Layer upon layer

Layer upon layer

A neutral interior scheme can be filled with contrast and interest when shape and texture are taken into consideration, says interiors editor Jessica Doyle.

A room that is filled with colour and pattern will, by its nature, not lack visual stimulation. But for those who favour this season’s more calming, neutral shades, how can one create a scheme with enough character and interest to delight the eye, while keeping to a restrained and serene palette?

The key, says interior designer Sarah Vanrenen, is to think in terms of texture. ‘One should never have too much of any one textile, for example,’ she says. ‘It’s important to create an interesting palette by mixing woven fabrics with velvet and linen.’ 

Other surfaces, too, can play their part in this play of contrasts: a glazed ceramic lamp base paired with a rattan shade will instantly add a note of intrigue to a room; the tactile quality of a natural oak table can tone down the sumptuousness of a velvet sofa; and a textured, off-white rug (such as Neptune’s new jute Saunton rug) brings variation to the eye without the need for bold colour clashes.

Balance is also a vital element to consider when working with an understated interior scheme. While Sarah believes that ‘bigger is better with regard to most things – bigger lamps, bigger cushions, bigger sofas wherever possible’, she also points out that proportion must be taken into account: ‘An enormous lamp and shade teetering on a spindly little table is not a good balance.’

The same applies when considering the shapes of furniture and accessories that are combined in a room. While the curved and rounded forms that have come to the fore in recent years bring a welcome dose of softness and comfort to a space, the friction that comes from juxtaposing such pieces alongside others executed with sharper silhouettes makes both styles more appealing. Sarah recommends pairing traditional upholstery with modern, clean-lined furniture and art, for example, but it could be as simple as placing a collection of curvaceous vases and jugs on a kitchen shelf or installing a softly scalloped raffia ceiling light, like the new Marina pendant, above a marble-topped island.

Play with shape, texture and contrast in this way, and a neutral, understated scheme need never be boring, but will be rich in variation and visual interest.

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