Contrasts are a winning combination

September 19, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer

Some of the most pressing concerns in interior design and decoration involve what I call the "go-withs." Many of my clients ,, and readers seem especially interested in knowing what colors work together, what styles complement one another and what patterns can be combined in a given room.

That may seem a bit surprising at a time when trend-setters insist that "anything goes" and that personal preferences should take precedence over old-fashioned rules.

And this ethic certainly has gained popular support, judging from the number of settings I've seen that would once have been considered outrageous -- or at least funky -- in their styling.

But design has many faces. And I would hazard that most people still strive for livable and tasteful home environments, regardless of whether they conform with current fashion.

Indeed, the go-withs don't change as readily in the realm of interior design as in the constantly shifting world of clothing fashions. Which is not to say, however, that there are ironclad definitions of what constitutes acceptable combinations in the design of a room.

In the '80s, we saw a profusion of patterns unmatched since the decorative exuberance of the Victorian era. But that was then. Today's more conservative selection of design elements is making the range of potential go-withs more limited than was the case in the '80s.

The combinations of colors and materials are also more noticeable now than previously because the emerging look of the '90s is based on contrasts.

Many rooms now rely on sharp differences in colors rather than on eclectic furnishing styles to make their design statements. Consequently, the proper and imaginative use of textures and materials has become very important.

I chose this photograph to illustrate the point. Once you have stopped being enthralled by this elaborate scrolled metal table from Baker Furniture, take a look at the accompanying design elements.

A sisal geometric-pattern carpet in a natural and black twill-like texture makes a wonderful foil for the table's gilded legs and black marble top.

The crisply tailored silk taffeta striped curtain performs a similar function by creating a contrast with this elegantly detailed table inspired by 19th-century French design. In the background, a smoothly finished wallpaper simulates the look of a stone wall. The differences in texture and material are quite pronounced but never jarring.

The decorative items on the tabletop were also selected with an eye tobalances. A polished cut-crystal obelisk and slag glass objects continue the theme of juxtaposing rough and smooth elements.

All in all, the combinations seen here are based on sharp contrasts of styles as well as textures, rather than on soft blends of colors and patterns, which underpinned the styling that became familiar during the previous decade. This composition features the sort of go-withs that, in my view, are likely to become the norm in the '90s.

+ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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