5 Tips for Pulling Off Monochromatic Designs in Your Home

This bold color application comes straight from the runways. Use these expert tips to pull off a monochromatic look at home.

Interior design trends don't happen in a vacuum. They're often influenced by industries outside the home, including pop culture, technology, and, perhaps most frequently, fashion. In the months following fashion week events, runway trends often trickle into our homes; a few of the latest examples include maximalist style and bold checkerboard patterns. "There has always been a close connection between fashion and interiors," says Carol Miller, former fashion designer and current marketing manager for York Wallcoverings. "It requires the same type of creative thinking as interior design: considerations around scale, pattern, material, even durability."

The most recent fashion craze poised to cross over into interiors is the head-to-toe monochromatic look. Outfits swathed in a single color were on full display on the Capitol steps during Inauguration Day festivities, and the trend featured prominently in the spring/summer 2021 collections of iconic design houses like Chanel and Prada. In fashion, this bold use of color creates a sleek and striking impression, and the effect is similar for interiors.

pink bedroom black trim
Adam Albright

"The monochromatic look is modern because it's seamless—there's no break in color from ceiling to floor," says Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams. Depending on the color and room where it's used, monochromatic decor can exhibit distinctive personality, create a serene atmosphere, or provide a cozy, cocoon-like feeling. In a room that's all one color, the challenge is creating depth and balance to avoid a look that's overpowering or falls flat. Use these expert tips to achieve a monochromatic look that wows without overwhelming.

royal blue berdroom zebra
Werner Straube

1. Choose a color you're comfortable with.

If you're going all-in with a monochromatic look, choosing a color you love is vital. Look to a favorite piece of furniture or art to build your monochromatic color scheme around, or choose furnishings that match a paint color or wallpaper you love. If you're starting from scratch, Wadden suggests taking a peek inside your closet for inspiration. "Taking cues from the wardrobe can help people better understand the types of colors they gravitate toward and feel most comfortable in," she says. You should also consider the mood you want to create within the room. Deep colors lend themselves to moody, sophisticated spaces, while brighter hues can evoke a playful, energetic feeling. Neutrals are great for encouraging calm.

white desk area with high-contrast monochrome in hot pink colors
Sarah Dorio

2. Start small.

Enveloping an entire room in one color is a big decision, so it can be helpful to start with a small space. "Testing it out in a bathroom or other smaller area can be less intimidating than a larger, more public space like a living room," Miller says. "Smaller spaces are more contained, with fewer elements to update in your chosen hue, so they are much easier to upgrade when it comes to this trend." Home offices, kid's rooms, and bedrooms are also good candidates. As an added bonus, monochromatic decor can help create the illusion of more square footage. "Using the same color throughout, especially if it's a darker color, can make the space feel larger than it really is," Wadden says.

bedroom with blue upholstered bed, white and blue bedding
Jay Wilde

3. Use several shades of the same color.

A monochromatic room doesn't necessarily have to stick to one shade. Paint strips can provide a handy tool for selecting color variations that work together, Wadden says. "Using colors that vary in lightness and saturation can create such a clean, sophisticated look." One no-fail approach to monochromatic design is to apply one of the lightest colors on the walls, then bring in the darkest shade on a large piece of furniture, such as a bed or sofa. Save the medium tones for accents like throw pillows, bedding, and area rugs. For a bolder look, go dark on the walls and layer in lighter shades through furniture and accessories.

blue plaid couch turtle shells
Annie Schlechter

4. Create interest with texture.

Using a variety of textures is key to achieving depth within a monochromatic color scheme. Juxtapose loosely woven or nubby fabrics with smooth materials like velvet on upholstered furniture and pillows. Bring in natural materials, such as wood and rattan, with accent furniture. On walls, Miller suggests applying a grass cloth or sisal wall covering, which you can now find in a wide range of colors.

blue living room fireplace patterned chair
David A. Land

5. Vary sheens and finishes.

Switching up the level of shine is another way to create visual interest in a monochromatic room. On painted surfaces, consider using different sheens across walls and millwork. "I recommend using a flat or matte finish on the walls and a semigloss finish on trim—it creates just enough contrast to add depth," Wadden says. Shiny metallic finishes are another way to bounce light around the room and create dimension. Choose furnishings that feature reflective materials, or bring in metal accents with light fixtures, picture frames, and small decorative objects.

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