The Way It Feels: The Role of Texture in Home Design

For some, the way it looks is all that matters. But if you’re going to live, to work or to exist in a space, one of the most easily identified aspects of a space is how that place feels.

Texture is about character. It adds a level of depth to the design of an area that is not always immediately recognized, but always remembered.

In a world of smooth, technologically designed surface, a weathered, rough surface can provide a sense of character and depth that many materials glaze over. Ignoring the feel of a space can do a great disservice to an otherwise well-designed home. So, after you’ve chosen your material, what role does texture play?

In many ways, texture connects us to our past. The ruggedness of a worn fabric, the ridges of an aged wood or sharp coolness of fresh stone transports us to another world. A world outside of the smooth metals and soft manufactured fabrics of modernity. Texture can be reintroduced into the modern home in many ways.

Rough paint jobs, old wood, woven materials and other carefully thought-out textures can add a depth and purpose to an otherwise sterile home.

Texture can add a sense of ruggedness, sensuality or even warmth to an otherwise smooth-felt environment. Introducing texture, whether it is from ceramic, stone, wood or other methods is one of the many ways floor, wall and ceiling coverings can be used as a means of adding additional character to your home. makes three excellent points on texture in home design:

1.) Texture dictates weight. Rough, coarse textures tend to make an object feel heavier, while smoother textures will make it feel lighter. So as odd as it may seem, a polished marble floor (quite heavy in reality) may feel lighter than a rough wooden one. Any object that reflects light — polished stone, chrome or glass—  is going to feel lighter than objects that don’t — unpolished stone, iron or brick. The key is balance. Too much rough wood, stone and brick and a home can feel heavy and laden-down. Too much chrome, glass and stainless steel, and a home can feel cold and one-dimensional. A mix of the two and you’ve made an interesting, and surprising statement. Below, a thick wooden barn door adds textural interest when paired with white walls, white-washed floors and a smooth stone vase. Behind the door, the bathroom floor is rough granite, which balances out ceramic white tiles.

2.) Texture is a great way to keep monochromatic environments from getting boring. All white interiors can feel pretty stagnant without texture to create interest.  (Think how boring shabby chic would be without the distressed wood.) However, an all-white color scheme with a little wood, shag carpets, moldings, and a few natural textured surfaces suddenly has pizazz. Witness the excitement, below, created simply by placing a rough organically-shaped wooden dining table alongside smooth fiberglass dining chairs. A ceramic sculpture adds more contrast against white-washed floors and walls.

3.) Art can be an easy way to add texture. If you’re looking for ways to add a little texture to a space that is already largely in place, one easy way to do so is through art. You can find texture in sculpture, paintings and various wall hangings. Below, an eye-catching wall sculpture above the fireplace provides instant texture to a monochromatic space. Other textural elements include the wooden beams, the organic wooden dining table, sisal carpeting, leather chairs, and blocky, sculptural wooden stools which contrast against white-washed floors, a white ceramic lamp, and fiberglass chairs.