Ask the Expert: Color Your World

The Hamptons are awash in the many colors of trees and farms and fields this time of year, but just because there’s so much to see outside doesn’t mean the inside of your home should be ignored. Lee Najman of Lee Najman Designs is one of the top 50 designers honored in New York Spaces, so when it came time for some serious interior design questions, we turned to Lee for the answers.

Lee Najman Designs

The Question: I like a tone-on-tone look for my room, but I’m afraid it may come out looking boring and dull. How do I achieve the softness of this style without a “blah” result?

Lee Najman says: Great question! This actually comes up in different ways all the time. Tone-on-tone, also called monochromatic color scheme, is achieved principally by using one main color and then combining various material that have different shades, or tints of that main color. Tone-on-tone schemes can be in whites, grays, beiges, and even dark colors like chocolate. There are a number of techniques used to avoid getting that washed out look with a monochromatic scheme. The primary technique is not only to use varying shades of the main color, but to select material in the color palate with lots of different texture to make the room come alive, and hold our visual interest. [expand]

When I design a monochromatic scheme, I have one basic rule: Don’t play a matching game. Allow for wide variations in the tone, and you’ll have a more dynamic and interesting result.

For most clients, this is a big hurdle. They look at our sample board displaying the fabrics, the paint chips and the carpets, and they think everything should look identical in tone or “match.” But designers know that it’s the variations that make the room interesting. And often, the greater the range of tonal values, or shades, the more exciting the space will be. But different tonal values is not enough.

The trick is to select materials that in fact have very different textures, sheen, reflectivity, and something called “hand.” The term hand often applies to fabric, in the way it feels. It is instinctive for people to want to touch interesting materials, and that sense of touch affects the way we perceive the material and how it works together in an interior with other products. Furthermore, because light plays differently on every type of surface, that difference reinforces the finished effect and promotes an interesting room.

Let’s examine the bedroom photograph to see how these techniques were applied. The color scheme here is obviously beige and the range of tones is from a crème to dark beige. The carpeting is beige, but sports a shag texture. The bedspread is chenille, and the headboard is leather. Pillows are satin. Headboard panel design is also a ribbed satin, with the ribs installed in an alternating pattern. And finally the two side walls are covered with beige scrim fabric to achieve another textural effect. So there you have it. A mixture of texture, sheen, reflectivity and hand, all characteristic of the different materials used, in a monochromatic scheme.

Have your own questions about monochromatic schemes or other interior design matters? You can contact Lee Najman of Lee Najman Designs at

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