Materials play a crucial role in interior design and can completely transform the look and feel of a space. When selecting materials for a room, it’s important to consider factors like texture, color, durability, and maintenance. The right materials can elevate a design while also meeting practical needs. In this article, we will explore how strategic use of different materials can maximize the style and functionality of a room.

Texture Creates Visual Interest

Texture adds dimension and visual interest to a space. Using a combination of smooth, rough, matte, and glossy surfaces creates contrast and brings life to a room. Consider the following ways to incorporate texture:

  • Play with different textiles – Layer rugs over carpeting or use drapes and upholstery with interesting weaves and embroideries. Mixing natural fibers like linen or velvet with smoother synthetics can create depth.
  • Use wall coverings – Grasscloth, embroidered wallpaper, or wood paneling offer tactile contrast to painted drywall.
  • Add wood accents – Wood furniture, shelves, and accents like urns or trays provide warmth. Distressed, reclaimed, or hand-carved wood has rich texture.
  • Display natural materials – Baskets, shells, ceramics, and metals have inherent texture. Groupings create vignettes that add interest.
  • Consider flooring – Hardwood has beautiful grain patterns. Tile comes in endless textures and patterns. Use large-scale patterns sparingly to avoid visual clutter.

Material Color Impacts Mood

Color has a significant psychological impact in an interior. Cool hues like blues and greens tend to be calming, while warm tones like reds, oranges, and yellows energize. Neutral shades like beige, gray, and tan provide flexibility and balance. Always sample materials before purchase – subtle variations in tone can dramatically affect the look. Some color tips:

  • Use color schemes – Matching analogous hues or complementaries creates harmony. Monochromatic palettes seem elegant.
  • Add pops of color – Use brightly colored artwork, pillows, or accessories to enhance neutrals.
  • Consider light – Colors shift in natural vs. artificial lighting. North-facing rooms may require warmer tones.
  • Notice undertones – Gray wood can read cool or warm depending on undertones. White paint has blue, yellow, or pink undertones.
  • Reference nature – Earth tones taken from nature – greens, blues, browns – are inherently harmonious.
  • Review classic pairings – Certain colors just work well together, like navy and white or pale yellow and light gray.

Prioritize Durability

The frequency of use and the level of traffic a space receives should guide durability. Delicate fabrics and finishes may not withstand heavy wear. Consider these material durability factors:

  • Fabric weight – Upholstery and drapes should be woven tightly. High thread counts resist pilling. Leather and vinyl stand up to kids and pets.
  • Wood hardness – Oak and maple are harder than pine. Teak and mahogany are good patio choices. Use rubberwood or bamboo indoors.
  • Stone strength – Granite is supremely durable. Marble requires sealing. Use slate and limestone in low-traffic areas.
  • Carpet fiber – Wool and nylon stand up to footsteps. Avoid silk or viscose in play areas or hallways.
  • Paint sheen – Higher sheens are more stain-resistant. Use satin, semi-gloss, or high-gloss in kids’ rooms and kitchens.
  • Floor finish – Polyurethane protects wood flooring. Ceramic and stone tiles resist water. Use vinyl plank flooring as an affordable, durable option.

Factors That Impact Ease of Maintenance

Cleaning and maintenance requirements should be considered, especially in busy family homes. Materials that withstand daily use will retain their beauty over time with minimal upkeep.

  • Prioritize kid/pet friendly – Leather and performance fabrics resist stains. Use indoor/outdoor rug fabrics to allow cleaning. Choose durable wood finishes.
  • Consider material properties – Delicate materials like silk need dry cleaning. Wool is stain resistant. Tile and metal withstand cleaning products.
  • Look for quality – Better construction means longer life. Blinds vs. drapes, metal vs. wood furniture frames.
  • Read manufacturer instructions – Follow specific care guidelines for custom furniture or special finishes.
  • Plan for maintenance – Apply fabric protection. Reseal wood floors annually. Schedule professional carpet cleaning.
  • Design for easy access – Ensure drapes and blinds are easy to take down for cleaning. Use washable slipcovers.

Using Material as an Accent

Creative use of materials as accents adds style, texture, and color. Consider:

  • Floating wood shelves
  • Acrylic barware and vases
  • Metallic lamp bases and photo frames
  • Glass tile kitchen backsplash
  • Leather desk blotter
  • Ceramic garden stools as side tables
  • Macrame plant hangers
  • Rustic wood trunk as coffee table
  • Mirrored console table behind sofa

Material Considerations for Specific Rooms

The functional needs of different living spaces dictate optimal material selection.

Living Room

As the heart of the home, living rooms require materials that withstand heavy use and create a relaxing vibe. Velvet or linen sofas seem inviting. Natural fiber rugs are soft underfoot. Wood coffee tables show drink rings but avoid permanent damage. Drapes in peaceful hues allow natural light.


Kitchens demand the most durable and easily cleaned materials. Scratch-resistant quartz or granite counters handle hot pans and spills. Use ceramic tile backsplashes. Upholster counter stools in stain-resistant fabrics or leather. Opt for stainless steel appliances.


Bathrooms require materials that can tolerate moisture. Use porcelain, ceramic, or glass tile on the floors and walls. Choose quartz, solid surfacing or laminate for countertops to resist water damage. Use metal light fixtures and accessories.


Bedrooms should promote tranquility. Use carpeting to absorb sound. Upholster the headboard in soft, supportive fabrics. Select nightstands with closed storage to contain clutter. Layer sheer and blackout window treatments.

Home Office

A home office must support productivity. Use a large solid wood desk and a supportive task chair. Add absorptive acoustic panels. Use USB charging ports. Install screens to minimize visual distractions. Choose ergonomic desk accessories.

Common Questions about Material Selection

What factors most impact the longevity of furniture pieces?

The frame construction and fabric durability have the biggest impact on furniture longevity. Opt for kiln-dried hardwood frames over particleboard. Choose tighter woven fabrics with high thread counts. Check that cushions have quality foam and batting. Reinforced joinery adds strength.

How do I choose the right countertop material?

Consider the level of use, maintenance required, and your budget. Granite and quartz are among the most durable options. Butcher block needs resealing but gains character over time. Laminate is affordable but less heat and scratch resistant. Tile requires more maintenance. Know the advantages of each material.

What flooring can handle pets?

Look for scratch-resistant materials rated for high traffic. Luxury vinyl plank has the look of wood with superior durability. New rug fabrics resist staining. Use indoor/outdoor carpeting in high pet areas. Add area rugs over hard floors to absorb pet nails.


A room’s walls, floors, windows, furniture, and accessories all provide opportunities to add interest through creative use of materials. Combining textures, playing with color schemes, and adding eye-catching accents elevates the design. Prioritizing durability ensures the room will retain its beauty over many years of use. Considering maintenance needs avoids frustration down the road. Ultimately, strategic material selection based on the intended purpose of the room results in a functional and stylish living space the whole family can enjoy.