The Concept of Positive and Negative Spaces in Interior Design


It is not possible to understand the concept of negative and positive spaces without having a clear understanding what “space” means. In the realm of interior design, space is defined as any volume contained inside masonry walls and is habitable.

Only a tiny bit of the total “universal space” is enclosed within a structure. Universal space is just that, it covers the entire cosmos, of which the planet earth is just a small part.

Every Space is Different

Each building has a different volume and that’s not surprising because the purpose of each building is different. For instance, a café and a living room serve different purposes. As a result, they have different volumes. Three factors define the volume and these are length, breadth, and width of the room.

With that said, whatever volume each of this building has, one can’t ignore the fact they both also have “spaces” inside them. For this post, let’s focus on the bedroom.

A normal bedroom, whether you have designed it yourself or used the services of a Singapore Interior Design Company, has some architectural elements that were attached to it when the building was being constructed and some “imposed” elements added later to it for its proper functioning. Additionally, it is necessary to understand bedrooms are never built in isolation; they are associated with the whole home plan.

Using Different Elements

Architectural elements which are likely to be already present in a typical bedroom include an entrance door and an attached toilet, among others. Each of these spaces plays an important but a supplementary role. Imposed elements in a bedroom typically include furniture and other accessories.

A normal bed includes a bed, dressing table, wardrobe, bookshelf, and side tables, among other things. Each of these items is needed to create a comfortable feel in a bedroom. The space that remains in a room after these accessories have been arranged is called “circulation space”. Many people are of the opinion there must be a balance between the furniture and empty space, which some refer to as, minimalist. This is because the occupied volume doesn’t decide comfort levels in a room but an empty volume.

Negative Space

In case you enter a store room of a building, usually located in the basement and used for storing items that are no longer needed, you will see that empty space inside is extremely less, and consequently, comfort levels are extremely poor. Therefore, in interior designing, a lot of stress is put on empty space. And this is where the whole concept of negative and positive space comes into the picture. Usually, any space which one can’t use for a human activity is considered negative space.  

However, it is not always so. As said earlier, the comfort level is governed by both occupied and non-occupied spaces. That’s why even a small floor area which is left unoccupied can contribute to the overall comfort.

Moreover, as any top-ranking interior design consultancy in Singapore will tell you, the usability of a particular space differs from person to person. For instance, the space under the staircase might look non-functional to you but it might be useful to your children when they play.

Furthermore, with some creativity, it is possible to increase functional space by making better use of non-functional space.