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Adding Interest to Monochromatics

Monochromatic interiors are simple, sophisticated and timeless. It's little wonder why so many people gravitate to this popular motif, including myself. In fact, I've taken the monochromatic route in many interior design projects. This movement focuses on neutrality, so by nature, this look won't easily get dated and always seems to carry with it a cool, contemporary edge. But before you go all in, single-hue success requires a strategy, or it runs the risk of falling flat. Here are some tips for adding interest to a monochromatic scheme, when colour is not an option.

Layer different textures. When going monochromatic, you may be limited to one colour, but there are many different versions of that colour, right at your fingertips. Keep your monochromatic look intact yet interesting by layering your chosen hue expressed in different patterns, finishes and materials. look for contrast. I like to combine matte and polished surfaces, for example a concrete wall with polished metal accents.

Organic materials are a great way to add variety to a monochromatic palette. Materials like linen, cotton, leather, marble, slate and wood, either in your chosen hue or in its organic form, are a wonderful addition. Just avoid using any elements that appear unnatural and at odds with the greater aesthetic.

Choose a focal point. Since the overall ambience of the monochromatic interior is subtle, you can easily highlight a desired focal point, whether it's an architectural feature or something collected, such as art. This will draw the eye and anchor the room. Use lighting or another punctuating element, like a pop of colour. (Gasp! Yes there is a place for colour in a monochromatic interior, but more on that later.) Experiment with scale by introducing an oversized element, such as a wall sculpture or a hand-painted mural that adds character and personality. Repetition of smaller accents used as a cluster is also extremely powerful. Whatever your method, just be mindful that it’s not too "loud" in the space.

Get inspired. Not sure where to start with your colour of choice? Remember that your whole space will be awash in this hue, so choose wisely. Nature is the greatest source of inspiration. Just think of the spectrum of greens in a forest, or the cohesive palette of whites, creams, ivories, taupes and greys found in a handful of sand.

While monochromatic spaces are often executed in light, neutral colours, you can use dark colours for a monochromatic look as well, using the same basic principals of layering. The contrast between the colours should be always soft and gentle, never harsh or drastic.

Last but not least, colour. Yes, there's some room for colour in a monochromatic space, albeit in measured and selective doses. Add a pop of colour to the space in your pillows and throws, rugs and plants. These are all low-cost, no-commitment additions that you can change as often as you like, essentially allowing you to transform your space according to the season, by adding an airy pastel in the spring time to a deep orange in the fall. Limit your selections to just one accent hue and use it sparingly, to ensure the overall canvas remains clean and elegant.

Colour isn't the only tool in a designer's toolbox. In fact, a single colour, thoughtfully chosen and well executed, can inspire a sense of serenity and inner-peace. And in a world where we're constantly being bombarded by stimulants and stress, "home" should be designed as a place where you can breathe, rest and reconnect with yourself.


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