Texture can enhance decor

Often-overlooked quality can complement colors and patterns

September 03, 2006|By Michael Walsh | Michael Walsh,Universal Press Syndicate

If you focus only on color and pattern when furnishing, decorating or even remodeling, you'll be missing out on a powerful force for change: texture.

In fabrics or floors, countertops or couches, walls or window treatments, texture is an often-overlooked quality that can complement color and pattern with shape, dimension, complexity and character.

Texture comes into play when you want to refine or modify a material that appeals to you. For example, say you've settled on granite for your new kitchen countertops, and you've even found a favorite color and pattern. Now, do you want a glossy, polished surface that conveys a sleek contemporary look or a honed stone with a patina that suggests the kind of longevity expected in the kitchens of older homes?

The same is true of cabinets, both in terms of style and surface finish. You can choose flush doors and drawers that are uniformly smooth and modern-looking. Or you can choose doors and drawers with recessed or raised panels. Getting even more specific, you can choose a "distressed" look with factory-fashioned wormholes, dents and gouges.

Wood furniture offers the same choices. You can choose flawless, polished mahogany or a well-weathered pine that looks like a family heirloom.

Texture sends messages about your personal preferences and values. Like colors and patterns, textures often have strong emotional and psychological associations. Think of your grandmother's quilts, a flannel-lined sleeping bag from your scouting days, the sexy satin sheets from your honeymoon, the stone fireplace at the ski lodge or the plush carpets at a favorite hotel.

Surfaces that are inviting to touch -- cool marble or warm wood, coarse wool or soft suede -- provide physical and visual sensations we find pleasant and memorable.

Granted, it's not likely you'll be running your hand over crown molding in the dining room or a carved pediment over the front door, but millwork and architectural ornaments provide texture, too.

What's more, they give shape and dimension to rooms and structural elements. Think of rough-hewn ceiling beams, fluted woodwork around windows and doors or the beveled edges of a mirror or the bull-nosed edges of a countertop.

Texture adds another layer of complexity to the objects in our environments -- the welting on a chair cushion, the ruffles or fringe on a pillow, the pleats and gathers of a curtain, the louvers of a window shutter, the cleft surface of slate tile or the slinky, silky feel of a chenille throw.

Texture becomes even more critical in rooms where color and pattern have been minimized. For those who prefer neutral hues and deplore pattern, texture is what can keep a monochromatic room from becoming relentlessly monotonous.

A sisal or sea-grass rug, suede upholstery, raw silk curtains with matchstick valances and a limestone top on a coffee table may all be just a shade or two apart in terms of neutral color, but their disparate textures provide the variety and complexity required to keep a room visually interesting and animated.

Look for opportunities to use texture in furniture, window treatments, area rugs and the surfaces of walls, floors and countertops. You don't have to rag-roll the dining room walls, but adding a chair rail around the perimeter could provide a textural accent. Pleated shades behind curtain panels could improve the looks of a ho-hum window. A beige berber carpet could be a step up from beige plush.

You don't have to change your preferences. You just need to envision them with different textures that may be more attractive to look at and more appealing to touch. How a room "feels" has as much to do with the physical sensations provided by its contents -- a leather chair, a wicker sofa, a brick fireplace, a needlepoint pillow or carved woodwork -- as the colors and patterns it contains.

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