Neutral or Bright: Same Room, Different Colors, Both Work

Neutral or Bright: Same Room, Different Colors, Both Work

Janel Laban
Jan 17, 2011

Yes, it's something we talk about quite often on Apartment Therapy; that the easiest way to make a big change in the design of your rooms is through color. It IS powerful and a great tool in any designers bag of tricks. BUT, it's good to also be reminded that taking a room from neutral to bright (or vice versa) doesn't mean that the overall design "story" of the room needs to change. A long ago featured home from Domino illustrates this perfectly...

No matter which version of the room you prefer, I think you will agree that on a basic level, the design of this sitting room works in both incarnations; whether quietly interesting or colorfully playful. When seen side by side, the photos from Domino go to show that the aesthetic success of the room is about much more than just the color choices. The overall good design of the room rings true in both instances thanks to the basic strong design decisions and details that are maintained.

Some design lessons that we can take away when looking at the two versions of the room:

Don't underestimate your design anchor pieces. In this example, a great, unique lighting fixture is a key element of the room's decor success story. It lends a quirky "mismatched era" vintage charm to the room without being stuffy. The firmly mid-20th century style chandelier in a room that architecturally echoes a much earlier era is good touch, independent of the color story - it works in both schemes because it is a strong decor concept, well executed. In your room it might be a piece of artwork, an occasional chair, or even wallpaper, the point is that having a key piece that is interesting on it's own in the space is what is important.

Go simple and well proportioned on the big pieces. A correctly scaled, cleanly designed, simple sofa is always a good choice. This room has a basic sofa that clearly works in both rooms - the light neutral upholstery color is part of the reason it functions in either case, but that is only part of the story. What is more important is that a) It is the right size for the room, b) it is in a good location, and c) it is clean lined enough to work with whatever decorative accents you throw at it. Both the highly textured fur and leather accessories in the neutral room and the bright pillows in the colorful room are at home on the sofa - adding flair to the room without competing with the sofa.

Layout and lighting need to work independently of your color choices. The architecture of any space is always going to be one of the strongest "flavors" in any room's style and the one thing that you have the least amount of control over. In this example, we're looking at great vintage bones, such as high celings, an ornate fireplace and decorative, large, centrally located windows. Of course, not every room will be such an easy to work with space - this is about the things that are "fixed" in place (unless you are taking on a construction project!) such as ceiling height and window placement and it's important to realize that no matter what the final color choices are, these constants stick with you and must be considered when working out furniture placement and lighting for the space to ultimately be successful. Color is NOT going to offset any choices that don't make the most of the scale of furnishings and placement of lighting in the space.

Images: Domino via: Brides

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