Creating calm, natural home interiors – a fabric designers’ perspective
Next to wall colour, choosing the right fabric is arguably the most important ingredient in turning a room into an oasis of calm. With curtains, blinds, lampshades, cushions and upholstery in the mix, selecting fabrics that work together in harmony can make of break the scheme.
What is a calm interior exactly? Of course it's very personal, but for me a calm interior is one that is pared back, but with cosy touches; utilises neutral and tonal colours successfully, but isn't afraid to have bold features or patterns; is tranquil and comfortable, but is full of personality to avoid a sterile feel.
So, where to start in creating your sanctuary?
Seven ways to create a calm, natural home with fabric
1. Savvy searching for mood board inspiration - Digital mood boards on Pinterest are a great place to capture ideas to help you create a calm aesthetic. Apart from the obvious, such as 'Calm Interior Design Inspiration', often ‘Scandi Interiors’, ‘Nordic Interiors’, ‘Hamptons Interiors’ or ‘Modern Rustic Interiors’ serve up some great images for calm roomscapes, natural materials and soft neutral palettes. Capturing lifestyle images alongside interiors – such as ‘Weekend in the Country’, ‘Slow Sundays’ or seasonal images of nature can also complement your interior pins, capturing ideas for colours and the mood you are trying to create. If you want to have a look at some boards to get you started, you can view my collection here Leaping Foxes Designs Pinterest page.
2. Use nature as a guide – Take photos on your phone of scenes outside that make you feel relaxed and calm and then look at the colours you have captured. You might notice muted tones and soft neutral colours. While a traditional neutral palette might have consisted largely of white, grey, beige and black, 'new neutrals' are much more interesting and provide a wonderful, timeless foundation for your calm scheme For me, these colours would always include soft greens such as rye grass (below) or sage, faded wheat, warm stone grey, morning sky blue, dusty pink, warm white and even a deep earthy red. As a fabric designer, I take photographs of the fields and hedgerows around me throughout the season and capture the colours from those images as a starting point when the light is soft and there are few hard shadows.
3. Follow the light – It's always worth getting fabric and paint samples to help you see the true colours as they will display in your unique home setting. Looking at the samples in different lights, at different times of the day and next to different backgrounds will give you the best idea of how the fabrics or paints will work in your room. A lot will depend on how much light a room gets and it's worth living with the samples for a day or two to observe how they behave in different rooms and at different times of the day. You might find, for example, that a grey fabric with blue undertones is too harsh or gives a chilly feel to a room with less light, while a softer grey with brown undertones adds warmth.
4. Don't be afraid of pattern – Calm interiors don’t have to exclude a mix of patterns, but generally too many big or bold patterns on top of each other will detract from creating a calm space, particularly in smaller rooms. Plain colours and simpler patterns for the bigger pieces in your room, such as sofas and curtains, provide a good backdrop for introducing stronger pattern and colours in cushions and lampshades. A good way to experiment with several bold patterns together is to keep them in the same tonal colour range* ( such as the shades of teal below). Looking at a fabric designers' individual collections will usually help you to do this as the collection will have been designed with patterns intended to work in harmony.
*tonal colours are different shades of colours in the same main colour group.
5. Soften any hard edges –Textiles really come into their own here, softening a space - particularly the hard edges that large square sofas, beds or coffee tables can create - as well as obviously providing comfort for relaxation! Using a group of different sized scatter cushions to soften the lines of your sofa, a woollen blanket pooling over the arm or a luxury throw on the bed work wonders to soften the space and create that tranquil feel. The added advantage too is that they are relatively easy to replace or swap around each season to change the space and keep your senses stimulated.
6. Play with texture – Stimulating your senses is particularly important – soft lighting, a favourite scent, soothing natural greenery - but when it comes to fabric, don’t forget about texture. For me, natural textiles will always be the way to go. Small things can make a big difference here - adding a linen lampshade in particular, with it's natural slubby texture backlit, will create a beautiful feature in any room. Other favourites include wooden floorboards with jute or sisal rugs, linen and velvet cushions, stone or clay sculptural pieces that are pleasing to the touch and clear glass candle sticks or large vases to bounce the light around.
7. Create a focal point for an oasis of calm - Is there anything more calming than watching the clouds drift by or the rain falling? Calm interiors often find a way to bring the outside in, so if possible try to find a space in your room to create a feature of nature, no matter how small, where you can perhaps linger a while and stare into the distance. Of course, gazing into a fire or creating an area in your room with candles and favourite photos or other meaningful objects are also good alternatives!
I created my fabric collection with the sole purpose of helping others to create a calm, natural home, using a simple design aesthetic, a neutral palette and by taking inspiration from the natural world. I hope you enjoy my collection and I would be delighted to hear your ideas on how to create a calm, natural home. You can find me on Instagram if you would like to chat. Happy relaxing!