Sotto Voce - Five ways to accent an interior

Exploring art in objects and history in antiques, Rachel Donath is a purveyor of designer and antique furniture, Australia. Discover The Inventory here.

The tone of an interior is often the result of a composition of elements, deftly woven through one room and another to create unity and timbre within an abode. The way we accent becomes a way to draw in story and ambience; to establish mood through our emotional connection to colour and interest through moments of difference, executed in texture and detail. Showing tonal dexterity, accenting uses unique furniture, repeated motifs, pattern and even the tension and relief of organic forms offset against the angular, to offer its own quiet commentary: a layer of design spoken sotto voce to betray a more intimate sense of poetry and art, sophistication and play.


However subtle, however bold, pattern offers great diversity when it comes to adding emphasis. From the tesselated tiles of flooring to the more subdued grain of stone, pattern is predictable; repeating itself through shape, form and contrast to produce a texture that’s visual and inherently engaging. Along geometric lines, it draws the eye to a point of focus as well as creating structure to separate space which is why it is so often used peripherally or at junctions: at thresholds, landings and entryways.
The visual texture of pattern creates structure to separate space. An Entrecôte interior.
At scale, organic patterns can also have extraordinary impact. The vein of marble across a kitchen surface when mirrored and repeated in the splashback, changes how we relate to an otherwise practical surface. Charged with the energy and tonal beauty of its naturally occurring grain, it can feel animate and multidimensional while creating harmony and balance with the fluid curve and companionship of other organic forms.
At scale, organic patterns can also have extraordinary impact. The Wave Bar Stools in this project by Ryan Saghian interiors, @ryansaghian


How we relate to colour has a proven emotional component, having the capacity to energise or sooth, cleanse the palette and ignite the senses. In traditional settings, colour was often used to create character: ‘The Blue Room’ denoting the peace and refuge of a private apartment or bed chamber, demarking it from the richer tones of dining halls and drawing rooms.

Now sold, whimsical antique sconces from The Inventory add a fairy-tale quality.

In contemporary settings, the same principles of colour can be applied to interiors to both personalise space as well as achieve a sense of calm, enchantment, drama and discovery. From the wash of colour on walls to the fairytale quality of old-world pigments within whimsical antiques, colour adds intimacy and narrative, where it can be used as a refrain through the integration of similar accents or alternatively, to completely envelop. 

The juxtaposition of opposites:

While at times counter intuitive, the tension between opposites can often create interest and balance. As a way to accent, it emphasises difference through a departure from convention and expectation. While antique furniture in modern interiors certainly achieves this,  so too does the contrast of materials within the fabrication of furniture, when coupled together. The Rachel Donath Yuuki Table announces itself as unique and intriguing against the softer furnishings of a living room setting - its deeply masculine character standing out but also tempered by warmer tones and plush textures. As a device of design, however, the juxtaposition of form can also offer relief. In a pool of angular edges, the eyes can relax on the femininity of curves which in their own right, become a focal point. 

The masculinity of the Yuuki Table is tempered by the warm tones and soft curves of the Safari Chair.

Furniture as feature: 

The allure of a single piece of furniture, uncluttered and allowed to feature, shows command and restraint - a sophistication divulged through an appreciation for detail. The architecture of the Rachel Donath Phoenix Hall Table needs no addition. The Cono Chair is striking in any space. Given the grace to stand alone, such pieces are bold and beguiling, playing with size and familiar elements in new and artful ways.

Uncluttered and allowed to feature, the Phoenix Marble Console 


Where pattern repeats, motifs fill an interior with the resonance of something we love and wish to reference. The tribute can be overt or a quiet undercurrent that lyrically reverberates throughout a home to create flow and connection between one room (or piece) and another. The Wave Side Table, Chair and Fire Screen being inherently oceanic not only find commonality with each other, but with the shell-like form of an Anna Charlesworth light, Murano glass and serene or watery colourings. 

Inherently oceanic, the Rachel Donath Wave Side Table finds commonality in an plaster form shell-like light.

Motifs can also be playful. A Mario Lopez Torres Palm Tree Lamp is immediately fun and filled with the flourish of Florida in the 1970s. Paired with sisal, cane and wicker, it begets much of the relaxed atmosphere of a subtropical climate, injecting  a freshness and open air quality to an otherwise elegant and elevated living area.

A Mario Lopez Torres Palm Tree Lamp is immediately fun and filled with the flourish of Florida in the 1970s injects fun into an otherwise elegant and elevated interior. @katewalker_design.
However we accent, when done well, the emphasis gives depth and dimension to our environment. From the fairytale to the refined, accents show deliberate control over the tapestry of an interior - a whole shaped by its individual elements: a sense of place infused with personality and story, sometimes sung; sometimes whispered.
From The Inventory: