The seven elements of interior design: Texture

This series on the Pooky blog looks at the seven elements of interior design: space, texture, line, form, shape, color, pattern, and, of course, light. In the second post we look at how to make texture - the way something ‘feels to the eye’ - work in your home…

Texture is where the visual sense meets the tactile, which explains why it is such a key element in interior design. Along with colour and pattern, texture adds interest and substance to a design scheme. Texture can lift, deepen, enhance and even surprise us and can help create distinctive, unique spaces. 

We wanted to explore the how, where and why of texture and find out more about this fascinating subject. Texture is something we give a great deal of thought to at Pooky in terms of materials and finishes so we have also chosen some of our own textural favourites.


What is texture in interior design?

When you hear the word ‘texture’, what springs to mind? Most of us immediately think of textiles. It’s not surprising, after all both words share the same root and stem from the Latin textura, which means weaving. 

Texture, however, is broader and encompasses not only textiles but also all materials and finishes, from furniture to furnishings and flooring, and from walls and ceilings to accessories.  It’s a slightly strange concept because it blends and blurs two senses: touch and sight. Texture isn’t just about how something feels when you touch it with your fingers, but how it ‘feels to the eye’ when you look at it. Somehow, our brains take the memory of touch and that memory influences our visual response to a surface. 

Whether you want rough, smooth, hard, soft, silky, velvety, ribbed, ridged, bumpy, wrinkly or what you will, being aware of texture is how you achieve it. It can help to create a sense of warmth or cool things down. And it is also a matter of personal preference. For example, would you rather stretch out on a sofa upholstered in velvet or leather?

Smooth surfaces in this polished, contemporary, light-filled kitchen by Clare Weeks of My-Studio

 Brick, wood, distressed leather, wooly throws....and note the plastic 'ghost chairs' at the dining table. Plenty of interesting textures for the eye to latch onto in this room by Clare Botha of Geek Vintique

Texture – picking and mixing

Texture offers versatility, whether you are aiming for a minimalist or maximalist look, somewhere in between, or something entirely different; the skill comes in working out what will work best with what.

You can mix and match for variety, or opt for smooth and streamlined. We think a little variety works well, to bring out the best of your statement pieces or bring the focus to a particular area. Think soft rugs on parquet floors; fabric wall hangings on brick or stone; fluffy furnishings against hard wood floorboards...

brooke copp bartonLovely soft touches and fluffy furnishings and fixtures set off the wooden floors in this design by Brooke Copp-Barton

 Contrasting textures can be done subtly, like the lovely ceramic pieces against the stone wall in this room by Laura Stephens 

If you are starting from scratch or seriously updating a room – or an entire home – it pays to spend time collecting samples. Look out for furnishing fabrics; flooring, wall and worktop finishes; different types of wood, wallpaper and so on.  Playing around with texture (pattern and colour too) is more than just fun; it’s the best way to avoid making costly mistakes.

What’s going to work best for you in a particular space? Antique oak floorings? Grey cement tiles? 

Traditional embossed wallpapers such as Anaglypta and Lincrusta have made quite a comeback, and not just for period homes. Apart from the fact that they are so pleasing to the touch, they can be painted in any colour you choose.

Analgypta Egon textured wallpaper by Rockett St George



Texture - making more of less

Even the most pared-down of interiors need interest and focal points; the challenge with the minimalist approach is to avoid bland and this is where texture – or textures – can be your friend. 

Carefully curated texture can bring out the best of the individual components of a room, not least when working with a neutral palette, or with just a few tones of the same colour.

Texture, rather than colour, does all the work in creating visual contrast in this clever, imaginative interior by Fiona Parke

Texture – making more of more

By contrast, getting maximalism right brings its own challenges. Having a plethora of focal points still requires discipline and making careful choices in combining fabrics and finishes. Each has to be strong enough to hold its own, while complementing each other.


In rental properties furnishings and fabrics can do a lot of the heavy lifting in creating visual interest and a unique identity. Amara of The Pajaama Hub is a genius for using colour and texture in designs that won't cost you your deposit. See more from Amara here.


 A deliberately limited colour palette meets an absolute riot of 'masculine' textures including leather, faux animal hides, stone, wood and heavy metal in this Man Cave by Siobhan Hayles.

 

The art of texture

Another intriguing way to bring texture into your home is through textile artworks. The 62 Group of Textile Artists is a showcase for the work of members from across the UK and beyond. If you are keen to support local artists, look for members listed by region.


'Baptism' (2014) by West Yorkshire-based textile artist, Hannah Lamb

 

Using lighting for texture

Pooky’s lamp shades come in all sorts of fabulous materials including block printed cotton, card, ikats, jute, linen, marbled paper, parchment, shibori and velvet.

And then there are the lamps and lighting: aluminum, brass, cane, ceramic, glass, leather, marble, rattan, resin and wood. Just think of the endless combinations and the fun you can have deciding on the ideal look and feel of the perfect lighting for your home. Illumination, after all, will not only bring out the finest points of your choice of textures but in itself, it’s the most versatile texture of all.

Here are some of Pooky’s textural winners, starting with our Ted table lamp. This beautiful forest green glazed ceramic lamp, with its rows of delicate little bobbles under the glaze, offers a pleasing texture with a subtle reflective quality. Combine it, as we have here, with a drum shade in natural linen for a touch of Modern Rustic.

 

Or how about the pleasing texture of turned natural wood, as with the Venus table lamp - here paired with a hand marbled paper shade:

Venus table lamp in natural wood

 

Our Coronet floor lamp in aquamarine polished resin looks and feels both grown up and decorative; it’s fashionably retro but thoroughly modern and fresh.

 

And just to prove how different materials can truly come into their own when combined, we added an empire shade in rattan to our Ned standing lamp, a bronze-finished brass tube, with an adjustable joint, set into a marble base. Classic and contemporary – and highly versatile.

ned standing lampNed standing lamp with black marble base and rattan shade

 

Pooky makes beautiful, affordable designer lighting for beautiful rooms. Browse our full range of lamps, shades and more.

 

See also:

The Seven Elements of Interior Design: Space

 

Image top: Textures galore in a room by Ali Childs