By Ande Waggener
Not everyone wants vibrant colors in their home décor. In fact, muted hues and neutrals have been the trend in interior design for several years. Just because the colors aren’t bright, however, doesn’t mean a room can’t be. There’s a difference between muted and monotonous.
Effective interior décor creates pleasing energy in a room. It pulls you in, and it makes you feel something. Interior design is blah when this emotional hook isn’t present. In other words, blah design is boring. You don’t want to be boring, do you? Neither does your interior design.
To avoid the blahs, first you gotta know what causes them. Here are seven mistakes that create interior décor yawns in several areas of the home, and seven ways to fix them.
Mistake 1: Same ‘ol, Same ‘ol
Consistency in color and texture is important in interior design; however, consistency is different than same. You want to keep colors in coordinating palettes, but you don’t want to use the clone colors everywhere.
Ideally, wall and trim color should either contrast or be identical. When they differ only slightly, the effect is static instead of energizing.
In the room above, the wall tone and trim color are too close and yet too far from each other to work. Also, when you add a carpet in the same general family, the effect is bland.
Color is brought into this room in wood tones and accessories, but those colors don’t contrast pleasingly with the plain backdrop. Instead, they seem to be warring with it. You don’t want your accessories to have to hold up a room’s vibrancy. They should be partners, not rescuers.
Fix: Add Texture
A plain palette can work in a room, but if it’s going to be interesting, it needs texture.
In the above photo, although the room is primarily white, the varying textures of the horizontal-wood wall, the floor, and the sheers create a flow in the room. Also, the accessories aren’t forced to hold up the room. They complement the soft colors and textures, providing interesting contrast without feeling forced.
Mistake 2: Dull Windows
Windows don’t have to have coverings to look good, but if they do have coverings, the coverings should have something to say other than, “I’m keeping the sun out.”
The window above has no personality. Instead of being a feature in the room, it looks almost as if the architect intended to put a solid wall there and forgot.
Fix: Let it Shine or Dress it Up
If you’re going to leave a window bare, let it do what it’s meant to do, which is to bring the outside in.
See how the above window leaves you feeling invigorated? It lures you into the room.
If you want to avoid the exposure of a bare window, don’t just put a boring shade over it. Give it something interesting to wear. Its wardrobe doesn’t need to be fancy. Even something as simple as a single panel drawn to one side will work.
When you want privacy, just drop the panel over the window. Do you see how the soft folds of the fabric tell a more interesting story than flat horizontal blinds?
Mistake 3: No Tunnels
Hallways are especially susceptible to pedestrian décor. Often not even included in a home’s interior design scheme, hallways just hang out sadly waiting for someone to wander through them.
The hallway above has several failings. First, it suffers from Mistake One’s Same ‘ol disease in that the walls, trims, doors, and flooring are in the same color family. Second, its walls, which have no architectural interest, aren’t displaying interesting art pieces. Third, its lighting fixtures are humdrum.
Fix: Mix it Up, Hang it Up, Lift it Up
An eye-catching hallway needs a triple play.
1. Fill it with color or textural contrasts.
2. Add wood framing or large art pieces to give presence to the walls.
3. Hang an interesting light fixture to draw the eye upward.
The above hallway checks off every healthy hallway requirement. It also adds more interest with small pieces of furniture. Even a narrow hallway can usually take a touch of furnishing, and as you can see, that touch makes the space much more than just something you walk through.
Mistake 4: Heads Required
In the bedroom, the fastest way to bring the blah is to cut off the head of a bed.
Beds just don’t seem to be stationary without their heads, especially if their most prominent companion is a plain wall.
Fix: Wall Anchors
Along comes the texture savior again. A flat, nearly bare wall like the one in the above photo spotlights a bed’s lack of headboard. But put a headboard-less bed against a more interesting wall, and you get an entirely different look.
The wall trim above grabs the eye enough to act as a headboard for the simple bed.
If the wall is flat, however, a headboard becomes glue affixing a bed properly into the room design.
Notice also bedspread cover contrasts with the wall color. In the first photo of this section, the bedspread fades into the wall color so the room appears frozen and uninviting.
Mistake 5: No Backup
In the kitchen, counters and cabinetry need backup. If they don’t have something to work with, they sit like lumps in the room
The kitchen above looks unfinished. In fact, I happen to know that in a way it is. The homeowners ran out of money and settled for the stainless steel behind the stove instead of a backsplash and left the vent pipe uncovered. They tried to compensate with accessories, but it doesn’t work.
Fix: Set the Stage
Counters and cabinets need a stage to perform on; they need a backsplash, one with enough contrast to get the room’s energy moving.
Lacking a backsplash, the counters and cabinets at least need some color to play with.
See how the tile and the color in the two photos above bring the kitchens to life?
Mistake 6: You Can’t Fake It
Very few bathrooms are powerful enough to overcome fake tile.
Certainly, a bathroom with minimal color, like the one above, can’t do it.
Fix: Get Real
The best way to get the blood pumping in a bathroom is with real tile. You can still have a simple color palette, but tile creates enough interest in the bathroom surfaces to draw the eye into the room.
If you can’t afford tile, you can dress up a one-piece tub surround with brightness and texture in your towels and shower curtain.
Mistake 7: No Marching Soldiers
If you don’t have interest in your color palette or your room’s architectural details, it’s tempting to cram in as many accessories as possible to perk up a room. News flash: this doesn’t work.
Over-accessorizing a piece of furniture is one of the fastest ways to put a room to sleep. This is especially true when the accessories are generally the same size and shape as is the cup and saucer collection above.
Fix: Mix It Up
Effective accessorizing uses a variety of shapes and sizes to create a unified visual impact.
And when it comes to eye-catching accessories, they need room to breathe.
When accessories have enough space around them, as in the photo above, your eye is drawn to each piece, which gives the room a feel of action and story. You don’t get that sense from the rows of cups and saucers.
You’ll notice from the above mistakes and fixes that bright color isn’t necessary to stimulate a space. If you like soft, similar color tones, that’s fine. Just remember that texture is the hero of the day when it comes to giving a room spirit.
Now you know how to assess your space for energy and emotion. Use these guidelines to make sure your rooms are saying something instead of inspiring naps.
Images used with permission, courtesy of Ande Waggener and www.shutterstock.com