Material selection during the design process strongly determines architectural character, defining the general look and feel of the composition and space. Architects draw upon many devices when developing a cloth palette. Selections can reference the location or adjacent structures or are often drawn from local building conventions, the climate and weathering concerns, or the building form itself. Sometimes the selections are a result of a selected client directive or are an ingenious solution to the project’s budgetary constraints. Other considerations are the standard of sunshine a cloth might render or its tactile quality and color.
Then there are those material and color combinations that just belong together, contrasting and complementing in perfect harmony. Let’s take a glance at a couple of these pairings
Concrete + Wood
Cool gray punctuated by a warm wood: this mix of engineered and natural materials holds a special appeal for several. during this bath, the method by which each material was created is expressed clearly.
The concrete was formed and cast in situ. Upon deeper inspection, the grain of the plywood forms that held the concrete mix is often seen, alongside a strict geometric pattern of holes. The holes represent the locations where metal form ties were wont to keep the wall from bowing outward during the pouring and curing.
In contrast, in both color and scale, the Douglas fir has been milled into boards and installed in tight horizontal bands. The fir may be a counterpoint to the cool gray concrete, and while it's been used on just one wall, its visual weight is critical. I particularly like how the subtle graining apparent within the concrete references the wood wall
Here a medium brown wood on the ceiling lends the space a warm tone. When someone is seated, a room’s ceiling features a large impact on the beholding of an area, which suggests a smaller amount of wood is often used on the ceiling to counterbalance the massive mass of concrete walls and floor.
This space highlights a standard design trick architects use when deciding the way to use a cloth combination. By assigning very specific materials to specific surfaces — walls, ceilings, floors — we develop a logic about their application. during this case the ceiling planes are wood, and therefore the solid exterior walls are concrete. We could even push the thought to the acute by saying all horizontal planes here are wood, all vertical planes are concrete, all interior walls are board-formed concrete and every one exterior wall is waxed concrete. You’ll see this system used throughout this idea book.
Why this marriage works: The character of a staple, like concrete, is accentuated when used near a more tailored material, like wood. and since gray may be a neutral tone, it complements the tones found in natural woods.
Steel + Wood
Like concrete, steel is an engineered material. But unlike concrete, it appears light and really precise, the results of its fabrication process. Steel is usually combined with wood for both aesthetic and practical reasons. during this case, the wood gives the ceiling plane a warm brown tone, contrasting the cool gray industrial steel structure.
Practically speaking, wood allows us an efficient means for fastening common building components (made of wood) to the steel and also a way for insulating it. While extremely strong and ready to span great distances, steel is additionally a superb conductor of warmth. this suggests we've to stay it from transferring heat between the inside and exterior of a building. Wood, meanwhile, maybe a poor conductor and is usually seen attached to steel for this reason. Fastened to a steel support structure, wood provides a cavity within which we apply insulation
Here the architects have overlaid a wood “quilt” on the supporting steel structure. The steel beams carry the distributed roof loads from the wood skin above. Because wood isn’t ready to span the good distances that steel can, its structural interval is smaller, and it's often utilized in a layered manner that makes a quilted effect. Exposing the structure to look at maybe a wonderfully authentic expression of the structural (and thermal) concept.
Why this marriage works: Contrasting coloration calls attention to the functional duties of every component while displaying their inherent qualities — natural graining and machined precision
Glass + Paint
The combination of a highly saturated paint and one sheet of floor-to-ceiling clear glass appears effortless, understated, and forceful. In small spaces, this treatment is often used very effectively. Consider how this hallway would feel if the glass were replaced by a painted wall or if there has been a busy combination of guardrail, newel post, and balusters.
The painted stair element, alongside the entry door and trim, are the dominant elements during this compressed space. There’s simply not enough visual room for competing objects, and therefore the glazing insertion reflects this.
Why this marriage works: Glass allows deeply saturated paint colors to advance and maybe a classically modern complement to any color palette.
White + White
My entire first year of architecture school involved compositional exercises done using just one material: a white museum board. There’s a reason architects begin their training this way: It forces attention on form, hierarchy, solid and void. That’s why white on white may be a favorite of many architects and designers.
In this monochromatic bathroom, the first forces at work are form, texture, and sheen. Neutral color palettes accentuate form in particular else. Subtle variations in texture and luster, from the dull matte of the ground tile to the gloss of the shower door, suggest a deeper understanding of what surfaces are made to be nonslip and what are made to shed water and be cleaned often. The soaking tub, the vessel sink, and therefore the cantilevered vanity are read as singular sculpted objects.
The natural light during this space emanates from an unseen skylight above, reflecting off the white surfaces, which effectively become an outsized, luminous diffuser.
Each of the materials of those simple forms — a cantilevered cabinet, shelves, an elemental freestanding bathtub, translucent glazing, off-white wall tile, white pebble floor — has an identity and a texture, yet none demands more attention than another. this enables for any, even the foremost minimal, accent of color to require a center stage.
Why this marriage works: White may be a classic neutral color that highlights form.
White + Wood
This union features a humbleness thereto that I find really appealing. Natural wood tones are often used sparingly when paired with white surfaces; it requires surprisingly little wood to enliven an easy space.
This particular expression, while apparently simple, is really the result of tons of careful construction work. Creating the reveals at the wall intersection of the treads and risers may be a time-consuming detail, but the effect is that the stair appears to hover in space. An understated and utilitarian look, simple white and wood are often used sparingly when the budget requires a pared-down palette of materials.
The horizontal floor planes here are natural wood. Rising up, appearing to hover and cantilevered from the painted wood screen element, the natural wood treads are subject to an equivalent rigor the architects applied to the general composition.
Why this marriage works: It’s an easy, casual, and accessible combination. Wood tones highlight important elements, while the white ensures that the general space remains bright and airy.
Black + White
The dialogue here is one among the contrast. The stair and cabinetry geometries are elemental, bold gestures. during this renovation, all the inside materials rendered in black represent new architectural interventions, while all of the white areas highlight the prevailing structure.
The architect for this project has taken a highly mannered approach to fabric selection, and it pertains to the best of details. Space constraints inspired the fabric thickness of the new stair walls — 10-millimeter plate steel. After you subtract the width of the varied spaces required and therefore the necessary minimum stair width, the fabric selection becomes obvious.
Why this marriage works: As during a simple black and white photograph, composition and contrast are capable of manufacturing striking beauty.
Brick + Steel
Viewed from the outside, the black and white home displays yet one more material marriage that works both aesthetically and functionally. A recycled, weathered brick facade contrasts the highly machined steel insertion and allows the salient qualities of every material to be revealed.
Brick is usually seen paired with steel because it can span window and door
openings. The steel lintel, which makes this possible, during this case sits above the door and window and distributes loads from the wall above to the inspiration. Brick’s mottled tones contrast steel’s crisp lines, precise machining, and solid tones — the imperfect viewed against the right.
Why this marriage works: Brick’s washed, mottled tones and imperfections contrast the chiseled, perfect lines of steel. Saturated, strong colors act because of the shadow during a field of color.
Wood + Stone
These two natural materials, in almost any color and form, play well together. Both materials exhibit natural veining and graining which will be wont to accentuate movement during space.
In this example, the coursed stone creates an anchor for the stair. The horizontal coursing features a logic thereto. Stacked bands of stone remind us of fieldstone walls built course upon course; it feels proper because that’s how stone walls are naturally constructed. The architects chose to use a more textured surface instead of a cut or machined face to make shadow and depth and to recall the stone’s weight and origins.
I’ll leave you with this final example, a hybrid of two of the previously discussed alliances. Almost monastic in nature, this space is totally defined by this material marriage. Valued by classical sculptors for its depth and luminous quality, the white marble appears monolithic, as if carved from one block — a singular monumental gesture elevated to an altar-like position within the room. The contrasting wood wall lends the space warmth and brings out the white within the marble.
This space represents how powerful a thoughtful combination of materials is often, how the materials can elevate and support one another in both simple and sophisticated ways.
Why this marriage works: When used together in ways in which highlight their natural properties, wood (light, warm) and stone (massive, neutral) each enriches the opposite.