The three key elements of coordinating fabrics are color, pattern, and texture.
• Color is the key element in coordinating fabrics. Look for a specific, closely matched color that can be the element of continuity from one fabric to all the others. This color should be very similar in temperature (cool versus warm), intensity and identity.
• If possible, a second color that also is matched or closely blended will unify multiple fabrics from different sources.
• Consider the background color and avoid mismatching off-white backgrounds. Each off-white will have a definite undertone; the hue mixed with the white that renders it a pinkish, greenish, grayish, yellowish or other color of off-white. Try to match the undertones as closely as possible.
• Vary the intensity. If every color is bright, the scheme is irritating and tiresome; if all the colors are dull, then boredom is the result. The Law of Chromatic Distribution verifies this approach: “The largest areas in the room are covered with the dullest or most neutralized colors of the scheme. The smaller the area, the more intense the chroma (brightness) proportionately becomes.” Simply put, largest areas dull, medium-size areas dull to medium bright, and smallest areas the most bright.
• Generally, lightest colors above, medium values around the middle and darkest colors underfoot. Of course this rule may be broken for special effects, but it is always one that works and can be counted on for effective value distribution.
• Colors should be either all warm or all cool, again with special consideration for the undertones.
• When combining fabric patterns, this rule of thumb is consistently useful: One large scale pattern, one small scale pattern, one geometric, one stripe and one or more solid fabrics with texture.
• Patterns establish themes, and most patterns can be easily categorized. Although there are many specific themes that deal with historic time and place, a simple way of testing a theme is to generalize the pattern using adjectives. By doing this, the other patterns in a design theme should fit into the same category of adjectives so cohesiveness is possible.
These adjectives suggest a psychological response, which is a key to their appropriate selection. Here are some examples:
• Sophisticated, elegant, refined, genteel, high-quality, upscale, costly
• Masculine, geometric, primitive, angular, earthy, rough, heavy, complex
• Feminine, romantic, floral, soft, ethereal, painterly, lovely
• Fun, bright, colorful, perky, spontaneous, lively, abstract
• Like pattern, textures evoke a neatly categorized and successful interior.
• Smooth, refined textures grouped together are always choices that can be trusted for a formal setting. These include damask, refined sheers, satin and antique satin, velvet, brocade, brocatelle, crepe, moiré, lace.
• Less refined and rougher textures combined yield a casual, tactile, earthy interior. Such fabrics are tweed, matelasse, casement, canvas, leather, boucle, houndstooth and herringbone, pile fabric, corduroy, velour, homespun, flannel, flamestitch, tapestry, suede cloth, plaid, flannel.
• Romantic textures include chintz and warp sateen, polished cotton, organdy, printed and textures sheers, satin and antique satin, shantung, taffeta and moiré, chiffon velvet or velour, chiffon textures (soft hand), taffeta, jacquards, lappet and other embroideries, lace.
• Fun, graphic themes benefit from these textures: oxford cloth, broadcloth, chintz, warp sateen, duck/sailcloth, printed and textured sheers, ticking, toile, graphic plaids, poplin, dotted Swiss, denim, chambray.
• A newer direction is the combination of textures in unexpected ways creating a texturally eclectic interior. The stimulating and interesting contrast of rough with smooth (tweed and polished cotton) or heavy with light (velvet and sheer) has been a cutting edge approach in upscale design circles and has met with great success. It means to break out of the mold, to worry less about categories (such as those above!) and be truly creative!