Contrast is a principle of design that can be illustrated in many different ways. This is one of the most important design principles to me because it creates visual tension (my favorite!). It is the polar opposite of harmony, another design principle (which I will expand on in a future post). Often when you look at a room and it is missing a certain something it’s because it’s lacking in contrast. A monochromatic room in sleek fabrics will look all the more interesting with an extremely fuzzy pillow or rug. Contrast keeps things interesting and keeps your room from sliding into the realm of the boring and unimaginative.
There are four different ways to achieve contrast in the design of a room:
The most obvious form of contrast, of course, is with colour. Opposing or complimentary colours on the colour wheel are a perfect examples of this. These colour combinations are design classics for good reason. Think of Christmas classic colour scheme red and green. Or blue and orange, like in the room above.
Value is another way to show contrast. My favorite colour scheme – black and white – is a perfectly graphic example of this. Any really dark colour with a really light colour achieves the same thing (deep blue and ivory for example).
Size is a third way to achieve contrast. I love the contrast of this purple oversized headboard, with it’s oversized graphic for even more impact. The rest of the room is totally neutral to let this piece stand out. Similarly, the oversized lamps at the restaurant in the Barcelo Raval hotel in Barcelona are also hugely over scale in comparison to the rest of the room. Interestingly, the rest of this particular space is pretty busy, and the scale of the fixtures allows someplace for your eye to rest.
Type is the last way to achieve contrast. I can think of a million ways to illustrate this one! Old vs. new, sleek vs. ornate, smooth vs. textured, curvy vs. angular, round vs. geometric. If there is too much of one just one thing in a room your eye won’t know where to go. Add something – almost anything – different to a space and suddenly the whole room will sing. Both rooms above play with sleek vs. ornate in opposite ends of the spectrum.
Contrast (like I said with rhythm) is probably something you already inherently play with when putting together your space. But if you find that you just can’t make a room “click” it’s usually helpful to review some design basics to see what is missing. I hope these mini design lessons prove useful in your decorating adventures!
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