A neutral room is one of the most difficult decor styles to pull off. When we think of a plain room do we imagine a boring room or a room of simple elegance? The very word simple conjures up different things for different people.
Inside a home, simple elegance is harder to achieve than expected, for both professionals and amateurs. When we examine the parts that make an all-white or all-tan room appealing, there is more happening than initially meets the eye. If there is little or no color applied to a specific area, how is personality and panache achieved? How do you make a statement without the assistance of color? What do professionals rely on to create interest? Let's analyze this small room as an example of a successful all-white room.
While there is not space for much furniture, the area is anchored by a straightforward, white sofa. Next, two classic camel-colored leather Eames armchairs are introduced. They are at once elegant and set a definite tone. They say, "Someone knows their furniture history!" Because these chairs are neither thick nor bulky we see the floor and space around them, allowing their shape to be noted. The rich leather tone matches the color of the natural wood floors.
Nothing can be as impartial as hardwood floors. They go with anything. Hardwood floors are the Switzerland of interior design! In this instance -- where all walls are painted white -- the warmth of the wood is working effectively at establishing mood. Next we find a rustic, low-set cocktail table that looks like a found chunk of wood. This choice is unexpected and unique on many levels. The marriage of crude and finely crafted materials blends to ignite instantaneous visual interest.
Finally, the use of black and white photography on the wall behind the plain white sofa is very effective. The oversized pieces are a wall-to-wall statement that can be viewed as one monolithic piece, serving as a strong backdrop for the sofa. Think how different this room would be if these pieces of art were about fifteen inches by twelve inches? This small environment uses white, camel and gray in a way that is sophisticated and interesting.
Think of alternating textures to generate interest: from thick and woven to or plush and smooth or reflective and shiny. In a monochromatic scheme, it is even more important to not match everything. Varying heights, thicknesses, sheen and materials is critical. Don't be afraid of blending items with completely different heritages such as classic modern with antique accents. Here we see classic modern blended with a rustic coffee table and it works! A completely modern room might feature a very old clock or country French furniture might be refreshed when a modern accent table is introduced.
The key in an undersized room is to keep the accents to a minimum. Keep it simple, but remember to use one or two extraordinary pieces. Just like the current epicurean trend of mixing sweet desserts with a hint of sea salt, an interior design with one or two unexpected parts is appealing. If blue is your favorite color, consider one blue element such as a good-size vase or an accent pillow. This room could welcome one stunning and colorful pillow in the middle of the sofa, for example or a bouquet of bright sunflowers on the table. In fact, just a splash of color in a monochromatic room is loud enough.
Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Christine Brun and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.