The Most Important Thing To Have for Good Design (In My Humble Opinion)

This is very subjective and the title of this post was meant to be a little provocative, but across the board, I find myself drawn to design that has strong but balanced contrast.

The best contemporary eclectic designs find a balance of contrasting opposites, achieving complexity and depth without clutter and busy-ness.  Contrast of color and tone is just another way of telling your eye where to stop and pay attention.  Contrast of pattern, texture and scale adds richness and depth to a room.  It’s like going from looking at a still to a moving picture.  And finally, a contrast of perceived design styles not only adds character to a room but can make a good room great. It’s like going from seeing something on a screen to seeing it in real life.

The most basic way to introduce contrast is through color and the most fundamental way to contrast color is through black and white.  When I say this, I in no way mean simplistic or easy.  Stripping away all the noise and distraction of color leaves you no room to hide in design.


Darryl Carter is a master of this, paring down color so the contrast brings your attention to the detail of a piece of furniture or the line in a painting on the wall or the texture of a floor:


But color contrasts can also be achieved very well by pairing opposites on the color wheel.  I do this often when choosing coordinating fabric for furniture pieces.   I love throw pillows that are opposite on the color wheel from the piece they sit on but also in a contrasting pattern (stripe on a solid, geometric on a more organic line, etc.).  This is also true for pattern scale.

Another way to achieve contrast is through opposing design styles pairing masculine/feminine, rustic/elegant, vintage/modern, etc.  This pull and tension makes a room feel sometimes inexplicably well-done.  Just think of the enhanced beauty of a delicate antique when paired with a rustic stone wall and a contemporary light fixture.  Or the turned leg of an antique table paired with the sleek lines of a mid-century chair.  Not only does this juxtaposition prevent a room from ever feeling themed or staid, it also adds a level of sophistication and complexity and implies that a room has a story to tell.


Source: via The Urban Orchard on Pinterest

What design elements do you find yourself gravitating to?  What makes good design to you?

6 thoughts on “The Most Important Thing To Have for Good Design (In My Humble Opinion)

  1. BRAVO! Another great post Lane. Yup, I totally agree with you. If there isn’t contrast (speaking in broad terms like you’ve mentioned here), than the room usually don’t do much for me.

    My favorite of the bunch is light/dark contrast, then texture, then design style, then color. It strikes me as incredibly difficult to get these right, but when it happens, like in Darryl Carter’s case, the room sings!

    Now I’m going back to read this again and study each picture.

  2. Thank you, Lane. I can’t articulate what is the matter with some of my neutral that seem to fall flat, but you are so right about “tension” (a new decorating vocab word to me!) and contrast. I am going to conquer my living room with a fresh eye today – thank you for inspiring yet again!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *