Sight Lines in Interior Design and why it is vitally important


Every great design needs to take sight lines into account. Image credit: Emerick Architects

So what exactly are sight lines and how important are they in the design of a room? Simply put, it is a way of talking about perspective in interior design. Professionals use the term to detail what can be seen from any given point in the room and to describe their efforts to create spaces that are as visually appealing as possible.


Think of the last time you stood in a space which had the most breathtaking view. You probably felt as though your eyes went immediately to the windows without stopping to take in the rest of the room first. And yes, that effect was fully intentional. The entire design was more than likely constructed to give you the ideal visual experience: a straight-on, unobstructed sight line.


An eye-catching setting isn’t the only reason to pay attention to this design principle. Choppy, obscured views in our interiors often feel unsettling to us and feel cluttered, even if we can’t put a finger on why. In contrast, rooms with clear sight lines are calming and relaxing and we are more likely to find them aesthetically pleasing to the eye.


Sight lines are a key principle of interior design. Image credit: CL Interiors

Often, when the fundamentals of interior design are discussed, you will hear buzz words like balance and contrast. While these principles are vitally important to a successful design concept, we think there is one other subject that doesn’t get enough credit — and those are sight lines. They may not be the most popular topic, but we would argue they are what ultimately helps set truly stunning designs apart from the crowd.


The doorway offers your first view of a room. Image credit: JLB Property Developments

The first view you get of any room is the one from the doorway. For many of us, that initial glimpse is enough to form an opinion on the space. With that in mind, it is incredibly important to make a room’s first impression count.


The natural place to start is to stand in your own doorway. Give yourself a few seconds to take in the space, paying special attention to where your eyes land naturally. The spot where your eyes rest should become your focal point. Once you decide on what your focal point will be — whether it ends up being a piece of wall art or some furniture — the very next step is to make sure that your sight line to the item stays clear. Refrain from adding design elements that might obstruct someone’s ability to see the focal point in full.


Good sight lines are important for moving about the room. Image credit: Forsite Studio

A clear sight line often make the rooms seem as though they flow well together, therefore take this principle into account as you work on your home’s layout. Sight lines play a vitally important role in the flow of a room. They don’t stop at the door. They help us determine how to move around a room and how to navigate throughout an entire house.


The secret to a successful sight line is making it seem as long as possible. For those of you with closed-off floor plans, this simply means doing your best to create an unencumbered view from one room into the next. Focus on choosing low-backed furniture which is easy to see over and be wary of any items, like tall plants or hanging light fixtures, which may get in the way. Where open floor plans are concerned, this concept is even more vital. The key to pulling each of your distinct functional areas together is having one, unified line of sight. Lay out the space in a way that allows for several walkways to travel the full length of the room.


Sight lines have an impact from everywhere in the room. Image credit: Niche Interiors

The above image shows an all-angle sight line. The mantle and fireplace is the focal point and the room’s seating area is centered on either side of that spot, leaving the rest of the space open. No matter where you position yourself in that space, you will either have a clear view of the mantle itself or, presumably, the back wall of the next room.


Truly, this is where negative space counts the most. Do your very best to create similar formations in your designs. Highlight the room’s functional pieces like your sofa and chairs, by anchoring them around the focal point and forget about unnecessary additions which just serve to clutter the space. Also remember to choose pieces that add a lot of visual interest to keep the room from feeling too boring.


Sight lines make an impact from all angles. This is one small detail that sets magazine-cover-worthy rooms apart from the rest. It’s how well they take sight lines into consideration, not just from a few select spots, but from all angles.


Sight lines can follow through from room to room. Image credit: Andrea Swan – Swan Architecture

Mastering the fundamental principle of sight lines can make your design successful. Use this as your guide to creating sight lines and with the help of these tips, you may just find that you’ve gained a whole new outlook on your interiors.



In the image above, the focal point is the wall behind the bed, with windows flanking either side. You will note that the cupboards and chest of drawers are to the side of the room, and the ottoman which is placed in the middle of the room, is low enough so as not to detract from the focal wall. The chandelier hangs down low enough to make it look as though the wall has framed it.

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Contact Kelly on 071 497 7262 or kelly@urbandezign.co.za