Home LIFE + STYLE Colin & Justin’s Design Perspectives – Lavish Those Layers

Colin & Justin’s Design Perspectives – Lavish Those Layers


Wow — winter is upon us and we’re loving every frigid minute!

Hey, as relatively new Canadians, we retain a somewhat ‘touristy’ attitude when it comes to snow. Indeed the thought of a few inches overnight has us waking early to take arty pictures of

the landscape, while fashioning beautiful snow angels in the glittering white stuff. Blimey, nothing fazes us. Even as the mercury’s descent takes hold, we love relaxing around the bonfire at our cottage, sipping warming coffee and marveling at the clear blue skies and sunshine… brilliantly suspended in, ahem, sub zero temperatures.

To counteract the cold, we layer up like Yetis — Gucci snow boots, Roots chunky trousers, Prada shades and the odd (faux) fur coat. Hell mend us, struggling through the elements, looking for all the world like the Kardashians on a ski break, we’re in our element.

With ‘layering’ a key trend this season, it’s only right the fashion forward home should follow suit. As we see it, it’s time for cold, one dimensional spaces to lose that clinical feel. Wouldn’t it be nice to cozy things up a little? To add layers of art, rugs, cushions and accessories? Hmm? Each item skillfully selected to provide comfort, interest, texture and depth? Come on, start dreaming of a wonderful touchy, feely environment that perfectly marries your personality with the architecture of your room. Dreamy, huh?

We always say that ‘to fail to plan is to plan to fail’. This observed, don’t leave your layered look to chance or you’ll end up with a haphazard, muddled environment. Follow our simple rules and you’ll soon be creating effortless style that transcends accidental placement. Imagine your room as a capsule wardrobe that you fine tune depending on mood, event and season. Hey, dress it up or dress it down, the layered home is here.


Decide on a wall colour, or finish, that underpins your entire look. Take note of how your room flows and of where the best place will be to position furniture. Use your chosen colour and feel to suggest your room’s overall style. Doing this will help you create the right mood — Chanel ‘Pour Monsieur’ grey walls, for example, will look classically cool while providing a perfect backdrop for monochrome furnishings. Alternatively, a full size wall of carefully arranged storage, or perhaps a dramatic window, can be just as effective as a backdrop for your layered look.


Consider the focal point piece; this would be the sofa in the living room, for example, or the bed in a bedroom. As the largest element, it will command optimum presence so think carefully about where it’ll be placed to achieve maximum impact. Once sited, figure out the positioning of background and foreground items — a sofa bench plus lamps to the rear of a chesterfield (in living room application) and a coffee table or upholstered ottoman in front. Planning such as this creates a manicured and very layered look.


Just like fashion, this look is all about balancing plain and pattern, so create a mood board to allow you to plot how different finishes will work. If you choose an ornate wallpaper, analyze how plain elements (like a block coloured sofa, for example) will look when dressed against it. Or, conversely, how a patterned sofa would look on a plain wall. Texture too, is important, a smooth gloss credenza would pop perfectly if set against a textural, matt wall finish. The layered look is all about contrast, not camouflage, so choose items that really stand out.


Mix things up with furnishings and accessories in different widths and heights — this practice creates extra interest. Imagine your room as a cityscape with buildings of different sizes coexisting, to create a single overall vision. In short, this means varying the height of occasional tables and lamps for a less regimented look. Symmetry, on this occasion, is best avoided — if you have matching sofa tables, think about how you might use them in different ways; a tall lamp on one, a stack of art books on the other.


If you have a collection of fabulous figurines — or perhaps a grouping of beautiful bowls — don’t just plop them all down at one time and hope for the best. Come on! Instead, learn how to display everything to enhance the beauty of each item. We recently finished our cottage and displayed birch bark rolls on West Coast cedar blocks to create a gallery style feel. Plinths, stands and cloches should all be used to showcase items and increase the impact of each.


Designers love clustering objects in groups of three or five, opting for a tall, medium and small combo that helps create shape and interest. Group items of the same colour, or the same subject theme, to create extra presence. This really is a lesson in the multitude being greater than its parts. We have a grouping of a dozen Jonathan Adler white ceramic sculptures in our Toronto condo; individually they’re perfectly lovely but, as a congregation, they are amazing.


Whether a yellow vase in a monochrome shower room, a provocative piece of modern art in a heritage home, or a cognac buttoned tufted leather ottoman in a pale floored study — it’s well worth adding something to the mix that will challenge everything else and act as a stand out drama creating feature.


Just like seasoning on a salad, or toasted sugar on a fruitcake, a sprinkling of final taste is similarly important in room styling. Use rugs, cushions and throws to add layered comfort and colour, and choose textures that contrast, or enhance, the furnishings they dress. Layer up your bed or sofa by using taller pillows at the rear and smaller ones in front. Then throw in a single accent cushion at the centre to break up uniformity and add impact. There’s only one thing better than a well dressed bed… and that’s chucking all the cushions off, getting in and snuggling down in your comfortable, and beautifully layered, haven!

By Colin and Justin

COLIN MCALLISTER AND JUSTIN RYAN, hosts of HGTV’s Colin & Justin’s Home Heist, are two of the most respected interior design authorities in Canada. Regular guests on Cityline, a new range of ‘Colin and Justin Home’ patio furniture is now available nationwide at Homesense, Winners, and Marshalls.

INSIDE the Winter 2014 issue of NICHE


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