Design Element 101 – Texture

November 18, 2014

As the weather outside inevitably gets cooler and the warmth of the summer becomes a far too distant memory, I’d like to focus today’s article on my favourite design element.   Texture is defined as, “the visual and especially tactile quality of a surface.”  It’s the “way a surface feels or is perceived to feel.”

 

What makes texture my favourite of the five design elements is its ability to transform how a space feels.  By adding texture we add warmth – a sensation we can all benefit from this cold November.    

 

 

All surfaces have texture be they matt or shiny, coarse or fine, rough or smooth and mixing all these different types of textures is a bit of an art. 

Here are the two main categories of texture to consider when designing a space:

 

Visual – when an object appears to have texture from a distance, but upon closer inspection, often via touch, is in actuality flat.  Shiny, smooth or matt surface like glass, mirror or wood are all textures.  They reflect more light and are therefore considered more modern.  Patterns, on the other hand, can also give the illusion of texture.  They do so by regularly repeating the same motif – be it more natural to look like stone or geometric in terms of a man made rug or fabric.   

 

Physical – this form of texture tends to be more obvious.   It’s when an object feels multi dimensional and tactile.  Objects with physical texture tend to reflect less light and therefore feel warmer.  The more tactile an object the more weight it has within a space.  Just think of a rustic wood beam.  Whether solid or not it appears heavy. 

 

The scale of an object can also be played with using texture by either attracting or detracting interest in an object.  The same sofa in a subtle texture like linen will appear smaller, streamlined and more formal than a heavily patterned, more textured version that also contrasts more within the space.  

 

As a designer it’s important to consider how your client wants to feel in their home.  A room that lacks texture can feel cold and sterile while a room with too much may appear busy or cluttered. 

 

I often receive requests to create modern, contemporary spaces that still feel homey and inviting.  Many designers feel this is an oxy moron but I tend to disagree.  The answer is quite simply texture!  Even the most minimalist designs can look and feel more inviting, dare I say even comfortable, by strategically adding texture and therefore warmth into an otherwise cool space. 

 

As with other design elements one must always think in terms of the bigger picture and be strategic as to where and how texture is, or isn’t, added.  This is especially true when mixing different textures to create contrast or achieve balance.

 

When completing a space I often review what textures and materials are present thus far.  If a particular texture is lacking, that’s what I seek out in its various forms to complete the appropriate spectrum and increase visual interest.

 

Texture has the ability to add a subtle yet powerful dimension to any room and a good design should appeal to all our sense including touch.  I know I’ve designed a beautiful, livable space that suits my homeowner’s needs when they love the look but especially the feel of their newly designed home.  

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