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Monday, 21 December 2009

Choose contrasting color schemes for a more powerful effect

By Rose Bennett Gilbert - Creators Syndicate Comments Comment on this article0

Published: December 19, 2009

Q: My husband and I both like the color gray, so I was glad to see that a number of the designers in a show house used gray on the walls. But they also used beige furniture and a beige-and-gray plaid rug.

Gray, graphic and anything but gloomy, a dining room almost vibrates with high-contrast, high-energy patterns. Photo courtesy of Joe Schmelzer, Filipacchi Publishing. - Creators


It was very pretty, but a little too dull for us. What else would you suggest with gray?

A: Think contrast instead of coordinates. The latter must have been what the designer had in mind for the show house room you're referencing. Beige and gray fall almost together on the color intensity scale. Used together, they add up to a room that's practically monochromatic — even in pitch, harmonious and maybe sophisticated.

But frankly, this color scheme is a little dull to the eyes of those who like more energetic environments.

Contrasting color schemes, on the other hand, include high notes, sharp and clear, even clarion colors that sparkle against a quieter background. The pictured dining room is a lively case in point.

Both the walls and the ceiling are painted gray, presenting a stylish background against the designer's virtual medley of crisply contrasting black-and-white patterns. Curtains, the rug and the upholstery on the stool are related but not matching. Even the black-painted frames on the French doors help increase the energy of the room.

"And white urns and statuary inject wit," writes Jean Nayar, author of the new book from which we've borrowed this photo ("Staged to Sell -- Or Keep," Filipacchi Publishing). In the book, Nayar runs this dining room under the heading of "Glamorous," and indeed, the room lives up to the adjective.

It takes a deft hand (and a modicum of courage) to work with several different patterns, especially extroverts, in the same room. The secret? Colors should be alike, while the scale of the patterns should be different and high in contrast.

Q: Do I have to match the wood tone of my new kitchen cabinets to the oak floors in the nearby dining room? The kitchen opens through an arch and you can see the cabinets from the dining room.

A: In a word, no. The word today is "blend," not match. Top interior and kitchen designers eschew what they call "matchy-matchy," decorating in favor of colors — including wood tones — that blend or contrast.

Need more proof? Click on Then go to "Write and Request" for a free booklet that tells you how the professionals feel about matching things up. In a word, they say, "Don't!"

Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Hampton Style" and associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas. To find out more about Rose Bennett Gilbert and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web site at


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