ask a designer – accent wall choices and more

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Ask A Designer™

accent wall choices and more

Q. I love all the work you did for me four years ago, but I am ready to change some things. My favorite area is the sitting room with the purple/grey and green walls. I’m tired of the orange accent wall in the kitchen, but I’m glad I used a color for once.

It went great with the natural cabinets and all the other grey and black things. I have new art that is three dimensional and also has a lot of grey. Everything is grey now except one picture with “bistro” colors. Now, there is no reason to keep the orange, but I can’t picture anything other than a charcoal grey. I don’t like many colors. What could we do that isn’t boring and enhances the new art which has no color at all?—B.M.

A.The important thing is that you love grey so much that you can’t get too much of it. Looking at the art, I see that the pieces are of different sizes and shapes, with loose metal, and that some are rather small. Considering they are on the same wall as the television—which has an eye catching array of things under it—and that you love stream-lined perfection, what we need more than color now is unity.

A focal wall where the orange used to be won’t help the art work. We will stay with grey since there are no other colors to link in. Let’s paint a very wide band of dark grey to make a gallery of the art and let that dark grey flow into the wall which is no longer a focus but an accent wall. This time, the wall will have less impact on its own, but the path getting there will flow well and be filled with interesting art which relates to the furnishings in the room.

working with multiple tile choices

Q. For my kitchen backsplash, I have selected several tiles that I love, but the sales person told me I have too many items. The space to the cabinet is 18-in. and the stove is 36-in. wide. The space is ordinary, but I want the backsplash to be beautiful, and I love the idea of stone, glass, and metal together. The stone comes in 3-in. squares and two sizes of brick. Glass is 2-in. I like the matte and shiny glass side by side. The metal has 1- or 4-in. strips and 1-, 2-, and 4-in. squares. What design could incorporate all my materials?—M.R.

A.Designers are trained to control what seems like an endless array of elements. This is typically accomplished by recognizing underlying or secondary themes within disparate elements and creating a harmony with the secondary theme while the surface is free moving, similar to the way a full bodied symphony has a multitude of instruments playing different intriguing parts but contributing to a greater whole. In design, the more tension between the elements successfully brought together, the more “designerly” it is said to be. More skill is involved in the combination.

The comfort zone each person has for pattern and color varies greatly. The guidelines given by your salesperson were to keep you in a middle safe zone. Let’s assume that we will stay in that zone but that you must have all three materials and that the only thing we can change is the size of tiles.
There are two easy ways of integrating the different tile sizes.  We can place our favorite or most decorative (the metal) tiles in prominent places and create the border and background from there. For this design, I chose the brick shape to echo the linear movement of the thin metal strip. A 3-in. metal strip makes a bold statement in the backsplash. Then, 4- and 1-in. metal tiles go on point. Glass is the smallest piece and easiest to place; here it makes a fabulous background.

Another way to approach the design is to look at the mathematical relationship of the tiles. Pieces that are multiples of each other alternate easily. Four squares of 2-in. tile go with 1 square of 4-in. tile, etc. In your materials list, the stone is the odd size. We look for a common denominator. I chose 18 as the number. I started with a 4-in. metal piece in the center and four more on point with glass alternating matte and sheen to fill in the remaining 4-in. sections. A row of 6 natural stone pieces goes around each side for a perfect 18-in. square that can be centered in the backsplash.
Notice that the glass pieces are balanced but not symmetrical. This is why the square is turned as a diamond. If the glass pieces were of the same sheen, they would be symmetrical and an overall square would work as well. Rows of glass or stone can border this diamond or square design and/or the edges of the cabinets to make a pleasant transition to the section under the cabinet. n

Editor’s Note: We welcome all questions related to home design—ask us about color, room arrangement, planning for a new home, selecting furnishings, lighting, flooring, and more. Questions are answered by Tanna Miller, allied member ASID, a well respected designer who has operated her award winning interior design practice, Trends & Traditions, in Nashville for 18 years. Visit or call 615-601-0552.

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