Design Study: Monochromatic Spaces Explained

Finally, we're back...

So, tonal spaces or in other words, monochromatic designs are my absolute favorite, go-to preference for conveying a refined and sophisticated ambiance.  A space that uses different shades of the same color, of course in a diligent way, just looks very well pulled together and that's always our goal.  Skipping eclectic, I am more of a "sereneness is cool" kind of girl.  Since we've been sharing lots of tonal spaces, I thought it was time to discuss how to create a similar look with these simple tips to consider. 

Choose a Dominant Color

Any tonal space needs a dominant color, one you will rely on when narrowing down shades.  I prefer dusty options, or at least a color that is not so overpowering so that that overall design feels soothing.  I can't imagine a vivid color overpowering a space.  It may be too much, but there must be exceptions out there, no?  Find your perfect shade :)  Here are some helpful options.  In the following example, my all time favorite shade of dusty-blue-gray was used for both the in-house custom designed curved back sofa, which by the way is upholstered in a hardwearing velvet with contrast silk frame (yeah, that's awesome, right?) and the silk wallpaper.  To further stick to the tonal look, I decided to use a patterned fabric on the two throw pillows that match the sofa color almost exactly.  The pattern helps differentiate the two, but still keeps within the monochromatic route.

Monochromatic living room, color palette ideas, blue sofa, Blue Tonal Living Room by Synonymous —

Choose two other complimentary colors

Please, do use an additional two other colors with your dominant option as it helps break up all the similarities, create interest and much needed depth.  This step is extremely important, I think.  Gather inspiration from nature, a photograph or even a fashion outfit like we did to determine which colors go together.  Take a look.   

Color palette ideas, blue color palette, rust, color scheme ideas, wedding colors, mood board, —

Match the Walls To the Main piece of furniture

The best way to automatically set the foundation for your monochromatic space is to match the wall color to that of your dominant piece of furniture.  This could be a sofa in a living room or a bed in a bedroom. What this does is create a consistent, cocoon like feel that envelopes the room, while it doesn't matter which color you're using, light or dark, the principle always applies.  If you're using wallpaper on the walls, such as a grasscloth or silk, make sure to match the baseboard and/or crown moulding color to the wallpaper.  We love doing this for a seamless transition between walls and millwork.  No wallpaper? Paint walls and trim all the same color, utilizing different sheens in each.  For walls and ceiling, consider a flat or egg shell finish and for trim a semi gloss or satin works just fine.  A darker color scheme like the one featured above called for a white ceiling and baseboard as a way to lighten the space—  a nice tip to consider.  In the following example we coordinated the bed and even the nightstands to the wall color.  Difference in texture is what helps the pieces stand out, despite having similar colors.  Oh, and consider matching the lampshades to the wall color, too.  I generally prefer going two or three shades darker so that they don't just blend in.

Monochromatic living room, mint sofa, glass lamp, upholstered headboard, custom pillows. Fresh Celadon Green Bedroom by Synonymous —

Coordinate Drapery Color 

When it comes to drapery, I suggest it coordinates with the wall color, but choose two or four shades darker.  Sounds like a lot of coordination, right?  It is, and that's what offers such soothing results.  Again, no matter what dominant color you've chosen.  I love the idea of using subtly patterned fabrics for drapery rather than a plain option because of the interest factor.  The pattern must be miniature, though, such as a herringbone or striped motif.  In a space, although nice, I rather not have the drapery take center stage. 

Monochromatic living room, tone on tone, green pillows, pattern ideas, brass coffee table, tufted bench. Subtly Rustic Living Room by Synonymous —

Balance the textures + Colors Throughout

Since everything is most likely leaning towards the dominant color, help differentiate between shades with the help of textures.  Use linens, velvets, silks on your upholstery.  Even on the same piece of furniture you may coordinate fabrics, something we love doing.  On our in-house custom designed curved back sofa (see below) we used velvet on the major sections and silk on the frame in varying shades of dusty-blue-gray.  The effect is gorgeous, I promise.  The 3 tier side table was also custom designed in-house with two materials— bronze metal for the frame and a light stained white oak on the inserts.  Now, by balancing the colors I mean it is imperative the three colors you have chosen are sprinkled throughout the room.  We do this by placing the two complimentary colors on throw pillows, substantial decorative bowls, vases and even on accent furniture pieces.  

Our example

Dominant Color:  Dusty Blue-Gray (used on the walls, curved back sofa, throw pillows, ombre vase, art and subtly on the backless sofa).

Two Complimentary Colors:  Burnt Rust-Orange (used on the throw pillow and art).  Ivory (used on the art, throw pillow, for the accent chair, coffee table and side table).

Monochromatic living room, color palette ideas, blue sofa, Blue Tonal Living Room by Synonymous —

Go the opposite direction with art

Lets say your scheme is dark, then consider using art with a light background and vise-versa.  Going the opposite direction in color with your art helps it stand out by creating drama.  In a monochromatic space, I find it necessary to add some much needed interest and this is one of the best ways to do that.  You may also choose one of your complimentary colors as the background to your art.

Monochromatic living room, tone on tone, green pillows, pattern ideas, brass coffee table, tufted bench. Subtly Rustic Living Room by Synonymous —

Introduce a Fourth Color

There's nothing wrong with sneaking in a fourth color to the equation, diligently, of course :)  More often than ever, I find myself doing this with the rug.  They are the perfect area to have fun with pattern and colors.  Make sure the rug includes the three main colors used in the space, but if you want to add even more interest, additional shades will help. Here's our guide to rug sizes in bedrooms, by the way. 

These are our quick tips for the moment.  I always think that it is important to explore several options because you learn as you go, so consider our guide, but if you have other ideas, give them a go :)  Hope you've found this guide helpful.

Monochromatic living room, color scheme, bedroom, ideas, painting, outfit, tone on tone — Synonymous Luxury Interior Design Studio NYC —