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Visual Contrast (or how to make like a stylist)

"What makes some visual combinations more exciting and dynamic than others?" asks interiors stylist and graphic design lecturer, Tim Rundle, in his beautiful and inspiring new book Visual Contrast.

And then, with gorgeous images, he fills the pages of it by explaining. I totally love the styling and examples he uses. A bit like the excellent Wonder Walls, by Supermarket Sarah, his book celebrates the slightly weird and off-beat side of display. As you'll see...

The book is divided into four chapters –shape, colour, placement and personality – and enthuses "don't replace, re-arrange" to breathe new life into familiar spaces and objects. It is quite an analytical study: Rundle really dissects the science of display to extract tips with logic. So if this sort of thing doesn't always come intuitively – or even if it does, but you're stuck in a rut of looking at the same things you've had for years, positioned and grouped in the same way they have been for years – bingo: fresh inspiration.

Shape In the image above, for example, Rundle writes about how the repeated triangle motif (in the blue tape on the wall, in the coloured puzzle pieces, the design on the raffia tray, the tops of the containers) links the disparate objects together. And then how the contrast of textures and shift of colours provide "strong visual variety".

He breaks down each of the choices: "Highlighting the edge of the sideboard with tape helps to extend the depth of field, emphasizing the warmth of the wood and creating a link between the wall, the furniture and the objects." It's all kind of obvious in some ways – and yet we don't always break down why something works. But doing so adds new little tricks to one's repertoire, opening new worlds of creativity.

It'll also help you stop getting bored with your house – and you show off by peppering conversations with designery nuggets of wisdom, leaving people to conclude that you must really know your shit.

Shape This arrangement is my favourite in the book for many reasons. For starters, a palette of blues, greens and muddy yellow-browns – shot through with crisp flashes of monochrome to anchor the whole thing – is a favourite. It's something I have a lot of in my own house and I find the cool yet not chilly combination very calming. Along with horses and strange portraits – isn't the guy with the rosette compelling? It is a beautiful painting, though not an obvious choice. And horses always, for me, add a solid sort of elegance. Here's Rundle's breakdown...

"Organic vs Geometric: an artist's articulated model horse sits below an antique drawing of an officer's favourite steed, while the angular shapes of the patchwork cloth are picked up by the three-dimensional hexagonal boxes. The 1960s circular shelf unit provides a strong organic counterpoint to the geometric shapes elsewhere. Likewise, the trio of silhouettes on the shelves balances the black-and-white-striped monochrome print on the left."

Personality "Austere vs Cheeky" kinda speaks for itself. I always warm to a home that mixes up beauty with silliness. As Rundle explains: "The combination of antique oil painting and modern plastic memo board neutralizes any austerity in what might otherwise have been a slightly sombre space. And sparse glimmers of gold and beige add warmth".

Placement "Positive vs Negative: placing a rectangular piece of f white card behind the long wooden boat reinforces the multiple horizontals of this arrangement. The two tall wire candleholders below provide a graphic contrast. This trick is repeated with the dark blue square behind the ceramic sailor at the top of the cabinet, which neatly inverts the dark boat on a light background."

Colour "Icy vs Inky: a dark background allows individual light elements in an arrangement to take centre stage," Rundle explains. And amid all this dark and white, "the iceberg collage provides a small burst of bright colour to contrast with the muddy shades, repeating the strong teal colour of the painted wall." This is something the designer Abigail Ahern is the mistress of.

Visual Contrast by Tim Rundle
(Photography by Polly Wreford)
is published by Ryland Peters 
& Small at £25

On a separate note, you may have noticed I've changed my posting regime. I'm currently experimenting with posting just three times a week (rather than daily), and varying the time of day posts go up. I'd love to know if this makes the slightest difference to your enjoyment of the blog – and, generally, how you read it anyway: do you find posts by chance? By Googling something? Via Twitter? Facebook? Via the newsletter (did you know you can get YHIL in your inbox? Just stick your email in the box at the top of the column on the left).

This info will all help me decided on some changes I'm currently shaping for the future so do, if you have time, let me know via the comments box below, on Twitter (@kate_burt) or by email: Thank you!

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