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Living Rooms with Tantalizing Texture

Click through to snag ideas for incorporating texture into your living space

Written by Candace Ord Manroe
  • Reid Rolls

    Any designer worth her fabric swatches and color charts will tell you that texture is one of decorating’s most important elements. In a neutral space, it’s the essential life force. Without it, subtle rooms would flat-line and visually fade from our radar, losing our interest. And in rowdier rooms that have been around the color wheel a time or two, it can be a calming influence, smoothing out the array of hues and patterns into something more livable.

    In living rooms like this one in the home of designer Ann Shipp and Roger Higgins, texture is skillfully mixed to create what is literally a feel-good space. Rough bamboo shades mix with hard woods, sleek glass, and a variety of soft and nubby textures on upholsteries. No one texture plays solo, but all combine in a harmonious chorus for pleasingly rich results.

    Design: Roger Higgins and Ann Shipp, R. Higgins Interiors

  • Werner Straube

    A Masterful Mix of Texture

    Texture’s role as a harmonizing influence in decorating is elegantly illustrated in the living room of Washington D.C. designer Skip Sroka. He used a variety of textures in just the right proportions to assure a complete, full-bodied design. Soft carpet and upholstery fabrics are balanced by the sleek glass top and hard iron base of the coffee table. More compelling textural interest is created on the foreground chair’s velvet pillow, which is decorated with raised trim stitched with assertive knots. Like the trim, the mirror’s Greek key frame is a raised pattern that adds textural dimension.

    Design: Skip Sroka

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  • Werner Straube

    A Subtle Touch

    Viewed from another angle, the living room of designer Skip Sroka shows how attention to texture can be subtle but vital.  A Schumacher wall covering lays out the room’s neutral background, but its tactile factor raises both the warmth and visual interest of the design. The sofa’s pair of pillows covered in a gold-patterned Brunschwig & Fils shiny, coarse fabric contrast with the softer burgundy on the antique pillow in the center.

    Design: Skip Sroka

  • Emily Followill

    Monotones Mandate Texture

    A monochromatic taupe color scheme was just the ticket to a soothing living room for an active Atlanta family in the city’s Buckhead district. But it could have been passage to the doldrums. Thankfully, homeowner Amy Bergman happens to be a designer, who knew better than to deploy such a demure palette without flexing some decorating muscle with an ample use of texture. The cut-velvet upholstery on the turned-wood armchair in the foreground is an indicator of how adeptly the designer addressed texture. The soft ridges beg to be touched while also creating their own brand of pattern. Each of the other three chairs, though monochromatic taupe, are dressed in different woven fabrics that have their own special feel. Nailhead trim adds a hard ribbon of texture around each of the seating pieces including the sofa. Sleek, shiny glass gets into the game not only with the large-scale coffee table, but through the windows themselves. The textural interest extends underfoot to the nubby rug and up to the mantelshelf’s crusty pair of candlesticks.

    Note: When contemplating a room’s design, factor in the architectural features. Prominent windows lend glassy texture to the space, reducing the need for too much more glass or shiny metal.

    Design: Amy Bergman

    Tour the rest of this light-filled home.

  • Werner Straube

    Love at First Touch

    A 1924 Spanish Colonial in Dallas was off to head-start in textural interest thanks to its living room’s original Rookwood-tile fireplace. That feature, with its hard but not overly rough texture, ultimately was what sold the new owners on buying the house. Enter designer Julio Quinones, who upped the living room’s texture with a custom wrought-iron firescreen, a velvet fireside bench and an antique velvet armchair, and a pair of sleek olive-wood Parsons tables. Quinones mirrored over built-ins at one end of the fireplace for better balance and a cleaner look, and in so doing adding a flashpoint of sleek texture that completes the sophisticated design.

    See more of this room on the next slide.

    Design: Julio Quinones

  • Werner Straube

    A Living Room of Sophisticated Textures

    To contrast with the lush velvets of the fireside bench and an antique daybed at the far end of the room, designer Julio Quinones dressed this Dallas living room’s sofa in a white silk that feels both polished and nubby all at once. Custom tub chairs’ crisp linen melds into a textural mix that includes a smoothly polished mahogany console table, a hard marble-top round accent table whose body consists of sleek mirrors, and a glass-top square table on rough metal legs. The refinement ushered in by textures is perhaps most pronounced on the elegant Oushak rug.

    Design: Julio Quinones

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  • Colleen Duffley

    That’s the Rub

    Bob Williams, cofounder of furniture manufacturer Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams,  has a passion for mid-century modern furniture. And in a roundabout way, that equates to a passion for sleek, sheer texture. The architects and designers who created these modern classics were fascinated by new materials like Lucite and molded plastic and experimented with them exhaustively. The result was furniture with squeaky-clean texture, light in appearance and weight, like never before seen. In the living room of his updated Georgian Colonial in Hickory, North Carolina, Bob incorporated a few of his favorite mid-century styles—a Lucite chair and small table, a glass-topped Parsons-style coffee table, and an Eames-style white leather armchair. The Lucite and leather lighten the room’s harder, denser textures of solid wood and metal, as well as the softer bulk of the fabric-upholstered sofa and armchairs. And here’s the (it’s all good!) rub: fuzzy Mongolian wool pillows.

    Design: Bob Williams

    Check out this before and after.

  • Colleen Duffley

    A Rough and Refined Living Room

    It’s one of good decorating’s many oxymorons: a living room that fairly bristles with rough edges, yet overall comes off soft and soothing as a child’s lullabye. That’s the beauty of texture as a decorating tool—it can help you to create designs with multi-dimensional character, that are neither entirely elegant nor wholly rustic but a beautifully balanced bit of both. Starting with the stone floor tiles in this Florida showhouse’s living room, designer Susan Massey layered on the textures. Thick. She topped the hard stone floor with an rough-textured abaca rug (abaca is the fiber from a type of banana tree raised in the Philippines). Simple jute rope was brilliantly put to structural use, serving as a ladder of art that stretches floor to ceiling and supports driftwood display shelves. A faux wood table completes the look of rough texture. A softening influence emanates from the Belgian linen on the sofa and the flax linen on the daybed. A Murano glass chandelier centers the room with an elegance that’s reinforced by the glossy sheen on the wingback chair. The delicate metal legs and glass top of an occasional table further offset the living room’s more rustic elements with a refined feel.

    Design: Susan Massey

  • Emily Followill

    Where Texture Rules

    At the least, neutral living rooms like this one require a special touch—enough tactile structure to give the design a spine. No problem here, where texture rules as the single-most important organizing element in the design. Dressed entirely in neutrals except for its Kelly green throw pillows—a hue extracted from the palette of a single piece of art—this space began taking form with the wrought-iron coffee table at its center. The assertive roughness of the splayed-out table then receives a counterpoint of luminous sleekness from a trio of glass vessels covering small plants. An earthy sisal rug brings together four linen slipcovered chairs in a group hug, while ebony-painted wood cabinets designed with raised diamonds add compelling up-down texture to the space. A loose fabric shade on the chandelier deepens the textural nuances of this dynamic design.

    Design: Melanie Turner

    Tour this sophisticated lakeside home.

  • Extra-Lively Texture

    The outdoor living room in the Izmir, Turkey, home of interior designer Megan Perry Yorgancioglu is convincingly brought to life with a single outstanding textural find. The texture itself—faux grass—covers a foursome of club chairs Megan found in Paris. The quirky upholstery material makes the chairs look for all the world like lush lawns that just happen to be rooted around chairs.

    Note: When a single texture is especially exuberant, let it shine. Use other materials in small doses—or, as shown here, even limit additional fabrics to a single quiet kind such as a cotton-linen blend. Like any other decorating element, texture needs to be monitored to guard against overkill. When using a bolder texture like faux grass, less is more.

    Design: Megan Perry Yorgancioglu

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  • Francesco Lagnese

    Tap into Fun, Fab Texture

    Virginia designer Barbara Franceski encourages her clients to “think outside the box for the design they would like to see, not what they think should be done. I want them to have a little playfulness within their homes.” In the living room of her own Alexandria townhome, Barbara tapped into texture to deliver a light-hearted look that is sheer fun. A vintage wire dress form perched below an oil portrait introduces kicky character with its wiry texture. A pair of small, square wall mirrors are framed with shells whose unique texture strikes a note of beach-time bliss. A tiny Lucite and white-leather stool hints at romance, perhaps the memory of a casual summer fling.

    See more of this townhome on the next slide.

    Design: Barbara Franceski 

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Bling on the Texture

    Another view of designer Barbara Franceski’s Alexandria, Virginia, living room illustrates the room’s almost toe-tapping texture. Shiny chrome modern lights stare down at a classic wood-painted chair while a Niermann Weeks antique-mirrored screen and a mirrored Arteriors side table bring on the bling.

    Design: Barbara Franceski

    See the rest of this stylish townhome.

  • John Bessler and Jonny Valiant

    Texture with a Natural Bent

    Two architectural features in this Hamptons Showhouse living room established a textural theme for designer Skye Kirby Westcott: the floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace surround, and exposed wood ceiling beams. With those features as his springboard, he created a soothingly organic space using soft fabrics in pale but warm neutral colors.  Wooden benches and a console table team with round iron-and-glass side tables for a cohesively earthy look.

    Design: Skye Kirby Westcott

  • John Bessler and Jonny Valiant

    A Finely Finished Living Room

    When you know up front you want your living room to feel refined, texture can make it happen. This guest living room in the Hamptons Showhouse features soft fabrics, a cushy area rug, and wooden antique furnishings that are painted pale, to soften natural wood’s rusticity. The elegance knows no single time period. With soft texture as the common denominator, a mid-century modern sectional sofa stands beside a 19th-century Swedish table whose natural wood has been gentled beneath paint and gilt. A modern glass-and-Lucite coffee table underscores the glamorous sheen of a 1960s Venini chandelier.

    Design: Eddie Lee

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Just-Right Texture

    For a living room whose primary purpose is to provide a comfortable, casual place for the family to relax and entertain, the mix of textures is best reined in. Limiting texture to a few kindred fabrics and variously finished wood furnishings, with nothing too sleek or shiny in sight, ensures the greatest livability. That’s the key to the easy, no-worries attitude of this living room in an East Hampton cottage. A Stark sisal rug announces toe-pleasing livability, and a chair upholstered in a taupe Nancy Corzine fabric adds more subtle texture with its tufting. Too much rough texture also has to be avoided to strike a happy medium. The antique Chinese horse on the coffee table is the only rustic element required.

    Design: Patricia Fisher

    Tour this charming East Hampton home.

  • Emily Followill

    Decorating in the Rough

    For a South Carolina cabin that overlooks rolling green hills, rusticity was a natural as a decorating style. The living room captures the design style beginning with a tall stone fireplace—one so rustic its stones appear stacked without mortar. A single time-worn wood beam serves as the mantel shelf. A pair of leather chairs from Holland & Company continue the hardy-texture theme, with accents including a raw-wood side table and an iron floor lamp.

    See more of this home on the next slide.

    Design: June Price

  • Emily Followill

    Warm, Woolly Decorating

    This cabin’s texture takes a turn to the warm and the wooly in living room’s central conversation area. Armchairs are plush-backed and covered in warm velour. A red plaid bench boasts fuzzy wool, along with wool plaid throw pillows on the couch. A wool area rug makes going barefoot a pleasure. Wood-plank walls are painted but the doorframe consists of rough wood beams that make the rustic point clear.

    Design: June Price

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