How to Use Progression in Interior Design - post image background.

How to Use Progression in Interior Design

Rhythm is evident throughout nature and the man-made environment, through key principles such as repetition, alternation and progression. These fundamentals can be applied to interior design as a way to introduce order, interest and focus while guiding the line of sight through a space.

Progression is a fairly simple element of the principle of rhythm and can be implemented through the gradation of colour, size, shape and light. In this guide, we’ll look at how to use progression in interior design to improve a space.

As with music, rhythm in design creates flowing patterns and incorporating these mechanisms into a design will help to create a sense of movement. Progression guides the eye from one end of the space to the other, creating a subtle rhythm that draws the eye up and down the gradation.

Utilising Progression in Interior Design

Using progression in interior design is one simple yet effective way of bringing rhythm to a space. It is achieved through increasing or decreasing one or more qualities of a design element, such as the size of objects, or the play of light and colour. In this guide we’ll explore the three key areas of progression further:


Progession in interior designThe objects on the dining and console tables, as well as the lights, all express progression through their varying sizes | Designed by Christophe Delcourt for © Minotti London

The most obvious implementation of progression is through grading design elements by size. This not only adds rhythm to the space but can also create a sense of depth when used in certain ways, such as:

  • Nesting tables of differing sizes are a great example of progression.
  • Cushions of different sizes and heights arranged on a sofa will work to draw the eye and act as an open and inviting space for one to sit.
  • Candles are a quick and easy route to achieve progression and a cluster of different sized candles on a tray will create naturally interesting progression. One could also use other decorative items such as seashells or objets d’art.
  • Progressing furnishings from smaller to larger as one moves around a space.
  • A series of similar but varied sizes of vases in a hallway will create interest.
  • Stairs offer an intrinsic level of progression, with the increasing or decreasing height of the steps allowing the eye to move seamlessly between levels.


Progression in interior design coloursWhile it’s not quite ombré, there is a defined progression of light to dark from the top to bottom of this living area | Designed by Rodolfo Dordoni for © Minotti London

Implementing progression through the gradation of colour through space creates a harmonious yet interesting aesthetic. Colour progression adds interest and movement to a shape and a gradation from dark to light will draw the eye along that shape as it seeks to discover the next elements in the colour gradation spectrum.

Using a sitting room as an example, one could use light shades of the chosen colour on the walls and cupboards, medium shades for the curtains and artwork, darker shades for the sofa and cushions, and the darkest tones on the floor rug, armchairs and decorative objects.

One may also use colour tones to guide one through the space, employing welcoming light colours at the entrance and darker tones as one further enters a space.

The ombré trend, where colours progress from light to dark, and can be used on walls whether through paint, wallpaper or wall dressings such as tiles or panelling. In a space with a low or standard ceiling, the darkest shades should be at the bottom to visually increase the height of the space.

Where the ceiling is higher 3.5m, one can experiment with the colour progression in any direction. Ombré can also be used on textiles, such as light window dressings in silk, linen, cotton and organza. They will look even lighter and airier with a subtle colour gradient.


Progression in interior design with natural lightThis bedroom has been designed to allow natural light to flow a certain way through the space, casting specific shadows and manipulating a stunning progression effect | Designed by Rodolfo Dordoni for © Minotti London

Creating progression through lighting can bring new energy to an interior. Lighting can be used to create depth, height and cosy spots and draw attention to impressive features.

Progressive lighting creates visual stimulation – we’re drawn to the brightest point in the room, so lighting can be used to accentuate specific features such as the centre of a dining table. A bright entrance can lead to a dimmer, cosier living room, pulling one into the sanctuary.

Use of light and shade can provide comfort, but can also be dramatic and atmospheric. Highlighting an artwork on a wall with a picture light is an example of progression – one’s eye is drawn to the painting by the increasingly bright light in contrast to the darker surroundings.

Clever lighting can also be used to enhance progression in other elements of design, such as stairs, columns or picture frames. Architectural lighting can be used outside, to draw the eye beyond the glass of a living space into the outdoor space, adding depth.

Conclusion: Progression in Interior Design

In this guide, we’ve looked more closely at the principle of progression as a way to bring rhythm to an interior and add a unique touch to a design. As discussed, three of the easiest and most effective ways to utilise progression in interior design are:

  • Objects: Decreasing or increasing the size of elements
  • Colour: Showing progression through the gradation of colour
  • Light: Using clever lighting to demonstrate progression throughout a space

Employing these techniques will achieve a nice rhythm to a design while introducing order, interest and focus. This can range from making an obvious suggestion about the path of travel through a space, or more subtly encouraging the eye to move about a space without the user even noticing the rhythm there.

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