How To Add Contrast To Your Decor

Contrast is a design concept that plays a big part in creating interest and beauty in a room. Learn how to use contrast when you decorate your home.

Contrast in decorating is something every home decorator should know and use in their home. Contrast is such an important design principle and one that creates visual impact and beauty! It just might be the missing element that would make a difference in your home decor. Let’s learn about contrast!

Breaking down interior design concepts into easy-to-understand, doable, and repeatable processes is my superpower! So let’s break down the concept of contrast in decorating so we can use it in our home!

WHAT IS CONTRAST AND WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT

Contrast is arranging items with different or often opposite characteristics together for impact. It’s that easy! And when we talk about contrast in decorating we are talking about one of the most important ways to create an alluring home!

Our eyes pick up this contrast without us really even knowing it and if done right our brains find this contrast so so interesting, and interesting things read as attractive!

When things in a room are all the same that room is usually not interesting to us. And no wonder. Our eyes and brains need to be stimulated and see contrasts to perceive beauty!

WHAT MAKE A ROOM BEAUTIFUL

We talk about the eye/mind connection a lot here at StoneGable when we talk about things that make a room beautiful. Just like knowing about balance, and proportion, and the magic of three, and repeated elements and color we need to not only talk about but have a working knowledge of contrast to create beauty in our homes.

When contrast is used correctly in a room the visual impact is profound. I like to call this the WOW factor!

Using interior design concepts makes a room and a home more beautiful. And contrast is one design concept you will want to know how to use!

For without contrast, we miss out on one of the key things that create a lovely and fascinating room.

And honestly, contrast is an easy element of design to add to a room!

MOST COMMON TYPES OF CONTRAST

Today let’s look at some of the most common types of contrast in decorating we can use to create the most fabulous living spaces!

COLOR

One of the easiest contrasts to add to our homes is color. Think of how stunning black and white rooms look! That my friend is high contrast using color. Black and white is dramatic and feels sophisticated. It is because we notice the difference in color right away and it looks striking to us!

Light colors and dark colors create such high contrast!

Using complementary color is another way to add contrast to a room.

These colors put together in a room creates high contrasts…

  • red and green
  • purple and yellow
  • blue and organge

Whatever colors are opposite on the color wheel are complementary colors. And because of their difference, in contrast, they add lots of interest!

COLOR WHEEL

Just a word of caution here! If you love color and use complementary colors to create contrast, one color must be the dominant color and the other color the accent.

One color should only be used as that POP of color while the other complementary color can be used more liberally throughout a room. The tension and balance of these colors done in the right amounts create beauty in a room.

You can see more about color and how to use it when you decorate here.

HI/LOW CONTRAST

This is such an easy way to add artistry and elegance to a room. I’ve been using the high/low contrast for years.

Mixing high-end or luxury-looking furnishings with ordinary, utilitarian, or everyday items creates a distinct juxtaposition that is bound to be noticed! The contrast is quite obvious!

Think of a gilded mirror next to a chippy shutter or a silver punch bowl on a wooden cutting board.

It’s that old adage of opposite attractions! A beautifully upholstered chair with a straw hat tossed on it. A velvet blanket and a burlap pillow. A crystal goblet holding paper straws!

There is something so charming, so startling, and unusual about this high/low mix! And this is such a pretty and savvy way to add contrast to a room in your home.

TEXTURE

This is the number one way I add contrast to my neutral home.

We can actually feel something when we see it. Our brain can perceive rough, lofty, shiny, smooth, gravely, bumpy, silky, hard, slimy, wet, dry and so much more!

We should have a mix of textures in our homes. Bumpy, soft, rough, smooth all mixed into a room. Because our eyes are crazy about texture. And without evaluating texture in a room our minds can get very bored!

Just think how pretty an oriental rug looks on a hardwood floor. Or a velvet pillow on a wooden chair. Beautiful texture and contrast!

If you have a neutral palette in your home you especially need texture!

I’m very aware that texture keeps my home interesting and takes the place of lots of colors!

You might like to WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT TEXTURE. And you might also like 7 TIPS FOR DECORATING WITH NEUTRALS.

SHAPES

Our eyes and minds are always trying to make sense of what they see and one big way they do this is by looking for repeated elements in a room.

By looking for the same shapes our eyes zip around the room and that is exactly what we want our eyes to do! When they bounce around the room looking for repeated things like shapes our minds see this as attractive because they can make sense of the room by the repeated shapes and colors and textures and more.

However, like most things in decorating there is a balance. If EVERYTHING in a room is the same our eyes can also get bored and read this as uninteresting! Fickle eyes, right?

So, it is amazingly wonderful to repeat shapes in a room and it is just as amazing to add a different shape to a room! A round mirror is a joy to add to a room full of rectangle furnishings!

MIXING AND MATCHING

There is also contrast in mixing and matching other things as well.

Here are just a few…

  • patterns and fabrics
  • metal finishes in a room
  • different style furniture
  • different decorating styles
  • different plants and flowers

HOW TO USE CONTRAST IN YOUR HOME

Now that you know what contrast is let’s talk about using it in your home.

Every room in your home needs contrast. The more similar the things in a room are the more contrast you should add.

If a room already has a lot going on in it you can probably bet it already has some contrast!

The more neutral or monochromatic a color palette is the more contrast it needs.

Every room does not need to use every type of decorating contrast, though.

Start by being aware of what your room might need most.

My home is very neutral so it needs lots of texture! And it has lots of boxy-shaped furnishings so it also needs a few round or softer shaped items.

Really pay attention to using a pop of color in a room and different metals on drawers and curtain rods and nailheads on furniture.

Think about ways to introduce a high/low mix of items. Just used an edited hand. A little goes a long way.

Try adding contrast to a room in your home. Evaluate the type of contrast that would look nice in a room and work on adding it in.

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14 Comments

  1. Wow – your last few posts have been like a decorating tutorial. I love the contrast between rustic and refined. Your example of a silver punch bowl placed on a wooden cutting board is exactly what I did in my kitchen. I think it’s a real statement on our personalities – for example, a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll!

  2. Yvonne, I love to use my phone to take pictures of my rooms to see what looks right and what looks wrong. Texture and repetition of shapes are two ways I like to make a room interesting. I also like to add a little black to my rooms and find it great with my neutral color scheme. Prayer coffee and your blog each morning start my day out right. Bless you.

      1. Hi Yvonne,
        I have learn so much from you! Thanks to you, I feel like my home has finally grown up!
        I love your new mirror. It looks fantastic! What size did you order?

        Hope you have a great day!
        Linda

  3. I have lighter oak kitchen cabinets, but am interested in getting a darker(with hints of light in it) dining room table which is right next to the kitchen. Is that okay to do? It is a sort of contrast?