Walk into some rooms, and you immediately feel welcomed, nurtured, visually excited. You want to curl up on the room’s plush velvet sofa, wrap yourself in its nubby thick throw, and enjoy the flickering, warming flames from the fireplace with its big rustic stone surround.
What’s the room’s secret? Often not its size, style of furnishings, or color palette. A mix of textures may be the catalyst. “Texture makes all the difference between a room seeming warm and inviting rather than cold, flat and unfinished,” says Erica Islas, owner of EMI Interior Design in Los Angeles. Chicago architect Elissa Morgante with Morgante-Wilson Architects agrees, “Texture’s definitely the total buzz, especially because neutral palettes have become so popular.” And for Sarah Barnard, another LA designer, texture, not pattern, is the go-to tool.
Welcome to 2016, and a world awash with textures.
Textural trends have come, gone and returned before. But not all’s the same this time around. Today’s update? An overall subtlety in the finished design, and one chunky show-off texture to act as a focal point or foil.
Manufacturers are adding texture in expected and novel ways. Katia Silva of Saccaro USA, a Brazilian furniture manufacturer, uses textures from rattan to leather and wood in the company’s indoor and outdoor pieces, many now in a lighter tone to reflect that color trend. Jon Sherman, creative director of Flavor Paper in Brooklyn, N.Y. uses texture to give a more authentic trompe l'oeil look and dimensional effect to some company wallpapers. “Some mimic stone, brick, canvas, or leather. Our Brooklyn Bridge wallpaper has a grimy feeling,” he says.
In a game room by Los Angeles designer Christopher Grubb, he wrapped a cabinet in textured but low-key thermofoil, covered the ceiling in grass cloth and walls in ribbed vinyl, chose a carpet with a loop, then added one textural star – a column lined in Balinese seashells. “The shells work as a conversation piece unto themselves,” he says.
But design experts know that the best executed textured spaces avoid a too-busy palette that can quickly become cacophonous. “You can’t have everything scream, ‘look at me, look at me,' or a room won’t work,” Grubb says.
8 tricks with texture:
▪ Be playful; use a texture with a small scale next to one with a larger scale to balance it out. “Part of the fun is exploring and doing things differently, though in moderation,” says Boston-area designer Tiffany LeBlanc, who loves using sisal rugs, topped with handmade overlays.
▪ Keep a room’s colors or tonality the same or in a similar family. “Texture’s my substitute for color,” says Chicago designer Michael Del Piero. “Everything in my shop including the wall is textured, a fringe burlap with clay plaster.”
▪ Choose the right texture for the desired effect. “Rough textures make a space more intimate; smooth textures bring a sleeker tone; bold saturated colors are best with smoother textures; and soft textures are nurturing,” says New York designer Laura Angelini.
▪ Avoid mixing too much texture with too much pattern; they'll compete and distract the eye.
▪ Use texture as one feature rather than the dominating theme of a space, says Los Angeles designer Christopher Grubb.
▪ Introduce texture through layering different ones – some tactile, some with dimension, and some reflective, says Islas. New York designer Lorri Dyner makes a sea grass rug her go-to favorite because it’s affordable and can be topped with another texture such as a shag rug.
▪ Don’t forget Mother Nature, a pro. Dyner often uses a piece of driftwood on a table or mantle or a grouping of seashells in a glass bowl. Big windows with views toward the outdoors are another way to bring texture indoors visually, says Morgante. And outdoors, Sacramento, Calif., landscape designer Michael Glassman thinks about texture whether planning a softscape of plants, flowers, bushes and trees or a hardscape of walkways and terraces. In one of his designs, a stone wall crafted from natural ledge stone rock adds great textural interest while in another he mixed different leaf textures of rough, sticky and shiny leaves.
▪ Edit your choices. You'll know you’ve gone too far when you start to feel uncomfortable, LeBlanc adds. “You don’t want to look like you bought the entire showroom,” she says.