The Concept of Positive and Negative Spaces in Interior Design

When talking about positive and negative spaces it is important
to first understand the term “space” in itself. In interior
design any volume which is being contained within masonry
walls and are habitable is normally termed as space.

The volume that gets enclosed in an architectural structure is
just a tiny fraction of the vast amount of “universal space”.
By universal space I mean the cosmos or the gigantic vastness
in which our planet and all other planets, starts etc.. survive.

The volume, which gets contained in a building, varies according to
the use of the building. A cinema theatre and a bedroom will surely
have different purposes and hence volume. Volume gets defined by
three factors, length, breadth and height of the habitable room.

But irrespective of the volume both types of buildings mentioned
above have “spaces” enclosed within. Lets consider the bedroom
for the sake of this article.

A typical bedroom will have certain architectural elements
attached to it at the time of construction of the building and
certain “imposed” later for the sake of proper function. Also
it is important to note that no one builds bedrooms in isolation.
A bedroom is always a part of the entire home plan.

The architectural elements already present in a bedroom would be
attached toilet and its entrance door, attached terrace or
backyard entry, attached study room. All these spaces have
work like supplementary role in a bedroom. Now the “imposed”
elements are the furniture in the room, other accessories that
will occupy the space in a bedroom.

A typical bedroom will have a double bed, wardrobe, dressing
table, side tables, study table, book shelf etc.. All these
are necessary to use the room in a comfortable way. When these
furniture are arranged in a room what remains is termed as the
“circulation space”. Now most people think that the volume of
the furniture and the remaining empty space must have a balance
between them. Because it is not the occupied volume, but the
empty volume, that decides the comfort levels inside a room.

If you visit a store room on the basement of a house which is
normally used to dump useless things, you will notice that the
empty space remained is very less and hence the comfort levels
there, are poor. So in interior design the “empty space” is
equally important. Now here comes the concept of positive and
negative spaces. Normally a negative space is considered a
space which can not be used for a specific human activity.

But this is not true. As said above the over all comfort levels
in a room is determined by both the occupied as well as non-occupied
spaces. So any smallest piece of floor area that is not being
occupied is going to contribute to the comfort levels.

That’s why the terminology of being positive and negative as
far as usability is considered becomes a personal matter. What
you think as a useless and non functional space can become a
good place for your kid and his friends when they play hide and
seek. It’s just the viewpoint to look at thing that matters.

Also a little creativity can alter a non-functional space into
a functional one. But remember what I said earlier, in interior
design empty space matters. It is not just beautiful furniture,
costly paints/wallpapers/paintings that are going to decorate
your rooms. Finally it boils down to only one thing, YOU and
YOUR mental as well as physical health in that space.

I hope this article was helpful to everyone.

Copyright Shrinivas Vaidya

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