Serena Dugan, the co-founder and chief creative officer of Serena & Lily, joined staff writer Jura Koncius for a recent live chat, giving pointers to readers on how to use color and pattern to refresh a space. Here is an edited excerpt of her advice:
Patterned furniture: Print is never a bad idea! However, it is worth considering the investment. You may love a print today and be tired of it tomorrow. For this reason, I generally recommend smaller accent pieces as your fashion statement. You can easily trade them out or reupholster. But I really love the go-for-it feeling that a large piece of patterned upholstery offers.
Mixing patterns: I love pattern on pattern, particularly plaids or stripes with other prints. The key to success is whether or not the other print is complementary to the plaid. This determination is entirely subjective. If you feel the two patterns are harmonious to your eye, that’s all that matters.
Choose furniture before painting walls: While walls are an important ingredient in design, I recommend waiting on paint colors for the majority of the house until you’ve made some decisions about furnishings. You don’t want to paint twice.
Decorating for the seasons: I’m a big believer in layering. A layered approach helps you build warmth and take it away as needed. When I was growing up, four seasons meant four looks in the house. Today, I think fewer rules apply whether you’re West or East Coast. Fall does not necessarily mean burgundy. It can mean grass green, regardless of weather temperatures. I recommend you cast off the notion of seasonal aesthetics; think about what’s practical for you and your family and try living as though there are no seasons.
Fresh color combinations for a bedroom: The first question I would ask is, “What effect are you going for: calm and serene, vibrant and cheerful, or cocooning and moody?” Examples of serene would be aqua, gray and ivory. Cheerful could be grass green and coral. Moody could be deep navy paired with camel.
Painting wood stairs: Painting over wood in a stairwell is a very inexpensive way to create big impact. I’m a big fan of contrast on stairs. I love black treads with contrast on the riser, which could be white or could be a color, or several different colors, for that matter. That’s your place to play.
Accent options for neutral colors: There are so many great contrasts to neutrals that allow you to create just about any effect. The effect you want to create is personal, but some of my favorites are greige with brownish pinks, which is calm and feminine. I love camels mixed with hot coral for something more lively. I think greys and taupes pair beautifully with pale aqua.