June 20, 2024
Whimsical Design Ideas to Lighten the Winter Doldrums

Each week, Mansion Global tackles a topic with an elite group of designers from around the world who work on luxury properties. This week, we look at adding whimsical elements to home interiors. 

Whether you’ve been staying indoors and staring at the walls of your living room a lot more lately thanks to the winter chill or you’re simply tired of the same design, consider a playful refresh to shake things up. 

“A whimsical-style room exudes playfulness, creativity and a touch of fantasy,” said Nicola Reed, interior designer at Palladian London. “It’s about embracing the unexpected by cleverly mixing patterns, colors and quirky elements to create an atmosphere that sparks joy and imagination.” 

To help you navigate the aesthetic, we chatted with design pros for their expert advice.   

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Use Contrasting Colors

“An interior design with this aesthetic should invite you to discover new elements every time you enter the room. The use of attractive design pieces and a mix of prints, colors and textures is key. For example, in one of my latest projects in Miami, we created a whimsical design that used high-contrasting colors, mixing white, black and gold to create drama and added artistic elements to draw the eye and create eclectic focal points. 

“When I design, I like to develop my spaces in layers, balancing the purpose of the pieces with the scale and ensuring the contrasting prints and colors overlay properly.  

“I love creating a focal point through the use of eye-catching art pieces or light fixtures. For example, in a project for a Miami client, we added a light fixture above the bar area to draw attention and make the open kitchen feel like its own space.”

Adriana Hoyos used high-contrasting colors to create drama and added artistic elements to draw the eye and create eclectic focal points.

Gabriel Volpi

—Adriana Hoyos, founder and chief designer of Miami-based Adriana Hoyos Design Studio 

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Strive for Balance

“Experiment with mixing styles deliberately. Pair vintage furniture with modern accents or traditional pieces with industrial elements. The key is to balance and distribute them with intention throughout the space. Layer different textures like wood, metal and fabric, and incorporate various patterns to add depth and visual interest.

“Use patterns, shapes or colors in a consistent manner throughout the room. Repetition of similar elements or creating a motif for the room creates a rhythm that contributes to a sense of cohesion.  

“Editing is crucial when blending styles. Pay attention to the scale of items when combining styles. Ensure they complement each other and the room’s proportions to avoid a mismatched look. Strive for a harmonious balance rather than a perfectly matched look. A successful space has a hierarchy of visual elements.

“Consider using a neutral backdrop. This allows for more flexibility when introducing diverse elements and prevents the space from feeling busy.”  

Furniture plays off the hues of artistic focal points in a room designed by Paris Forino.

Genevieve Garruppo

—New York-based designer Paris Forino 

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Spark Joy 

“The key is to avoid overdoing and getting into maximalist territory. Keep your room light and elegant with touches of color, interesting knick-knacks and unexpected pieces. 

“A whimsical room should delight the senses, so consider yellows and pinks, unusual flea market objects. A little pattern like stripes, gingham or small florals adds to the whimsy. 

“Overall, your furniture shouldn’t be too matchy-matchy or modern. Older pieces generally work best with this style but can easily be mixed with a simple modern sofa or dining table. 

“Above all, creating a whimsical room involves having a sense of humor, so choose pieces that bring a smile and you can’t go wrong.”

—Bethany Adams of Bethany Adams Interiors in Louisville, Kentucky

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Don’t Overthink It

“A whimsical-style room creates a sense of balance and excitement where people may view the space as art. 

“We love the idea of a bold pattern with neutrals incorporated throughout. For example, at the Wales in Carnegie Hill [a neighborhood in New York City], we incorporated custom accents (velvets and textures for window treatments and pillows) with neutral floors, custom cabinetry in classic colors and soft marble tones for baths. 

“Sometimes less is more. Design the room with select conversation pieces and enhance the space with neutrals on the walls, floors or furniture. Don’t make everything a bold print—it will be overly indulgent to the senses. Too much color, texture or pattern can make a home feel chaotic.” 

—Pietro Scaglione, co-artistic director of Paris-based Pinto design     

Mix and Match 

“Mix bohemian, cane-back chairs with mirrored, vintage-inspired furniture. Play with details like an embroidered jute with wood curtain trim and jewel-toned curtains.

“Recurring motifs, colors and textures is key to achieve balance and keep things from feeling chaotic. For instance, in one project, the focal point was four identical chair frames, but then I switched out the fabrics: two chairs repeated the same solid velvet and included the same patterned pillow, and two chairs repeated the same patterned fabric and didn’t include a pillow. 

“Combining different styles and periods makes for a more curated, layered look. The mixture keeps things from looking generic or like they were all purchased at the same time.”  

Isabel Ladd used the room’s seating area as the focal point, and built it out controlling a tight color palette and layering a bevy of artwork and accessories.

Andrew Kung

—Lexington, Kentucky-based Isabel Ladd of Isabel Ladd Interiors

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Create a Unifying Factor

“Embrace contrast and harmonize diverse pieces with a playful flair. You can mix modern and vintage pieces, sleek lines with curvy shapes and pattern variation with solids. The key is finding a common element, like color or texture, that ties everything together.

“Repetition creates unity. Integrate repeated patterns, colors or textures to establish a visual rhythm. This helps prevent the room from feeling chaotic while maintaining that whimsical charm.

“Find a unifying factor, whether it’s a color palette or a theme, to connect diverse styles and periods. Avoid overwhelming the space with too many conflicting elements; instead, let each piece contribute to the overall eclectic vibe.

“Make a statement with a unique piece such as a bespoke pendant light, an accent wall or eye-catching artwork. A focal point anchors the room and draws attention, creating a visual anchor.”

Rich, dark colors dominate a room designed by Nicola Reed with deep greens, teal and blue hues punctuated by contrasting pops of color.

Harry Crowder

—Nicola Reed Interior Designer at Palladian London 

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