Lines on design: use contrast to create striking pieces


The fireplace wall has changed from a red-brown brick to a mixture of rebate, stone and stained wood. A luxury vinyl tile floor replaced a glossy beige resin floor. (Kelly Nagy)

Rooms need contrast. It’s not that they can’t be monochromatic. Even within a color, there can be differences in texture, pattern and shape. The greater the contrast, the more visually striking the room.

The lack of contrast was part of what put the fireplace wall at the top of my sister’s renovation list. The wall began as a brick plane. The brown-tinted mantle was large enough to cover three chimneys. Brown paneling covered the sloping wall. The wall had a 1970s vibe even though it was built a decade later.

Two skylights bring lightness to the room, but it was hard to see that before.

The wall now has several finishes and is divided into three sections. The wood-burning fireplace in the center is now surrounded by a two-tone gray stone with a hint of warmth. The television is suspended above the fireplace. Flanking the center are dark brown base cabinets. The white rebate above the cabinets extends to the ceiling. The thick wooden shelves hang asymmetrically.

The farmhouse style now gives the wall a contemporary look. It is the new contrast of materials and colors of the wall that marked me. The sections are well defined and showcase the materials. The wall invites you to look rather than blend in with the decor.

What are the ways to bring contrast to the room?

Take a look at adjacent, parallel surfaces, such as a counter and cabinets, a kitchen table, and the floor below. If one surface is dark, a lighter finish on the other will create contrast.

Consider the shapes in a room. If all the furniture is rectangular, try to introduce round elements like a mirror or an ottoman.

Finishes are another way to add contrast. Mix matt and glossy surfaces. Introduce manufactured materials to organic materials.

Most of the time, the contrast is for styling purposes, but that can be a security concern. Falls can occur when different levels of flooring look the same. Contrast can help as people age and eyesight decreases.

Regardless of our age, we all want to see our homes clearly and in a favorable light.

Erin Owen is a graduate of the Interior Design Program at Kirkwood Community College. She has worked as a commercial and residential interior designer. Comments: [email protected]


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