The Danger of ‘High Contrast’
What happens when you go too far with color and pattern? What if you forget to use restraint? You get the room above – where everything in it is awesome, but collectively its a competitive, brain distorting, conversation-stalling mess.
There are a lot of fine lines in interior design. It’s like texting after an unexpectedly good first-time hookup with a really old “friend”. You have to be EXTREMELY careful or else you could ruin the whole friendship, not to mention the potential for more.
When Nicolette told me what she and Ali loved, design-wise – the palm wallpaper, lots of pink, black and white stripes and a heavy dose of glam, etc – I was very excited, but I also knew that we would need to properly navigate the design and use restraint.
As a reminder, at the beginning of the project she sent me this mood board:
I knew instantly that while this looks good in a board and I was excited to take this as an inspiration, that the level of energy and contrast could go bad if I didn’t control it. So, I did two mood boards as options for her, below. As a reminder she already had the sofa, the coffee table and the black and white curtains (which she hadn’t installed yet, but she owned them and wanted us to try to use them which I was more than happy to do):
Mood boards give you a good idea of where the room is headed and we rely on them VERY much for planning, sure, but NOTHING compares to being in the space and actually seeing things in person. It’s like ordering a dress that might have your perfect measurements – you still need to try it on before you are sure it’s for you.
Before the makeover we decided on the wallpaper, but the curtains and the rug were up in the air and neither of them could be viewed in person. I loved both rugs, but knew that the pink had potential to look either nuts or amazing with the wallpaper. So we ordered both options to have on set that weekend.
As far as the curtains, she already had the black/white striped set and buying a few sets of white curtains to have on hand as an option in case those striped ones looked nuts was an easy thing to do (and could be returned afterwards). So we were prepped for all scenarios. All options on deck – but you simply have to play that game to really win an interesting room.
I figured that I’d show you what would have happened if we hadn’t used restraint. It’s like Sliding Doors for styling (the early 2000’s movie, not the actual entrance/exit of a deck).
This room is full of things I love – there is nothing I don’t like in here, but all together its just. too. much. Remember that the more contrast you have the more energy you have. If you want your room to feel SUPER energetic, frenetic, and wild, then go for something like this with a lot of contrast in it (could be good for a night club or say a room meant to keep narcoleps awake). It’s dangerous because contrast also makes spaces feel small, busy and can go tacky really fast. It’s the same in fashion – the more color, pattern, texture and styles you shove on your body (huge earrings, big hair, shiny fabric, ) etc, etc … the more you look like a street-walker.
The hot pink rug, palm wallpaper and the striped curtains are all WAY too strong to be friends. They compete so hard, your eye doesn’t know what to look at and you end up feeling frantic and full of anxiety. It’s like you are in a haunted house and while one zombie is distracting you on your left, the real scary 12 foot dead baby is jumping right in front of your face. If the curtains were white and the walls just painted, then yeah go for that beautiful pink rug. But all those strong elements together are just too much.
For this below rendering we replaced the hot pink rug with a quiet solid (that is also a better size – 9×12). It’s already so much better. With one REALLY strong element gone, you can start to see more of the room and really breathe a little bit.
But the black and white curtains still really occupy your eye and the fact that they are on the walls, next to the busy wallpaper make the walls feel so heavy and loud, especially now that the floor is so quiet. It’s all off-balance.
What if we got rid of the black and white curtains and instead kept the pink rug? Check this out:
Now, i think for the right personality this could work. It’s still busy … but it’s also pretty fun. I feel like this person probably goes for the all-you-can-drink-mimosa brunch – although she probably gets a bit too drunk … and she wants it on a Tuesday. My issue with this rug is that this room really did need a 9×12 which you can’t tell in this photo, and that rug was an 8×10 (I think they were out of stock on the 9×12 at the time). So it was too small and still a bit loud … and I’m ME – someone who can handle more than a lot of people.
Last but not least (BEST, actually) is what we ended up doing and what I feel solidly confidant standing behind:
Ah. So pretty, calm and happy – still high energy, but pulled back and sophisticated. We let the wallpaper really be the star and let those hits of black be the co-stars, but we stopped there. The rug, chairs, and sofa were all in solid colors that blended in and the coffee/side tables (which she already had) were visually VERY quiet as they were just glass, mirror and brass.
Is there still energy and contrast? You betcha. But there is now only one main focal point, instead of 3; and the color palette was reduced to green, white, black and gold with just hits of a more muted pink.
To recap – here are your options:
1. Green Rug with White Curtains (my winner and what we ended up doing).
2. Pink Rug with Striped Curtains
3. Pink Rug with White Curtains
4. Green Rug with Striped Curtains
Now, I am curious if any of you would go for #2, #3 or #4. I think if I didn’t know that #1 was an option I could be happy in #3 and #4 (with hesitation that maybe I went too far) but #1 is by far my choice. I love that room VERY much.
No comparison post is complete with a gif between the two looks: ‘Quiet and Happy’ versus ‘Crazy and Chaotic’. It’s a backyard amateur wrestling match and one of these rooms is going to win:
The clear winner to me? ‘Quiet and Happy’ all the way.
And that, folks, is what happens when you step over the line and put too much contrast in color, pattern and style into a room. The goal? To create one main focal point that has a strong pattern or color, with one accent to support that focal point and to keep the room balanced, but then make everything else recede. Because even if you are crazy, you still want it to look classy.
*Photos by Zeke Ruelas (although #3 and #4 were photoshopped renderings for this posts purposes).
The rugs were courtesy of our friends at Lulu & Georgia and the pink and green (although they call that color fog) rugs can be found on their site as well as many other options that we had a hard time saying no to when pulling the plans together.
Want more about how we got to here? Check out the design plan post, the full reveal including the video as well as the feature on Refinery29 and if you want more Weekend Crashers? Check out our Mid Century Eclectic Makeover.