Katie Ridder Shares the Secrets to Monochrome Decorating

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September 22, 2021
Limiting a room’s color palette to just one hue might sound dull, but in the hands of designer Katie Ridder, monochrome decorating is anything but. Known for her rooms saturated in gorgeous hues, brimming with fun collectibles and accented by contrasting shades, Ridder is sharing her secrets in her latest book, More Rooms (Vendome). In a world infatuated with minimalism, Ridder’s “more is more” mentality has us captivated—mesmerized, if you will—by the reminder that nothing transforms a space like fearless color. We caught up with the designer to get the inside scoop on how she makes it work.
More Rooms, $70. vendomepress.com.

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Ridder painted this double-height entry in Bewilder, No. 267, by C2. The chandelier above the center table is a reproduction by Alexander Cohane of one in an Italian palazzo.Eric Piasecki

1. “Enveloping the room in one color creates a blank canvas.”

To simplify the busy architectural detail of a client’s entry hall, Ridder painted walls and millwork in a bold shade of blue. The saturated hue also helps make the voluminous space feel more intimate, visually lowering the height of the 20-foot ceiling. Wall-hung wooden plinths holding a collection of Chinese export porcelain help further ground the space.

Ridder lacquered this Fifth Avenue library in sunny Orangery by Farrow & Ball.Eric Piasecki

2. “Colors are used successfully when there is similarity in hue from one room to the next!”

To brighten a dark library, Ridder chose a cheery shade of yellow, which also complements the red-orange color thread connecting adjacent spaces. “Using similar shades from room to room gives the eye a chance to rest,” says the designer, who also suggests combining colors with equal levels of saturation.

This New York library, in high-gloss Arroyo Red by Benjamin Moore, features a contrasting blue desk. Architecture by John Murray.Eric Piasecki

3. “Neutrals are an important calming factor that direct our attention to strong use of color elsewhere.”

When using a high-impact wall color, like this glossy crimson, Ridder suggests keeping the carpet and ceiling toned-down to avoid too much visual competition. “I didn’t want to paint the ceiling red because it would be too heavy,” she explains. “A neutral helps emphasize the color of the desk and the walls.”

Ridder painted the walls of this two-story library in Farrow & Ball’s Parma Gray and the ceiling in a custom mix of Parma Gray and white. The round carpet was woven by Fedora Designs. A curved sofa covered in a blue floral print sits in a niche, illuminated by porthole-like windows.Eric Piasecki

4. “Using different shades of the same hue creates depth in a room.”

In this oculus-shaped room designed by her husband, the architect Peter Pennoyer, Ridder played up the structural detail by layering different shades of blue: a rich gray-blue on the walls and bookcases, a lighter version (cut with 50 percent white paint) on the ceiling, sapphire upholstery on the settee, and the clients’ own navy books on the shelves.

Farrow & Ball’s Oval Room Blue covers the walls and ceiling of this Greenwich bedroom. Raffia-covered custom nightstands, a four-poster bed from Mecox Gardens and woven wool carpet from Studio Four complete the design.Eric Piasecki

5. “When there is no crown molding, paint the ceiling.”

Ridder created a calming sanctuary by using similar shades of soft blue-green throughout this bedroom. When decorating a room without crown molding, she often paints the ceiling the same color as the walls to add more interest. Here, she also used the color on the window grilles: “White would be too sharp a contrast,” she says.

Paradeiza in Blue from Lisa Fine Textiles—a custom colorway developed by Ridder—is used for walls, curtains and Roman shades in this New York apartment.Eric Piasecki

6. “I love using paper-backed fabric in bedrooms—it softens the feel of a darker color palette.”

Pennoyer and Ridder also worked together on this guest bedroom, which was designed so that the twin beds could easily be pushed together to make a larger bed depending on the number of guests. Instead of using standard wallpaper, Ridder chose paper-backed fabric, which creates a softer look—a trick she often employs in bedrooms, or to tone down a bold pattern.