This post is written by my Senior Colour Designer, Tricia Firmaniuk while I sit by the pool in Positano!
My pet peeve about accent chairs is always the fabric they are covered in when you buy a set in a big box store. Always some weird swirly, modern fabric that cannot be coordinated with ANYTHING.
Left a bossy generic pattern, Right a timeless, versatile print from Ballard Designs
My advice is DON’T DO IT.
Read on to find out what Tricia has to say:
The word “Accent” according to Oxforddictionaires.com, is “A feature which gives a distinctive visual emphasis to something”.
And in my mind, an “accent chair” is a piece that draws attention in a room, an emphatic expression of the colour scheme or aesthetic of the space. Makes sense right?
Pink accent chair in Natane Boudreau’s NYC Apartment
Was I ever shocked and dismayed when I had to go to a half dozen home decorating stores recently in search of a fun, colourful accent chair for a vignette I wanted to create.
Let me just tell you that I was met with a bland wash of shades of taupe, gray and linen chairs on offer everywhere.
Now of course, if I was shopping online, and I had some time to order something custom, I would have had options, but I wanted to buy it, toss it in my truck and create my vignette. I was on a mission. I know there is much to be said for patience and planning, but you know, sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way 😉
The image I held in my mind was of a pretty print of some kind, maybe in blue or green, pink or coral, something with some colour and interest that I could base my image on like this fun chair below.
Ok, this is probably too fabulous to find off the shelf but one can dream. Giant Peony by GP & J Baker
But by the third or fourth store I was becoming despondent. The best I could find was a grayed teal.
Here’s the vignette I came up with which was much more demure in colour than I had hoped (below).
It took my mind reluctantly back to Economics 101, you know, basic supply and demand? And I got all contemplative and thought, people must just not be buying colour and prints, otherwise, surely, the stores would be offering them? Just a theory guys, tell me it’s not true?
So here’s the thing, let’s say you decided to go with a safe, neutral sofa, (I admit I have a big space in my heart for a classic light canvas colour sofa, and warm cognac leather ones too), and now you need a pair of chairs to go with it (because we all know better than buying the matching loveseat right?)
What do you do? It looks like a good lot of people (according to my hackneyed interpretation of a highly oversimplified theory of economics) must be deciding, “I know, I’ll get pair of gray/linen/taupe accent chairs”, and I assume it’s because committing to blue/green/pink ones seems terrifying right? But this is false logic (according to my patchy recollection of Logic 101), because gray/linen/taupe is a colour too!
And you’ve just committed to it. And what’s worse, you now have diminished opportunities to introduce a more interesting and happy colour into your room! Ack, that wasn’t the idea!
If you’re still with me, here’s the thing my colour designer heart wants to share to save us all from too much gray and taupe: before you buy your main pieces for your room, it’s a good idea to dream up some idea of the colours you would like to use, not after you buy the bulkiest pieces that will take up the most visual space.
And this is because when I see a gray “accent” chair, I see a missed opportunity for delicious colour or pattern.
These blue chairs make this room by Jeffery Bilhuber
Can a neutral sofa and neutral chairs work? Of course they can, but it’s harder to pull off and it’s much more fun to make a statement, ahem, create an accent with some colour or pattern I think 🙂
If your heart is sinking reading this, because you’ve just bought all neutral furniture, don’t despair! You can still get some large scale colourful art or a nice area rug in colour, all is not lost. However, it’s not likely that you will get enough colour to make your room feel pulled together out of a few pillows and vases.
Maria has said this many times on the blog, and that is to introduce an accent colour successfully, you will need to add it in large, medium and small gradations.
The drapes give a large dose of green in this otherwise neutral room Source
What qualifies as large? Your sofa, drapes, an area rug, a piece of art that is almost as tall as you, or yes, a pair of fabulous accent chairs!
Medium? A piece of art the size of my dog Mabel, a decent sized collection of vases (like 5 or 7), an ottoman, an accent table, a set of toss pillows.
My sweet Mabel
And items you can call on to represent your accent colour in small doses are smaller artworks, single vases or vessles, a lamp etc.
But if you ask a bunch of small and even medium pieces to add colour to a room, you will end up with colour that looks bitty, and comes off tentative and uncommitted.
Colour is a commitment, once you walk through that door, there is no going back (at least for a few years), but it’s better to make a choice and open a door than to stand in the all gray lobby which really is nowhere yet.
Thanks Tricia, I couldn’t have said it better myself!
There is much more of course to choosing an accent chair such as shape and scale, but first, it’s important to be thinking about colour.
If you would like help pulling together your room, check out our Get Me Started eDesign decorting package here.