw is a house, with nice straight lines and when we visualise a line, it’s probably a straight one. There is, of course, more to line than straightness and, in terms of interior design, different types of line work in different ways. 

Lines can act as a focal point or be used to add a sense of height or width to a room. They can bring a sense of order to a space, create interest, soften the overall look of a room, or bring an injection of energy.

Straight lines – to start and end your day 

bedroom lineThis bedroom makes a feature of straight lines.Photo by Chastity Cortijo via creative commons

Straight lines have an orderliness about them; they’re strong and solid, reassuring and calming, so they are often a first choice for bedrooms and bathrooms.

Horizontal lines for calmness – with added width

A horizontal row of low upholstered seating stress the width of this space by Anna Haines. Photo: Andrew Steel

If you want to maximise the calming effect of straight lines, go for the horizontal, as they enhance a sense of harmony. But they also make spaces seem wider so if you want to make a small narrow space (or any space) seem larger, opt for horizontal lines for wallpaper and furniture. Add wide shelving, framed photographs or artwork, and square or rectangular mirrors. However, if you are stuck with low ceilings, such as the kind you find in many cottages, you might want to ease up on the horizontal lines as they will make a ceiling seem lower.

Now that so many of us work from home, it’s worth giving some thought to making line work for you; if you need a quiet, calm environment, stick with horizontal lines. 

Vertical lines for strength – with added height

number 8 project dexterTall stools beneath Pooky's deep-hanging Dexter pendants lights create a strong vertical in this kitchen by Tamsin Leech-Griffiths. Image: No8Project.

Did you know that there is a school of thought that looking at vertical lines is an unnatural process for our eyes, in comparison with looking at horizontal lines. But don’t be put off by unnatural processes, they have their uses! Our eyes follow vertical lines upwards; vertical lines make walls, ceilings and windows seem higher. 

The Regency period favoured vertical stripes, making Georgian rooms seem even loftier than they were. Those soaring sash or full-length windows helped too. But to return to our low-ceilinged cottage, vertical lines, such as full-length curtains and tapering floor lamps, will help make that ceiling feel a little higher than it is.

Diagonal lines – to liven up a space

Traditional parquet flooring in diagonal lines. Photo by DDP via creative commons

Diagonal lines always create a sense of surprise, whether they’re on the floor, on the walls or on furnishings; they are just the thing if you want to bring some energy into a room.

So diagonal lines are at their most effective in spaces that are busy and active, such as kitchens, sitting rooms or children’s dens or playrooms.Take a look at the way designer, Amechi Mandi uses diagonal lines and geometric shapes to great effect.

However, as in life, too much of a good thing can sometimes be, well, just too much, so use diagonal lines judiciously, to maximise their impact.

Zigzag lines – for movement and action

zigzag table

The metal zigzags of this occasional table lend a dramatic feature to an otherwise simple, unshowy interior. Photo by Bruno van der Kraan via creative commons  

Zigzag lines, aka chevrons, will liven up a space wonderfully. They’re sharp edged, youthful and lively, so it’s not surprising that they were very popular in the 1960s, featuring frequently on furniture, wallpaper and floor coverings. Children love them, so zigzags can be a great feature in bedrooms and playrooms but, as with diagonal lines, don’t go overboard; too many zigzags, particularly in a small space, can be headache-inducing.

Circular lines – for balance and harmony

fiona parke tableDesigner Fiona Parke makes brilliant use of circles and semi-circles along with chevrons of Pooky's Ikat lampshades on Artur table lamps.
Photo by Alexis Hamilton.

One way to soften not only the drama of zigzags and diagonals but also to balance the effect of straight lines is to introduce one or more circles into a room. You can do this with circular rugs or cushions, circular patterned textiles or wallpaper, with circular accessories such as vases or mirrors, and in particular, with lamps, shades and light fittings. 


Curved lines – go with the flow

bulbus pendantA large curved bath brings balance to the functional straight lines of this bathroom, featuring Pooky's Bulbus pendant.

 As with circular lines, curved lines are associated with softness and gentle movement: think spirals or staircases—if your house has a half-landing, you get bonus curved line points. Spiral-patterned wallpaper can also add curved lines to an area; that sense of gentle movement can offset any rigidity created by straight lines.

Curved lines can also make a cramped or narrow space seem larger so think about introducing them, in some way, into hallways, landings, or box rooms.

Chairs with curved lines make the most of a small dining space. Photo by Jake Goossen via creative commons.

Line up the lighting

If your interior design plans are on the right lines (sorry!), you’ll want to ensure that your lighting choices work equally well. We put a lot of thought into the use of line in our range of lamps, shades and fittings—and our accessories—from straight to curved and every type of line between.Albert floor lampAlbert floor lamp 

There’s an echo of Art Deco and a hint of mid-century modern about Pooky’s fine upstanding Albert floor lamp in antique brass. There’s a solid helping of Portuguese flair too, courtesy of Jorge in Porto, with whom we designed Albert; it took three attempts to get the proportions exactly right but we are more than happy with the end result. Not only do Albert’s vertical lines offer a stylish focal point but set into the curve of a staircase, as they are here, they also make us look upwards.


Walter rechargeable table lamp

Squares give you the best of both straight-line worlds—horizontal and vertical—and make our Walter table lamp highly versatile. It wears its antiqued brass squareness proudly but it’s also rechargeable and dimmable, so it’s practical too; you really can take Walter just about anywhere. Walter is where classical lines meet 21st century technology.

roddyRoddy table lamp 

Our Roddy table lamp goes one step further, with triple lines: straight verticals, curved and circular.  It is another of our lamps that harks back to the Art Deco period, while remaining thoroughly modern. Roddy is something of a showstopper, combining brass with sparkling glass rods.

If you are looking for the ideal circular shape, with no distractions, you can’t beat Pooky’s drum lampshades in a block colour, from strong and dramatic like this one in emerald dupion silk, to neutrals such as ivory or pewter (as on the Roddy above). 

ocean maps shade

45cm straight empire shade in Ocean Maps hand painted card


There’s something very pleasing about a hand-painted shade, not least when it comes in the form of a zigzag pattern, as it does in the Ocean Maps version of our straight empire shade. Satisfyingly geometrical but with tiny imperfections in the paintwork, thanks to the human touch. 

chichi mirrorPooky's Chichi mirror and Rattle table lamp

 Finally, away from lighting, mirrors are a great way to bring the particular lines you want - straight, horizontal, vertical, curved or circular - into a room. Browse Pooky's mirror range here.


Pooky makes beautiful, affordable designer lighting for beautiful rooms. Browse our full range of lamps, shades and more.


See also:

The Seven Elements of Interior Design: Space
The Seven Elements of Interior Design: Texture

Picture top: Pooky's Melvillous chandelier accentuating the verticals in this sitting room designed by Diana CivilPhoto: Max Attenborough