Islamic Interior Architecture and Environmental Design


This dissertation is concerned with an assessment of the Islamic interior design elements and principals. To start with, contemporary interior design elements and principles have been explored, with a view to aiding in a comparative assessment with those from Islam. The significance of the study at hand has also been explored, along with the objectives behind this research study, thus paving way fro potential research questions that have assisted in the collection of the necessary information. The definition of key terms, as they apply to this particular study has also been explored; in addition to an exhaustive exploration of the Islamic design elements and principles.

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There is a need to undertake research study into the area of Islamic interior design and principles, as these have been seen to have a profound impact on the present-day interior decorations of home decor and the associated furnishings of say, walls. In addition we still have some landmark Islamic architectural buildings that adorn these designs (Armstrong, 2000), and they have been seen to enhance the richness and diversity of the Islamic culture.


For close to 13 centuries, the Islamic culture has managed to employ the use of interior design concepts, such as decorations, with the result that this has made this culture to leave an indelible mark wherever is has traversed. Perhaps what is even more relevant to the topic in hand is that some of these elements and principles have had an impact on the mainstream interior design (Baer, 1998). Moreover, there exits evidence to support claims that indeed, these Islamic principles and elements are still applicable today, as can be evidenced by its existence in a number of places, such as in southern Spain (Carboni & Whitehouse, 2001).

Problem statement

Even as interior design elements and principles have been in existence for close to 13 centuries (Interior design, 2009), nevertheless, there are not many researchers who have sought to explore this area, yet these design elements have been shown to have profound impact on the current interior design principles.


  • To analyze the historical developments of Islamic Interior Design elements and principals
  • To explore the benefits associated with the utilization of Islamic Interior Design elements and principals
  • To assess the modern applications of Islamic Interior Design elements and principals

Research questions

– Are Islamic Interior Design elements and principals still applicable today?

– Do Islamic Interior Design elements and principals confer any benefits to the environment, or they are only an art and design style?

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– What elements of Interior Architecture and Environmental Design have been embraced by Islam?

Preliminary analysis of data and methodology

This dissertation shall rely on secondary data sourced from scholarly journals and books on the issue of Islamic Interior Design elements and principals. In addition, this will be more of a qualitative research study, in the sense that the study shall attempt to explore the history behind the application of Islamic interior design elements and principles, whether these are still in application today, and the various meanings that they could have, when applied to the field of interior design.

Interior Design elements and principals

Terms used to describe those elementary ideas concerning good visual design practice often times seen as the fundamentals for “unintentional visual design strategies” (Nielson & Taylor, 2007).

Environmental Design

A term that touches on the world around which we live in. environmental creating entails complex systems that have to do with visual communication, cultural meaning, and the utilization of technology, tools, and materials (Sipos, 2008).

Interior Design

This is a term used in reference to a profession that has to do with anything that is to be found situated within a given space- windows, walls, finishes, light, doors, furnishings, textures, and furniture (Pile, 2007). All the aforementioned elements finds application in interior design, and assists in the development of safe, functional, as well as space that is aesthetically pleasing, for utilization by a builder.

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Interior Architecture

This is a term used in reference to “A program that prepares individuals to apply architectural principles in the design of structural interiors for living, recreational, and business and to function as professional interior architects” (Augustin, 2009).

Interior Design elements and principals

Elements of Design

The principle design elements have been noted as line, space, form texture, shape, and color. Individually, all of these elements have been seen to contribute immensely in as far as the ultimate desirable design (which could be the interior of a home, a certain room in a home, or even a specific piece of furniture) is concerned. Space refers to that area that has been set aside for certain purposes.

In his case, such a line could consist of two dimensions (in this case, width and length) for example, a floor. Alternatively, a line could as well consist of three dimensions (height, length, and width), for instance, a dwelling, or a room (Ball, 2002). On the other hand, line could be described as a mark that is usually created courtesy of a moving point, like a brush or a pencil. It is also important to note that shapes, edges and forms have also been seen to aid in the creation of lines (Carboni & Whitehouse, 2001).

Color has been touted as one of the most significant element, in as far ads the principle of design are concerned. Not only is color used for purposes of enhancing depth illusion (for example, whereas blue colors have been seen to ‘recede into the distance’, red color, on the other hand, appears to come forward), it has also found application in draw the attentions of individuals towards certain aspects of an image in question. With respect to interior design, it may be necessary to add color with as view to enhancing such visual appeal as say, the natural colors that a wood cabinet in a room could radiate (Interior design, 2009).

Moreover, color could as well contribute towards a home décor’s visual appeal, in the same way that colored flowers are used fro purposes of adding beauty to a given field situated on a prairie. With regard to interior design and house decor, shape may be utilized for purposes of enhancing style, interest and theme to a specific design, like a door. In this case, shape, with reference to interior design, relies upon the role played by a number of objects within a room, or a hoe, such as the door to for example, a kitchen cabinet. Additionally, natural shapes with a capacity to form patterns on such materials as stone and wood might as well assist in enhancing the perceived visual appeal; with respect to the interior design within a given building (Interior design, 2009).

Texture is a term that refers to the visual feel or the feeling of for example, colors, fabrics, and the accessories within a room. In this case, texture may be said to present in two forms; texture often detected through the utilization of our five senses, and visual or tactile texture (Kilmer & Kilmer, 1992). Such texture as grass sheets that have been mounted on a given wall, or even several white pebbles that have been implanted in a wall made of concrete seek to give such h a wall a look of three dimensions. The quality that characterizes surface finishes in the interior design of homes is extremely important.

Design principles

Design refers to “the organized arrangement of one or more elements and principles (e.g. line color or texture) for a purpose”. (Pile, 2007). Some of the well known design principles include balance, unity, harmony, rhythm and contrast. Unity comes as a result of the application of repetition and balance.

For example, it is possible to unify two objects like a dining room, and the living room through way of according these related features such as a design of hardwood floor that is shared by the two. With respect to balance, this could on the basis of location of such objects within a house as windows, or the sizes and volumes of various objects. On the other hand, we could also have color balance (for example, a brightness that could be desired in a given room within a house).

There are also individuals who are on the look-out fro those colors that bring into a room a certain sense of high contrast. When we are able to strike a sensitive balance between on the one hand, unity and on the other hand, variety, then we are able to attain harmony. Harmony may also be attained when say, a drapery in the living room of a house, has the same color as a wallpaper, or a pillow. Unity and harmony result in visually appealing design that is also interesting and organized (Pile, 2007). On the other hand, contrast draws the attention of an individual to certain focal points in a room; in addition to assisting individuals to easily navigate through a dark room. In an interior design, the application of rhythm aids in the reduction of randomness.

Islamic Interior Design elements and principals

Islam continues to have a far-reaching and profound influence with respect to interior design. even as Islamic style may have absorbed a number of ideals from a multitude of cultures, nevertheless it has managed to hold on to a certain level of distinct entity, with the result that it has since left an indelible mark in a majority of the countries (Stierlin, 2001).

Since the utilization of animal and human forms has been prohibited by the Koran, in as far as the issue of decoration is concerned, the interior designers aligned to Islam sought instead to develop mosaics and geometric papers. Also calligraphy has become quite a significant motif when it comes to Islamic interior design (Stierlin, Jonathan, & Blair, 1995).

Historically, a majority of the designs that were adopted derived from gardens, both earthly and heavenly, in addition to the fact that they also found application in textiles, walls, ceramics, and carpets. Some of the recurring motifs that were also used entail geometric latticework arabesque, in addition to flamboyant portrayal of flowers and fruits. Wall hangings and furnishings were mainly made out of either velvet or silk.

To-date, Islamic design influence may very well be seen in certain parts of the world (Stierlin, 2001), such as in southern Spain and specifically, within the palace in Alhambra, located in Granada. Within this palace, the various rooms are so arranged as to form a courtyard. In addition, these rooms have also been decorated richly, though a harmonization of stucco, tiles, and filigree decoration combinations. The later were originally thought to go together with luxurious hangings and carpets.

Interior design appears to be a unifying factor when it comes to the design and architecture concepts of Islam. For close to 13 centuries now, decoration has been seen to connect objects and buildings in the entire Islamic world. According to the Islamic decoration concept, ceilings and floors play a significant role in as far as space fluidity of a room is concerned, by virtue of the nature of the ensuing decoration that these often receive.

This is because they are usually patterned in similar ways like the walls. With respect to floors, these, at times, the decorations seek to replicate carpets. According to (Stierlin, 2001), the I’timad ad-Dawla tomb that is situated in Agra, for instance, consists of a margnklew floor that has been inlaid, and which appears to have replicated the designs often used while making Mughal carpets.

For people who live in the west, the interior design concepts of Islam could seem like they are often restricted to just two dimensions, even as the Islamic design character is a depiction of three-dimensional prospects. For instance, designs that seems to intertwine, usually occurring alongside texture and color variations, helps to create an illusion of possibly divergent planes. Thanks to the application of shining and reflecting glazes and materials, designs repetition, textures that are contrasting, and planes manipulation, Islamic decorations have been seen to get complicated, intricate and splendid (Nielson & Taylor, 2002 ).

As Nielson & Taylor (2002) have noted, “Water and light are also of paramount importance to Islamic architectural decoration as they generate additional layers of patterns and — just as happens with surface decoration — they transform space” (Ball, 2002). Surface seeks to define surface, and given that interiors design articulates surface, we can therefore comprehend an intimate connection between on the one hand, Islamic interior design principles and on the other hand, space. The richness and variety of a decorations to a building, in the from of an interior design, coupled with the ensuing endless permutations, gives the desirable character to the interior of a building, as opposed o the existing structural elements, that are more often than not, easily disguised.


According to the findings of this research paper, the Islamic interior design principles and elements are somewhat complex and at the same time, intricate, in addition to the fact that they have been utilized or close to 13 decades. Evidence exists about their application today, especially in southern Spain (Ettinghausen et al, 2005), further asserting their influence on other cultures. The utilization of recurring motifs is not uncommon, given that he Koran frowns on the use of animal or human images (Kicklighter & Joan, 2005).

The utilization of such materials as silk and velvet in the from of furnishings and wall hangings have also found use in various parts of the world, a further assertion of the influence of the Islamic interior design elements and principles. A need therefore exist to further explore these elements and principals, and their associated meaning, for the role they play in adding richness to the field of interior design.


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Augustin, S. (2009). Place Advantage: Applied Psychology for Interior Architecture London: Wiley.

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Ball, V. K (2002). Opportunities In Interior Design and Decorating Careers. USA: McGraw-Hill.

Carboni, S., & Whitehouse, D. (2001). Glass of the Sultans. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Corning: Corning Museum of Glass; Athens: Benaki Museum; New Haven: Yale University Press.

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