orange chair

The most important design guideline ever. Yes, ever.

Seems like a lot of stay-at-home people are plunging into DIY projects, rearranging rooms, painting furniture, making curtains, trying their hand at baking bread after being out of the kitchen for 20-plus years.. cutting the kids hair, cutting the husband’s beard, cutting their OWN hair, going live with the hairdresser to fix the natural hair color strip down the middle of the head, deciding to get in shape in 14 days come heck or high water…

Mayhem is alive and living in our homes, Alstate-covered or not.

I can’t comment on colouring hair, getting in shape (no nasty comments, please), or trimming beards, but I know a thing or two about design. And I’m seeing a lot of good intentioned re-designs are being dashed by unexpectedly off-kilter results.

The most important design principal. I do believe.

So, here is what I consider to be one of the most important design principals. If you get NOTHING else from all the interior design and decoration ‘guidance’ out there, PLEASE get this one.

Your eyes go to the area of greatest contrast first.”

an orange feature wall creates contrast

The orange accent wall will command the visual attention in the room because it’s the highest contrast item.

The red sofa will holler loudest —  and get all the attention.

The rug with colors which don’t match the rest of the room will take over the visual conversation. The red curtains which, while they repeat colors used elsewhere in the room, take over the room.

red bedroom drapes create contrast

If you put two yellow cushions on the beige sofa, they will become the most important thing, visually, about the sofa.

Visualize this.

Here are a few examples to help you ‘visualize’ this design guideline.

woman wearing a black dress with no contrast

-A woman dressed in black dress..
-Now put a wide white belt onto the outfit.
-The belt becomes the focal point.

woman wearing black dress with white belt which creates contrast
3 different vases, the pink one is high contrast

If you put three vases on a table, two clear and one coloured, the coloured one will command all the visual attention.

The 60-inch TV on the wall will become the focal point even when it’s turned off.

tree with one broken branch, which is high contrast

– A tree stands in the middle of a field

– Now one branch is broken and is hanging down.

– Everyone will notice the branch, not many will remember the type of tree.

And then there is the most-overworked design ‘trick’ in the DIY-er’s book.
A ‘Pop’ of colour.
Who is hollering the loudest here?

monochromatic living room with orange chair which is high contrast

Maybe this is what you want to happen, but more often than not it’s not.

Every time your eyes get to a contrast situation in a roomscape, for example, your eyes stop and put the contrast into perspective. Every time that happens, there is more visual clutter, and the visual room begins to fill with stuff.

Why clutter is not good.

Which is why cluttered rooms feel smaller than rooms without the clutter. Clutter causes spaces to feel smaller.

room with high contrast furniture and then without as much contrast
Thanks Janice Sutton..

It’s not necessarily the color of the furniture, or drapery, or coffee table, it’s the amount of contrast which makes the room feel smaller.

This is one of the most common mistakes I see in DIY design. If you want a room to feel larger, more spacious,  or more ‘open’, reduce the contrast and get rid of the clutter. 

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