Design Psychology: Fabrics

From a riot of color in bold chintzes to the gentle rustle of taffeta, fabrics influence our mental attitude in many subtle and not so subtle ways. Playful patterns make us smile, while mixing prints and solids can present a paradox of dynamic energy. No matter which effect you’re looking for, you’ll want to choose the right fabric colors, patterns, and textures to reflect your interior design plan.

Emotional Factors

Fabrics make impressions on all of our senses. For instance, tactile pleasure is strongly reinforced by the softness of fabrics. The touch of a fabric suggests wealth (silk), formality (damask), or informality (burlap). Our hearing is enhanced in rooms with an abundance of noise-absorbing fabrics. The colors and textures of fabric affect our sight, and some fabrics also influence our sense of smell, offering scents that may be pleasurable, cooling, or annoying. Fabric colors even modify our perceived sense of taste.

Fiber and Texture

Fiber is what gives substance and texture to fabric, and may include such things as reeds, grasses, animal hair, or even plant seeds. When shopping for any type of woven fabric, look for a high thread count for softness and durability.

Wool is the environmentally-favored choice for carpeting. It’s natural, renewable, fire and soil resistant, and long-wearing. For furniture upholstery and window coverings, cotton is the natural fabric of choice.

Fabrics also reinforce the degree of formality in a room. Rough-textured fabrics say “picnics,” while soft textures whisper “formal dinners.” Cotton damask, toile (sheer linen and silk cloth), chintz (which is never out of style, just out of popularity from time to time), and soft chenille speak of formal, traditional spaces.

Regardless of the look and feel you’re seeking for your home, the careful use of fabric textures, colors, and patterns should be a large part of your overall design plan.

Copyright c. 2014 Jeanette J. Fisher. All Rights Reserved.

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