The monochromatic room seems to be all over the pages of home design magazines, but how does one achieve this elegant look without it looking too stripped-down or blah? And, sure, magazine photos look amazing, thanks to beautiful lighting and homes with great architecture, but what about the average home? Local experts agree there are many ways — from choosing multiple tones of a color to adding texture — to create monochromatic magic.
Interior designer Carey Karlan, owner of Last Detail Interior Design in Darien, says pulling off this deceptively simple look is trickier than people think. “The greatest concern is that rooms can look flat, unfinished and, to be honest, boring, rather than the serene and sophisticated look most people hope for,” she says. “To avoid a flat space, you need to add texture, different levels of sheen, interesting art, some contrasting wood tones for warmth, and perhaps some pops of color.” And don’t forget last details, like case goods (such as desks, dressers and side tables) and soft goods, that help bring the room together and feel liveable.
Karlan likes to incorporate texture into a room through wall treatments, carpet patterns, sculptural furniture, and finishing details such as banding, pleating, nailhead and mirrors.
“I like Venetian plaster in neutral tones as well as grasscloth and geometric or scenic wallpapers,” she explains.
Paula Chnowski, co-owner of Colby’s of Ridgefield, says, “You add texture with other colors, starting from the floor up.” Adding a patterned rug can make a room “pop” against the neutral colors, for example.
Grey has been popular recently, she says, but homeowners should go with their gut and find a color that suits their personality. “That’s what makes your home yours and not like everyone else’s,” she contends.
Sandra Long, owner of Laura’s Draperies, Bedspreads & More in Norwalk, echoed her sentiments: “The room can be fun when you vary the textures in the upholstery, draperies and carpets.” The other key is to vary the intensity of the neutral colors to give the room depth. “We try to move a single color throughout the house or at least throughout the same level,” Sandra says. “This pulls and coordinates the different rooms together.
Trudy Dujardin, an A.S.I.D. (American Society of Interior Designers) and LEED-certified interior designer and owner of Dujardin Design Associates with offices in Westport and Nantucket, Mass., is known for eco-elegance for creating green homes that focus on sustainable design.
In keeping the color palette the same, the way to create interest in a room is in adding texture, she says, and a good place to start is with the rug. “The rug can be monochromatic and if you mix loops and cut pile, you can get beautiful texture,” she says. Varying the other fabrics in the room, from linen to boucle to silk, is important, as is varying the hues and patterns used. “The devil is in the details, that’s what adds interest even if it’s all neutrals and colors,” Dujardin says. With each color palette she has used, whether it’s white, off-white, beige or taupe, she always brings in another color, such as a very pale blue that pairs very well with taupe.
With a minimalist color palette, it is easier to harmonize with other rooms. “You can pick a color — such as a shade of green — and bring it into another room, such as green hydrangeas in a floral arrangement, or through artwork, or a green onyx bowl,” Dujardin says. “It does not have to be monochromatic or blah, this look can be so rich.”
Robin Weber, owner of BellaHome in Ridgefield, says neutrals offer a soft look to a home and are anything but boring: “Neutrals are clean and restful to the eye. Provide your home with textures that are both tactile and visually interesting — fringe and pom poms, chenilles, herringbone, checks or plaids, floral, leather, fur throws and down pillows. All of these can be chosen in hues that are tone-on-tone but not boring.”
Noting the popularity of neutrals, especially for window treatments, Andrew Bogdan, owner of Budget Blinds of Greenwich, says his clients will often try to match the window trim or a color in the rug or flooring. “Window treatments should not be what the room is based on but should act more as a compliment to what has already been done,” he says. Even when decorating with neutrals, many window coverings have patterns that can help amplify the room. Additionally, the way light plays through a window treatment can have a dramatic effect.
When it comes to working with a designer, designers want homeowners to know that designers have the expertise to execute a homeowner’s idea (even if vague) of what they want their home to look like. “Remember that a real designer is not just a ‘shopper’ sourcing items here and there,” Karlan says. “They are responsible for a complete and cohesive look that works with the way you want to live.”