A calming and sophisticated bedroom:  Bedroom by Tailored Living Interiors

​How to work with a monochrome design

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan

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Colour is really an amazing thing, as it has the power to completely transform any object or space (from a living room and kitchen to a bedroom and garden terrace). Add to that the fact that colour psychology teaches us that colour can also influence our moods and thoughts, and a colour palette becomes one of the best elements in the worlds of architecture and interior design.

But of course there are also a million different ways in which to use colour, depending on the style and ambience you want to create in a room. And one of the easiest ways in which to create a harmonious look is with a monochrome colour scheme.

But before you starting thinking that monochrome means exclusively black-and-white designs, keep in mind that monochrome colour is one of the most commonly misunderstood terms in decorating.

So, before we learn how to effectively use a monochrome design, let’s first discover what it entails…

1. What is a monochrome design?

When it comes to interior designing, monochromatic does not mean only one colour in one value used throughout a room. The word ‘monochromatic’ might mean one colour, but in decorating terms it speaks about one colour refined to be used in various ways. 

Any colour under the sun has the ability to be used in monochrome design, yet the most popular seem to be neutral tones.

2. How a monochromatic colour scheme makes decorating simple

Botanical Monochrome Show Home:  Study/office by THE FRESH INTERIOR COMPANY

Botanical Monochrome Show Home


So, if a monochromatic colour palette uses only one colour, how do we keep it from overwhelming the entire room while still ensuring interest? By using various hues/tints of that one colour (which is also great for smaller rooms, as it can make tiny spaces seem bigger). 

When we vary our colours with lighter/darker tints, we avoid a monotonous look. However, the end result needs to be visually balanced, as well as include a certain amount of texture/pattern. Texture adds interest to a room, and can also be edited to seem light or dark. Some of the most popular ways to add texture to a space is with pillows, scatter cushions, rugs and window treatment.

3. A monochrome design: Choose your colours

Sandbanks Show apartment:  Living room by SMB Interior Design Ltd
SMB Interior Design Ltd

Sandbanks Show apartment

SMB Interior Design Ltd

The first step to a monochrome design is choosing the colours that we’re going to use. Obviously it needs to be the same main colour (i.e. brown), yet the other two ‘colours’ will actually be lighter/darker hues of the main colour. For instance, black, white and grey are all the same colour, yet in different tints. 

Here is where a neutral palette is king. Whites, creams, greys, browns and blacks are all available in thousands of different tints, plus they each have the ability to remain timeless. While they easily absorb colourful décor to create a livelier space, monochromatic neutrals also just as easily stand on their own for a soothing, inviting getaway.

If you need help narrowing your options, try looking at paint samples and swatches (that show off various lighter/darker hues of one main colour) for inspiration.

4. A monochrome design: Add patterns and textures

A calming and sophisticated bedroom:  Bedroom by Tailored Living Interiors
Tailored Living Interiors

A calming and sophisticated bedroom

Tailored Living Interiors

As already stated, patterns and textures ensure character for a room, and is especially important to steer a monochrome design away from seeming too monotonous. 

Picture a brown/beige monochrome design in a room with wooden floors. The rich, textured timber of the floor ensures visual interest while also adhering to the space’s main colour scheme. Adding more textures and patterns to the room (i.e. a cushy rug in a mocha brown which flaunts chequered motifs) adds even more character, but keep it simple. A monochrome colour palette, after all, is meant to make a room seem stylish the subtle way.

5. A monochrome design: Get creative with accent materials

Even though the majority of elements in a monochrome design should fit within the overall scheme, there are no rules dictating that everything has to match. Accents and accessories are opportunities to colour outside the lines. 

For instance, a coffee table with a metal finish in a living room can ensure a bit of contrast from, say, the wooden credenza in the corner. As long as they are complementary in their colour palettes (and include your base/main colour), your accents and accessories don’t have to match up 100% in material or finish. 

In the end, refrain from opting for a too “clean” look. Even the most minimalist space still flaunts some texture and pattern. And remember to have fun – after all, interior designing and decorating is a never-ending process! 

Speaking of the power of neutrals, let’s see what to do when Working with colour: Decorating with beige.

Are you in for a monochrome design in your house, or do you prefer something more colourful?
Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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