The Art of Mixing Textures and Finishes in Interior Design

Textures and finishes are essential design tools for bringing your clients’ vision off the page in a satisfying way. As designers, we know the impact an unexpected twist or a playful juxtaposition of styles can have and how creating a conversation between different textures, finishes, and hardware can take a room from predictable to stylish.

At Freedom Millwork, we collaborate with designers to help them find the perfect combination of cabinetry styles and functionality for their clients. Whether you’re a seasoned designer or just starting out, we’re here to share inspiration, insights, and practical tips on mixing textures and finishes in your next home design project.

Why Mix Textures and Finishes?

Texture and finishes are vital parts of our design language. We intuitively grasp exposed brick’s warmth and polished steel’s coolness, but our use of different finishes or hardware is also a strategic tool. Juxtaposing the unexpected—such as a wire-brushed oak cabinet facade against smooth, lacquered base units—allows designers to push boundaries and tailor spaces that resonate with a client’s vision. How we combine different textures, finishes, and styles shapes the emotional impact as well as the functionality of a room.

Mixing Textures Tastefully

The goal of a successful design is to create a lively conversation between elements rather than a monotonous monologue. Combining rough and smooth or organic and industrial, and changing up the kinds of metallic accents we use all help create that conversation. However, designers need to be thoughtful about the way they combine each “voice” to get a harmonious result. Our tips for tastefully mixing textures and finishes include:

  • Balance is critical. Too much of any one thing can make a space feel monotonous, but too many different textures and finishes can lead to a space that feels cluttered and uncomfortable. One way to create balance is to establish a consistent color palette as a base and then strategically introduce variations through the different finishes and textures of cabinet doors, countertops, and tiling, for instance. Introducing pops of color with accessories and metal fixtures in different tones creates punctuation marks to your design, adding vibrancy without overwhelming the space or taking the conversation off at a tangent.
  • Pay attention to the scale of the space you’re working with. While clients are more comfortable finding inspiration on Pinterest or in magazines, it’s our job as designers to translate those ideas for the scale of the client’s space. Stacked cabinets with different finishes at different levels may look great in a high-ceilinged kitchen flooded with natural light but overpowering in a smaller or darker room. The key is to ensure that material selections work with the room’s proportions. Smaller or darker environments benefit from a more subtle approach while in larger or lighter spaces, you can get away with bolder material selections.
  • Consider the style of the house you’re working in. Walking through the door of a colonial house to find a mid-century modern interior can be jarring, for instance. It’s crucial to thoughtfully select and combine elements to honor the architectural vernacular, without slavishly recreating so the space feels harmonious and relaxing.

Working With Your Clients

Every project brings the challenge of interpreting and translating a client’s unique vision into a space that excels both aesthetically and functionally. Clients come in all shades—some arrive with meticulously crafted plans; others rely more heavily on the designer’s creative guidance. Our job at Freedom Millwork is to help you achieve your client’s desired look and feel within the constraints of the space and the client’s lifestyle. Some of our designers’ considerations include:

  • Get interactive. Clients often struggle to describe their vision or design style, and our team can help you bridge this gap. We offer a variety of cabinetry styles, finishes, and hardware and allow you and your clients to physically interact with them. This hands-on approach can give you insight into their desires, discover new preferences, and allow you to quickly move on from options that fail to resonate.
  • Functionality matters. Stunning visuals created by mixing textures, finishes, and materials are just one facet of successful design. A truly exceptional space seamlessly integrates beauty with functionality. Our team’s top tip is to talk your clients through their lifestyles and daily routines. For instance, light-colored fabrics and delicate materials are unlikely to endure the demands of a young family! When you share with us how your clients use their space, we can recommend options for cabinet styles and materials that meet their aesthetic desires and needs.
  • Forever home or future farewell? Understanding the client’s long-term plans also plays a big part in design. Forever homes allow for bolder expressions–that all Pepto-Bismol pink kitchen can become a reality! On the other hand, if clients plan to sell within a few years, it’s important to consider more timeless designs. Our team can show you a wide range of cabinetry and millwork options, from on-trend finishes to more traditional classics. With those, you can create a one-of-a-kind design or one that appeals to a broader audience. We have lots of experience incorporating thoughtfully chosen hardware or smaller, easily swappable elements like lighting fixtures that ensure your client’s personality shines through without compromising future marketability.
  • Consider unexpected combinations. There are no hard and fast rules for mixing textures and finishes. While established design principles provide a starting point, the magic truly happens when we embrace the unexpected. There are no rigid rules dictating texture and finish combinations – as a designer, you’ll need to be open-minded and willing to experiment.

Our design team fondly recalls a project where the homeowner’s vision involved blending mid-century modern and bohemian elements. This might seem an unlikely pairing, but because they were thoughtful in how they chose textures, finishes, and fixtures, the design came together beautifully. Sometimes unexpected combinations can lead to the happiest results!

It’s About Feeling, Not Following Trends

The most important factor in any design project is how the new kitchen, bathroom, or entranceway makes your client feel. Trends come and go, but your client’s home should reflect their unique style. So, embrace the conversation, encourage your clients to mix and match, and partner with Freedom Millwork to help create spaces that spark joy for them.