Good interior design balances color with a brilliant mix of patterns and texture; a good interior designer guides you in identifying your style and focuses on fostering livable interiors with a personal point of view to achieve a balanced design. To accomplish this, Nashville-based designer Marcelle Guilbeau thinks in terms of three. “Discovering the first three pieces in a room is the hardest thing, but once you get the first down, then you can expand out. It’s like a waltz — 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3,” she says. The designer explains that when helping clients build their base, she always starts with a favorite color or a pattern and picks out three points in the room to apply the palette.
In your living room, for example, start with the sofa, introduce a pattern on the chairs, and add color with throw pillows. “Start with three pieces and focus on how they will interact,” Marcelle suggests. “At this point, don’t talk about, or even think about, wallpaper or color of the walls (if that is not one of your three). Those things are not yet part of the conversation.”
In keeping the conversation focused, you can concentrate on choosing colors and patterns you like to create a foundation for your design. “There is no pressure to figure out what will work; it is all about figuring out what you like. When you add in layers, you can circle back around to the original palette, and get more bold and creative.”
For Marcelle, the first step to any project is determining whether your aesthetic skews modern or traditional and if you value purpose or nurturing — learning your “Soul Style.” Then, it is as easy as establishing a neutral base and layering in corresponding colors and textures fitting for you. “When decorating a room, you want to keep your main pieces in a neutral color palette that you know will stand the test of time,” says Marcelle. Typically, this means cream, taupes and greys, but it could be navy and pale blue if that is your style — and, of course, there is the rare occasion for a cherry red or canary yellow sofa.
Marcelle shares the example of a color-loving client who was anxious to figure out where the “color” should go: “We found some rich teal velvet chairs and colorful velvet pillows while shopping for furniture; the color palette in it would guide the whole project. Then we built out our timeless and classic base with the furniture selections. We layered in a teal overdyed vintage Oushak rug in the dining room. The ‘wow’ factor culminated in the drapes. Towards the end of the project, we selected a robin’s egg blue linen, which just takes the decor to a whole new level – and is totally unique to my client. The end result looks elegantly casual and lived in; there is no way that would have happened if we hadn’t approached it, collaboratively, as a ‘layering’ process.”
Explore this example and more — and then try the 1-2-3 approach at home.
Rug, Art, Drapes
The dining room pictured below exhibits exactly what Marcelle explained above: thoughtful layers of texture and color. As previously noted, teal is carried through the design thanks in part to the overdyed Oushak rug, which mimics the color of velvet chairs and pillows in the nearby living room. The hue is repeated in the artwork that leaps off the neutral walls, and soft grey/blue drapes were chosen to pull the design together.
Tip to take home: You can keep things neutral and still have color and texture. When making selections, look out for pieces that catch your attention. Marcelle’s goal is to curate a space of things you love that, when layered together, tell your story.
Sofa, Chairs, Pillows
The blue-ish, grey-ish sofa in the living room pictured below was the first piece of this 1-2-3 puzzle, and the designer explains how the cool neutral supports a unified colorway. “The clients pulled the blue fabric without knowing it would be used for the sofa,” she says. “Then, we found the Ikat in grey and cream and the buttery, pumpkiny yellow for a pop of color.” From there, the herringbone rug was chosen to pull the cream through the space; grey drapes match the chairs, and more pillows were added, bringing texture to the space.
Tips to take home: If you choose a solid-colored pillow as your main pillow, go with something textured or patterned that picks up color from other elements to place behind it. If you picked a textured pillow first, then you might want to layer a solid pillow behind it. A light color can be layered with something darker (or vice versa) to create depth and interest.
Wallpaper, Rug, Drapes
The below dining room proves that when it comes to color, there’s no reason to hold back. Marcelle embraces the owners’ love of color by adding an orange bamboo textured wallpaper as a backdrop to their existing collection of lime green chairs and matching dining table. Pairing the orange wallpaper with a textured rug and soft, linen drapes, counterbalanced the bold design decisions. For your three main pieces, stay open to various uses of color and texture, so you don’t overwhelm the eye with, say, an all-orange room.
Tips to take home: A bold wallpaper is a perfect place to start in a dining room or bedroom. If you are looking for bright, eye-catching color and texture, it is wise to focus on wallpaper as one of your first three design decisions.
Art, Rug, Chairs
Artwork with strokes of red and cobalt blue was the starting point for this design. “Often, in modernist living rooms and dining rooms, I like to have one big ‘wow’ factor of color. In this room, I threw out the idea of using a red rug with a sculptured texture,” says Marcelle of the rug that complements colors from the painting. Once the rug was decided upon, the homeowner chose houndstooth chairs and pillows in a deep blue/grey, which go well with the cream sofa carried over from the previous design.
Tips to take home: Layer in texture after you establish a basic color palette (if it doesn’t happen naturally). Modernist designs tend to be very clean with crisp color pairing; introducing texture-rich furniture, such as the rough-hewn custom wood and metal coffee table and side tables, creates balance.
Marcelle Guilbeau is an expert at layering color and texture. While it is possible to do this on your own, the eye of an expert will only elevate your design. To schedule an appointment to find out how Marcelle can bring your interiors to the next level, call (615) 574-8711 or visit marcelleguilbeau.com.
This article is sponsored by Marcelle Guilbeau Interior Design. All photography provided by Marcelle Guilbeau Interior Design.