In creating room’s design, don’t forget fabrics

Most of us think that only one or two elements qualify as the most important in the design of a room. But once we actually start planning a space, it often becomes clear that several factors should be given equal weight.

The selection and placement of furniture and colors do merit primary consideration at the outset. Opportunities for creating a special look will be lost, however, if the selection of fabrics isn’t also included at an early stage of the plan. Their color, pattern and texture have the potential to elevate an interior design well beyond the ordinary.

Q: I like the look of teak furniture and teak flooring, but it seems I’ve overdone a good thing in my dining room. Not even the pale yellow walls prevent the space from looking dark and dull.

Keeping my modest budget in mind, can you suggest how I might add some spark to this setting?

A: What your dining room needs is more color and contrast. And both can be introduced, without great expense, by means of paint, fabrics and accessories.

Consider painting over those pale yellow walls with a warm color such as melon or a reddish-orange. And if you prefer something cooler, a leaf-green or Mediterranean blue is always flattering to dark woods such as teak. Whichever color you choose can also be used as covering for the chairs, if your budget permits.

Another way of creating greater contrast between the furniture and the flooring would be to paint the walls a pure white while covering the table with natural linen.

What gets placed on the table can have a big impact on a dining room’s overall appearance. Dishes, serving pieces and napkins should act as more than accessories in a space such as the one you describe. Besides brightening the entire setting, the items on top of the table can make the food seem more interesting — and even tastier.

Your choices are many. My own preference is for white or cream dishes and smaller plates, with the serving pieces in stronger colors so they act as accents.

As the accompanying photo shows, tabletop runners in a black pattern on linen fabric will add spark to a room with white walls and lots of teak furniture and teak flooring. These particular runners and place mats are part of a new collection from Dwell (, a New York design studio known for its sophisticated home-furnishing fabrics.

Rita St. Clair is a syndicated columnist with Tribune Media Services Inc. E-mail general interior design questions to her at

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