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How to Use Texture in Interior Design

Texture to add interest and life to a room

Texture in interior design determines how a room looks and feels, from warm and cosy to cool and contemporary. Texture is one of the most important tools an interior designer canp incorporate into their designs. Creating texture is not just about how decor and soft furnishings feel, but it's also about 'visual texture', the art of using different materials to add interest and breathe life into a room.


An abundance of different textures in this urban rustic bedroom
An abundance of different textures in this urban rustic bedroom

Texture goes beyond the obvious (what you notice with your hands for example). A smooth surface is a texture too, as is wood, brick and stone. Is it something smooth or shiny? A little rugged? What material is used? Visual texture creates an appearance of having physical texture but does not generally have the same influence to the touch. Such examples include matt or shiny finishes or even the use of patterns.


Without texture, a space will fall flat.

Without texture, a space will fall flat. It's crucial to look at the room as a whole and bring an area together with mixed materials for vibrancy and warmth. It's a way of adding depth and dimension to a room as well as comfort.


Visual weight

In interior design, texture can be used to add depth, create balance, and add visual weight to your space. Visual weight refers to how effectively an element attracts the eye. Visual weight comes from a wide range of factors, including size, shape, colour, texture, and orientation. My large blue sofa in in front of my exposed brick wall, for example, has more visual weight than a smaller, neutral coloured sofa would have had. That said, visual weight is relative and not absolute. My statement blue sofa would not have been such an eye catcher had all my walls been the same colour blue. In fact, it's contrasting with the texture of the exposed brick wall.


whispering bold - exposed brick wall with blue velvet sofa
Combination of various textures in my home

Rough and coarser textures like my exposed brick wall, reclaimed wood or terracotta have more 'visual weight' and create a cosy, rustic aesthetic, while smooth or shiny textures, including metals like chrome, reflect more light and create a more contemporary finish.


The basics of using texture in interior design

Consciously or not, texture is impacting your interior design choices. When something seems to be missing in your designs, consider if you can add more texture to identify the missing piece of the puzzle. Here are some of the basics on how to use texture to your advantage when decorating a home.


Contrasting fabrics

Interior design is all about balance. Contrast is a powerful tool to add depth and interest to a space. Think for example of a sofa. Who doesn't like throw pillows or a nice plaid? If you're like me, you can't have enough of them. And why? Because they are the cherry on the cake, they dress up the sofa and add this feeling of cosiness. They make you want to crawl up onto the sofa and chill.


Moody living room corner with occasional chair
Different shapes and contrasting types of texture

In most cases, throw pillows are either a different material, a different colour, or a different pattern than the sofa itself. In fact, many sofas have pillows of varying shapes as well. This helps create balance and visual interest. When using texture in interior design, try to utilise contrasting fabrics. Obviously this doesn't just go for the sofa. Think about curtains, rugs, blankets, and lampshades for example.


Neutral living space with orange pop of colour
Contrasting textures adding a pop of colour to this living space

Layering

As much as people often immediately think of fabrics when it comes to texture, it isn’t just about textiles. Texture can come from all sorts of different materials and finishes. Think for example about the difference between a marble top coffee table and a rustic oak coffee table. While one is cold and smooth, the other is warm and rough.


Texture can be even more subtle. A glossy finish paint will have a different texture than a matte finish, and wood furniture painted a solid color has a different texture than wood furniture that’s stained.


All wooden rustic kitchen
Layering of different types of wood textures

As much as adding textures is very important in a design, the idea is not necessarily trying to fit in as many textures as possible. It's infinitely more important to consider how they work together. Your goal should be to create balance in the room by using a nice array of textures.


Use patterns

While the type of material plays a big role in tactile texture, there are other ways to create visual texture in your home. Choosing items with interesting patterns can create texture in the room, even without varying the materials. An easy way to introduce patterns is with throw pillows. It's relatively inexpensive too and you can practice your craft of combining patterns. It can be scary to introduce patterns to items that need to last the distance for fear of them ageing quickly. In my experience however, a carefully chosen pattern for a design item brings so much joy and can really make or break a room. Consider adding a statement chair or a patterned wallpaper to your design, to really make it pop.


Patterned lazy chair with contrasting patterned cushion
Combining different types of patterns to create interest

For most of us, the bed takes up most of the space in a bedroom. Therefore, the texture of the duvet can single-handedly determine the look and feel of the room. Regardless of what you choose, remember what the bedroom is for; your own private sanctuary. For the bedroom I recommend using patterns sparingly, and layer in tactile texture more so than complex pattern combinations. Try to use simple colours, blend types of fabrics, and stick to a few patterns.


Layering and patterns done well in this boho bedroom
Layering and patterns done well in this boho bedroom


Get creative with home decor

We don't very often renew our larger furniture pieces. It's much easier to add texture to a space by playing with the various textures of home decor. Art and accessories can make a surprisingly large impact. For example, an artwork can add tactile and / or visual textures, and play a huge role in the texture of the room. Even the frame can add texture.


Achromatic modern minimalistic living space
Various textures in an achromatic colour scheme

Consider lamps, vases, sculptures, mirrors, and plants, all of which can contribute to the depth, balance, and visual weight of the room. One of my favourite ways to add texture and life to a room, is by adding plants. When it comes to plants, the world is your oyster. Different plants can have completely different textures based on their height, leaf shape, color, and the design of the pot.


Urban jungle living space with hanging chair
Adding texture by layering plants and home decor

Practical ways to use texture in interior design

Using texture is an art form and practice makes perfect. Don't be afraid to experiment. The below are some practical examples to get you started.


Use texture to add warmth

We all know that tiled floors can feel very cold barefoot in winter. Adding a rug is an easy fix. You instantly add texture and it feels nice underneath your toes right? But have you also considered what it does visually? Rugs ground spaces and when done right, they instantly add that warm and fuzzy feeling. It adds contrast to an often smooth floor and depending on the choice, pattern and colour too.


Scanndi dining room
Textured rug to add warmth to a Scandi dining room

Have you considered a wall hanging? Artworks can be very tactile too, and the wall hanging is making a come back. It's great for adding texture and to improve acoustics.


whispering bold wabi sabi wall hanging dining space
Linen wall hanging in my dining room

Add texture to your kitchen with accessories

A kitchen often has hard surfaces only. Don't get me wrong, I love a sparkly clean kitchen, but the space can look a little bare without adding a bit of texture. Adding texture to your kitchen can easily be done with the addition of some textile accessories, bringing softness to all those hard surfaces. Think of the obvious; tea towels, soft bar stools, perhaps a runner and soft window treatments.


Vintage runner adding warmth to a modern kitchen
Vintage runner adding warmth to a modern kitchen

If you're in the luxurious position to start from scratch, also consider using various textures for the kitchen itself. Combine marble with wood, concrete and glass. I like my mess to be hidden behind solid doors, but if you wish to use glass door cabinetry, why not use reeded glass?


Image credit: Hunton kitchen range, SN Collection

Add unexpected texture to a sleek bathroom

Bathrooms don't always need to be sleek. Texture can make a sterile and functional bathroom into a vibrant and welcoming space. Natural materials such as natural stones and wood are a great starting point when thinking about texture and these materials are very popular at the moment.


I personally love adding vintage wood decor to a bathroom. That's not only a sustainable choice, the grainy texture also brings a warm, organic touch to a room. Simply add a rustic timber stool next to your freestanding tub for a stylish addition that also works as a chic spot for your bath time essentials. And did you consider plants? Plants, books or ceramic accessories are a perfect addition where there are more smooth and hard surfaces to contrast, like your kitchen or bathroom.


Earthy bathroom with pink tub
Natural materials and greenery add texture to this bathroom

Be creative with lighting. Lighting provides a great opportunity for design. Go for the unexpected. How about a chandelier above the tub? (Check local buildings codes)


Mediterranean bathroom with rustig finishes and ocean views
Image credit and design: Ancient Surfaces


Earthy textures for a tranquil bedroom

Bedrooms are for cocooning. And nothing says cocooning more than an abundance of earthy textures. Layer natural materials for optimal cosiness. Accessorise the room with wicker, jute, bamboo, reclaimed wood, anything that draws on nature to recreate this vibe.



Panelling for the win

Panelling is making a resurgence. It's no longer reserved for old Victorian heritage homes. There are many great examples of tasteful panelling additions to a modern canvas. To add textures, you no longer need to use proper traditional wainscotting techniques. Often simply adding the trim to the wall and painting it does the trick. It adds great visual and tactile texture with oodles of interest added to the space. Be mindful not to overdo it however, it needs to suit the house and the rest of the interior. Else you're just following a fad without genuinely adding to your design.


Modern bedroom with panelling
Panelling done right in this transitional bedroom

Drab to fab

I hope I have given you some food for thought and the confidence to experiment more with texture. Remember, it's the cherry on the cake, and can make all the difference to a design lacking personality and feeling flat. The right use of texture can elevate your designs from drab to fab.

 

Would you like to learn more about Interior Design? Or perhaps become an interior designer yourself? Follow my footsteps and study Interior Design with The Interior Design Institute where I could be your personal tutor. Click here to read more and receive a discount.



Marieke Rijksen - Whispering Bold.jpg

Hi! Thanks for stopping by!

I am Marieke, a Dutch Australian interior designer, business executive, tutor, content creator and social media influencer.

 

I also write blogs on styling tips, makeovers, interior designs, food and Instagram insights.

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