Some examples are contrasting dark wood furniture with white or ivory colored and textured fabrics. Adding texture to fabric or furniture also tones down the contrast effect. A rattan or banana leaf woven chair with a white herringbone tweed covered cushion is not as cold in a room as a black lacquered chair with white polyester cushions.
Even the color red will not be so shocking if done in small splashes of accessories or pillows with textured patterns. A fabric providing a nap like chenille or faux suede gives a different shade of color each time you brush it in a different direction, thus, softening the color red in a room. Other textures like embroidery, quilting, and braiding can also soften a contrasting colored fabric.
Other ways to soften the contrast effect in a room is by placing a nice balance of nature in a room. A variety of plants can provide color and a more relaxing feel to the room. Black or ebony finished wood furniture(not lacquered) looks great next to wood pieces with a natural wood finish allowing the beauty of the natural grain to show. Ebony finished wood next to natural finished wood is another understated form of providing contrast. Dried plants can also provide a feeling of being surrounded by nature and harmony in a room with contrasting colors.
'Harmony' plays a key role, much more than in a monochromatic colored room. The involvement of rhythm or repetition of elements in a room is 'harmony.' The best example is the placement of accessories and wall décor in a diagonal on the wall. Nesting tables or three sizes of the same vase provide progression and help the eye to easily move from one area to another. A repeat like small-large-small-large sizes of pictures or frames, especially, round or oval shaped can provide a sense of a river softly flowing up and down, and gives a sense of calmness, even in a contrasting colored room.
Do not be afraid of contrasting colors because a dramatic room is good, but you may want advice from a designer how to put it all together in order that it is not to cold, shocking or hurtful to the eye. In fact, I suggest you patronize a small business that has unique artistic pieces, purchase one, and tell your designer that this is the focal point or theme for my room. Let your designer expand the contrasting colors of your themed piece into the furniture and other accessories of the room. Remember, texture and harmony are keys to success.
These ideas are especially helpful in a vacation home, but can be used in any home or office setting.
The author is an Ethan Allen Interior Designer. She also is the CEO of SkyPoint, Ltd. Real Estate - Vacation Home Specialist.