Texture, small dabs of color enliven designs

DEAR GAIL: We’re in the process of redecorating our house and changing our look from a very colorful tropical to more neutral colors. We’ve loved having the color from our silk flowers but are ready for a new look. So instead of a bunch of flowers, what can we do that won’t just look like a bunch of curly willow and grass? — Steve and Anna.

DEAR STEVE and ANNA: There are so many options on the market now for textural arrangements that are more then just curly willow. Plus, nothing says that you have to have silk flowers in your arrangements to make them colorful.

When going from a very colorful environment to a neutral one, I think it is important to add some color so that the look doesn’t come across as very plain.

One thing that you’ll need to do is introduce a variety of textures in your home. If you are keeping your upholstery, switch out the pillows for ones with different textures. Add texture to your area rugs as well as your accessories. Then, to add some color to your arrangements, replace the very colorful flowers that you currently have with green, pale yellow and even deep plum flowers.

Before heading out to go shopping, remember to take a couple of things with you. First, if you have a container for the arrangement, it is important to take it with you to get a better idea of the color and textural feel when combined with the stems.

Then, if you know exactly where the container is going to go, take a picture of that area. On the picture mark the dimensions of the area: height, width and depth. Plus, remember that our color memory is only 14 seconds so always bring your paint and fabric swatches.

When shopping for stems and items for your arrangements, you’ll be amazed at all the different textures and styles that are now available. It is no longer just curly willow and eucalyptus leaves. Although I love them both, especially curly willow, there are so many more items you can use together.

If you are going to use curly willow, which I almost always do, try to buy it fresh versus dried as it’s so much easier to work with when putting together arrangements. It will dry within a few days, so you’ll want to set some time aside to make your arrangements as soon as you buy it.

Once you’re in the store, get yourself a cart and start checking out all that is new to the dried world. You’ll find great looking grasses, lucky bamboo that even I can’t kill, dried bamboo sticks in all stain colors and sizes, twigs in different shapes and more.

In the accompanying pictures, notice the combination of grass and different styles and sizes of lucky bamboo used in the tall, narrow iron container. The green from the bamboo added color to the grouping so that everything wasn’t just tone-on-tone.

I fell in love with the bendable rope used in the smaller container in the niche. The twigs in back actually have another type and color of twig wrapped around them. Then, for some color, I added a dark plum flower.

Putting textural arrangements together is much easier for me than creating true flower arrangements as they have a more relaxed feel.

To create the arrangement in the container, I use floral foam at the bottom and then fill the rest with silica sand. Silica sand is what is used when mixing concrete; it is very fine sand, which also looks great in clear containers. It lets me push the stems into the container without them breaking or bending. Also, if I don’t like what I’ve done, I can pull the whole thing out and start over without having to redo the foam because of all the holes I’ve created.

Once I have the arrangement the way that I like it, I add more sand to stabilize the stems and keep them in place. Plus, now I’ve created a more grounded vase that isn’t too top heavy.

Have fun mixing all of the textures that you’ll find and try the silica sand out, you’ll love working with it.


Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by e-mail to: Or, mail to: 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her Web address is:

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