Using Texutre In Home Decorating

Mixing a good balance of rough, matte surfaces with smooth, shiny ones around your home looks extremely stylish and adds enormously to the visual interest of each room.

The balance of textures in a decorating scheme is as important as the balance of colors and tones. Just as you blend and contrast colors with care, so you need to consider including a good mixture of textures, rough with smooth, matte with shiny, soft with hard, over the various surfaces in the room.

To some extent, this happens almost as a matter of course as you decorate and furnish a room, matt walls, glossy woodwork, soft carpet and a mixture of wood, metal and glass furniture all collaborate in the overall impression.

Accessories play their part, too, in introducing textures to a scheme. Consider the effect of fluffy towels set against shiny glazed tiles, a mirror against an ornately molded frame or tapestry cushion scattered on a glossy leather sofa.

To understand the qualities of different textures, it helps to draw up a list of rough versus smooth, matt as opposed to shiny and soft or hard materials and surfaces. Walk around your home placing each surface in one of the groups. You could end up with two lists that are something like this:




Sisal flooring


Untreated wood

Stone, slate


Hessian, linen





Ceramic tiles



Polished wood


Glazed cotton

Chrome, brass

Polished leather

Gloss paint

If you also made categories for soft and hard textures, the list would even be longer.

A varied mix of all these textures is generally stimulating and satisfying, but professional designers often deliberately set out to emphasize one particular quality for maximum effect. One look they go for is a glittering metallic effect to reflect light from every surface around the room, or lots of rough matte surfaces for a more rugged, rustic feel.

Roughness prevails in a rustic kitchen, with iron hinges on the cupboard doors adding a tough, hard element to contrast with warmer wooden furniture and sisal flooring.

Broken color paint treatments like color washing and ragging are often referred to as textured paint effects. Certainly the mottled paint finishes on the walls and perhaps, fireplace and mirror framing give an impression of gentle roughness. The mirror, and glazed ceramic ornaments and plant pots and a glass topped coffee table will supply diverting areas of shine.

Trends in interior design concentrate on creating clever contrasts between rugged and sleek. Modern homes counter-balance bare brick walls with spindly steel lamps, flat colored expanses of rough plaster with ornate gilt framed mirrors or a knobbly woven twig coaster on a glass table top.

You can often add an aspect of textural surprise to a room with only one or two small touches. The room comes alive just as if you had added a few brightly colored cushions. Look around the room and identify the missing texture, if any; perhaps there are too few soft matt surfaces when the fabrics in curtains, upholstery and cushions plus carpet are taken into consideration. Try placing a glass table on natural fiber matting, for example, to contribute that vital change of texture to a room.

Each are of your home has its own particular function and, to a certain extent, this determines the type of surfaces you use. Bathrooms and kitchens, where the emphasis is on cleanliness, hygiene and practicality, call for a high proportion of smooth, easily cleaned surfaces such as laminates, tiles, vinyl, glass and metal.

You can balance the cold, clinical effect of these hard, slick surfaces by adding natural wooden bowls, rough stoneware pots and coarse linen tea towels in the kitchen, or stacks of soft towels, a small rush-seated chair and a pyramid of natural sponges in a cane basket for a bathroom.

Living rooms need to feel comfortable and relaxing while being tough enough to stand up to the rigors of everyday use, and embodying the character of the home with pictures, photos and personal touches.

Since the main aim is comfort, soft matte finished such as textured, broken color paint effects, damask curtains and velvety cushions are the strongest textural theme. But for contrast add rough jute flooring or glossy wood floorboards with a scattering of tapestry rugs, shiny mirror in a polished wood or hammered steel frame, or crisp paper lampshades.

You want to relax in a bedroom too, so soft comforting textures are winners. Indulge in airy voile drapes, plump quilting, silk and satin bolsters to provide contrasting finishes. But a modern polished steel four poster makes a wonderful foil for soft muslin or rich brocade hangings alike. The dissimilarity of the soft against the hard and shiny is exciting and unexpected.

In the dining room, prolonged hours of sitting around are unlikely so you can afford to concentrate on the theatrical effect of the room without sacrificing too much comfort. Use dark, matte wall coverings, carpets and fabrics. To heighten the dramatic effect, set the table with glittering cutlery and glass as contrast.

Texture plays tricks with the senses, altering colors, creating reflections and stimulating touch. Rougher textures tend to soften a color because the surface is broken up so that it doesn’t reflect as much light. Smooth, glossy surfaces such as glazed tiles or shiny paintwork catch the light and project colors far more sharply.

A certain color, blue for example, looks far brighter when used for gloss painting a door, than the same shade used as velvet curtains. Once aware of these textural elements and effects you can deliberately set up interesting and satisfying contrasts as the key to a distinctive layout.