We interview designer Frederik De Wachter on colours and shapes

Colours and shapes are what make our furnishing styles our own.
Colours and shapes are what make our furnishing styles our own.

There are endless furnishing styles, and the most well-known ones for home decorating include retro, vintage, shabby and Scandinavian. Milan-based interior designer Frederik De Wachter offers his insights into colours and shapes and predicts how colourful our homes will be in the future.

image showing Frederik De Wachter
Frederik De Wachter, Copyright: Adrianna Glaviano
Frederik De Wachter
Born in Belgium, Frederik originally only went to Milan to complete a semester abroad – but many years later, he’s still there. In 2005, he founded the DWA Design Studio with his business partner Alberto Artesani. The two of them are constantly on the lookout for unique combinations of shapes and materials, and create installations and interiors for clients such as Salvatore Ferragamo, Swarovski, Ermenegildo Zegna and Wallpaper*Magazine. They also work for private clients.

Can you briefly explain how important shapes are to your home furnishing style?

We love pairing high with low, simple with sophisticated, and pure shapes with small details that make them all the more beautiful.

Don’t be shy about using wild combinations. There are no shapes that don’t go together!

Frederik De Wachter

What should people keep in mind when furnishing their own home?

Many people just look at a room and decide where the sofa, bed, cupboard or table should go. Then, they arrange their things in the room, maybe paint the walls, and call it a day. No matter what your style or the colours and shapes you want to use, take a closer look at your room and try to incorporate the entire building and surrounding environment into your plans. Obviously, this applies even more when landscaping your garden or renovating a terrace or balcony – look around, open your eyes and be inspired by what you see!

Are there any colours and shapes that go particularly well together?

Personally, I love to work with clean shapes that repeat here and there. A nice example of this is the Mexique bookshelf, created by French designer and architect Charlotte Perriand in 1953. It’s old, yet incredibly modern. She doesn’t just combine colours and shapes, she also uses a variety of materials. In general, I don’t think you should be shy about using wild combinations. There are no shapes that don’t go together! Straightforward design is always a good step in the right direction. If you want to work with bold colours, you should choose simpler furniture that’s not too elaborate.

Light is just as important to a room as colours and shapes

Frederik De Wachter

How do you feel about rules like ‘don’t use black in the home’ or ‘don’t combine round and angular shapes’?

I find this pigeonhole thinking awful – come on, people, enough already! The most beautiful and inspiring interior furnishings in the world would simply not exist if their designers had worried about whether or not a colour might feel lethargic or depressing.

So do you think that all colours go together?

I don’t think that you should always stick to traditional colour schemes. It really always depends on the situation in the room and the light you have to work with. Light is just as important to a room as colours and shapes.

What about specific rooms and situations? Can you give us some tips? What colours should we use in which rooms?

That depends very much on your own tastes and living space – I’m no fan of slavishly following advice. However, I don’t think you should use primary colours in the living room, for instance, as they’re too bright. Likewise, a yellow kitchen doesn’t work and a red or orange hallway is never a good idea! But that doesn’t mean that I think these rooms should be decorated in lighter colours. In my own home, for instance, I have a wonderful warm-brown kitchen and my hallway is dark grey, while my living room looks great in light grey. As I don’t have any children, I naturally don’t have any children’s bedrooms ... but if I did, I would decorate them in emerald green. In a bathroom, size is just as important as light. If a bathroom gets a lot of light, then green is an absolute no-go! And I’d have nightmares if my bedroom was painted red. As I said, it really depends on your own taste and the actual rooms themselves.

Here’s how Frederik De Wachter and Alberto Artesani incorporate colours and shapes into their work at DWA:

  • image showing sage green bedroom with white bed linen and checked chair
    To decorate the hotel rooms at Milan’s Room Mate Hotel Giuliana, DWA drew all of their inspiration from their hometown.
  • image showing colourful graphic accents beautifully highlighting individual exhibits at the 2013 Wallpaper* Handmade exhibition.
    Colourful graphic accents beautifully highlight individual exhibits at the 2013 Wallpaper* Handmade exhibition.

I know that if my ceilings are low, I should decorate my room in lighter colours. But what about people whose ceilings are so high that their furnishings get a bit lost. What tips do you have for them?

The great thing about colour is that it enables you to change a room dramatically, without having to tear down walls. A ceiling will look lower if you paint it in a darker shade and extend the colour a little way past the corners onto the upper part of the walls.

If you have the space, you can even create entirely new room partitions by simply painting a corner or alcove in a totally different colour to the rest of the room. Renaissance architects were masters of creating spatial illusions with colours and shapes.

Everyone has their own style and tastes and that’s something to be proud of.

Frederik de Wachter

How have home furnishing styles changed the relationship between colours and shapes in recent decades?

Colours and shapes have changed a lot and are still evolving today – just like in the fashion industry. In the 60s and 70s, we had brightly coloured interiors full of rounded shapes; in the 80s, it was all about the more natural, geometrically styled furnishings; and in the 90s, white, minimalist shapes were all the rage. Nowadays, we’re embracing brighter colour schemes in combination with softer, minimalist shapes. Nobody should try to emulate a specific home furnishing style. Everyone has their own style and tastes and that’s something to be proud of.

What is the current trend in colours and shapes?

Pink is big again, combined with darker colours like grey, green and blue. I have a feeling that this colour palette will keep expanding. People are beginning to show an interest in even brighter colours – a bit like in the work of Mexican architect Luis Barragán.

So the future really is bright and colourful! How can people who aren’t keen on pink and who don’t really have a flair for shapes improve their homes?

I’m really into bringing nature into the home. Personally, I like plants with clean lines. The same applies to plant pots. Don’t waste too much time and energy on picking them out – they should be plain and simple in order to look as natural as possible.