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Achieve balance, influence atmosphere and create visual depth in a room with a measured contrast of fabric and colour

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Often under-used in today's homes, fabrics are a means of imparting character and atmosphere. Used with vision, fabric can add texture, richness and definition to a home.

For interior decorators Marie Graham and Dyan Hulme, from Temp Interiors, an empty house represents a blank canvas, on which a variety of decorations, including fabric, is blended to create visual depth, and help define spaces.

"Meeting with clients, seeing what their needs are, what colours they like, even how they like to sit will be reflected in the choice of furnishings, fabric and colour," says Graham.

A complete interior design project will balance the requirements of the client with the style of the house, she says.

"Different styles of house often require toning up or down. With fabric, you can create your own atmosphere. This house, a mix of classic and contemporary styles, required additional warmth in some areas. Other styles, however, such as minimalist or eclectic, need to be treated differently."

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As a first design step, Hulme suggests building on what is already there.

"You can warm up or cool down wall and carpet colours with different textured and coloured fabrics. The soft, sage and putty coloured walls, and stony grey carpets in areas of this home created an atmosphere that was cool overall," she says.

Therefore, soft, floor-to-ceiling drapes were used to energise the formal lounge.

"By adding rich coloured cushions, you can add another layer of visual depth and texture."

Hulme and Graham used a light coloured, unpatterned fabric on all the home's lounge suites. The neutral colours, chosen for graceful ageing, allow the varied colour palettes in each room to become more apparent.

The custom-made formal lounge suite, upholstered in a textured honeycomb fabric, subtly extends the comfortable and inviting ambience. The Italian marble coffee table, console and occasional add a sense of elegance.

Just as complementary fabrics can add warmth, by deliberately contrasting fabrics and colours you can bring a sense of fun, drama or romance to a room, says Graham.

"The upstairs living area, with cane lounge suite and day bed, is room for entertaining used mainly by children. It's a robust, fun space, which features layers of green – including a shag rug – and orange that contrast with the highly textured caneware with its comfortable linen-mix upholstery."

As well as adding texture, floor furnishings can also help to create a visual connection between different room elements, creating defined seating and dining areas.

"With the varied patterns and hues of cushions you can easily add highlights to a room. In the living area of this home, the warm timber floor, softened with a red shag rug, is colour co-ordinated right through to the accessories," Graham says.

Following the principle of layering patterned and solid-coloured cushions over neutral furnishings, different visual effects can be obtained.

In bedrooms, using light or white fabric can play a role in creating peaceful, intimate spaces. Moods can be altered by accessories.

The master bedroom, with its cream, outline-quilted bedspread, has an atmosphere of lush comfort accentuated by floor-to-ceiling white drapes and a white faux fur throw. Warm highlights are added by the rich tan leather bedside lamps and oversize rounded arm occasional chairs.

In the guest bedroom, a white Marcala bedspread was matched with white caneware bedhead. The deep red cushions link visually to the downstairs living room.

First published date: 13 December 2005

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Credit List

Architect Origin Architecture
Interior designer Marie Graham and Dyan Hulme from Temp Interiors (Auckland)
Builder BTB Construction
Joinery Contour Aluminium
Tiling Independent Ceramics
Flooring Hills Flooring
Audiovisual Digital World
Plasma Panasonic 42in
Lounge furniture Lounge suite and Italian lamp from Temp Interiors; Ceprano Beige Corallo marble coffee table, console and occasional table from Bradfords; cream wool rug from Temp Interiors
Blinds and drapes David Hickey from the Auckland Drape Company
Artwork Lounge painting by Jill Perrott; lounge bronze limited edition from Now & Again Antiques Remuera
Cushions Assorted fabrics from Temp Interiors
Family room furnishings Cream macro suede sofa and coffee table from Temp Interiors; display cabinet from Ross Manufacturing; red shag rug from Temp Interiors
Family room upstairs furniture All cane from Maytime Marketing
Bedroom cushions Red Rose from Temp Interiors
Bedspread White Marcala from Lord of the Isles
Caneware White cane from Maytime Marketing
Master bedroom furnishings Extravaganza console, occasional chairs and mirror from Bradfords; cushions from Temp Interiors; cream faux fur from Influence Fabrics; bedside cabinets and headboard from Temp Interiors; outline quilted bedspread from David Hickey, Auckland Drape Company
Bathroom vanity cabinetry Chesters