The Elements And Principles of Interior Design: Texture

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Texture, the next element, is the surface feeling or appearance of an object. Texture can appeal to the sense of touch or to the sense of sight—or both. Texture has many guises. It may be rough or smooth, prickly or pebbly, shiny or dull, soft or hard. Look around at the objects near you.

Textures may be a visual illusion. A tweed pattern printed on a smooth fabric or wallpaper may give the illusion of being “tweedy” in texture even though the surface is smooth. So the decorator must consider all textural possibilities—real or mock textures—when designing a room. How do the textures differ in appearance? Touch them. Is one more pleasing to the touch than another?

We respond to texture even more instinctively than we respond to color. A child feels texture even before he sees clearly. He feels his mother’s soft skin, his own fuzzy blankets, his crib’s hard, smooth sides. As he gets older, he touches a cat’s soft fur or a tree’s rough bark and becomes aware of even more textures.

Translate those pleasing textures into textures in interior design: a soft velvet chair or a rough brick wall. Think of the wide range of textures between those two.

For a room to be successful there must be a deliberate balance of textures—as there is a balance of textures in nature. For example, think of a room of all slick textures: shiny vinyl upholstery, glass and metal tables, metal-framed chairs, foil wallpaper and crystal accessories. Such a room would be exciting because of its shine—perhaps too exciting—but also monotonous. It would need some duller textures. Contrast and balance could be achieved by such actions as adding a shaggy rug in the conversation area and some hand-woven, woolen throw pillows on the vinyl sofa.

Things to Consider in the Balance of Textures—Comfort and Relation to Maintenance

In achieving a balance of textures, you must remember to consider the comfort of the textures. A very rough-textured fabric might wear well and look good on the sofa, but its hard, rough texture would be scratchy to sit on, especially if the sitter were wearing lightweight clothes. For another example, a plastic chair might look just right but feel uncomfortably hot to the sitter in a warm climate. An important guideline in designing is that the client’s physical needs must be met before purely aesthetic considerations. Otherwise, you are creating a work of art to be roped off and framed for viewing instead of creating a living environment.

Another aspect of the texture of an object which the decorator must consider is its relation to maintenance. A very smooth shiny surface will show fingerprints and marks if it is placed where it is constantly touched or scuffed. On the other hand, a very rough texture or shag rug, would gather a lot of dirt in a heavily trafficked area, as in a hallway or near an outside doorway. So the practicality of each texture must be considered, as well as its appeal and appearance.

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