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The Globe and Mail

Designer's secret to a interesting room: contrast

In designer Jamie Hamilton’s favourite space, things that are no longer useful – such as antique scissors – can at least become beautiful.

Jamie Hamilton, who runs Oliver Simon Design alongside Greer Nelson takes an individualistic approach to each room she decorates – it should always reflect the client's personality. That said, there are some common themes: clean lines, spare but bold use of colour, unique artifacts. The Globe asked the Vancouver designer to reveal her favourite colours, paint and materials, and the secrets behind her style.

The most important element in a room: Contrast. Without contrast everything blends together and there's no interest. A room needs it in one form or another, whether it's an unexpected mix of modern and vintage, tribal and elegance, light and dark, contrast creates beauty and individuality.

Best way to make a room feel more spacious: Keep your furniture off the walls wherever possible. A sofa pushed up against the wall can feel crammed in. Create visual breathing room by allowing some space around the furniture. Another trick is to keep as much of the furniture up off the floor, by choosing items with longer legs. For example choosing a sofa or chairs without a skirt or a buffet that has a longer leg.

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Favourite colour: We love Benjamin Moore Cloud White CC-40. It's a warm white that's bright and cheery without being too stark.

Favorite front door colour: Benjamin Moore "Hale Navy" HC-154 So blue it's practically black!

Favourite tile: We love the one-inch hexagon mosaic, in either black or white. It's classic but still pretty cool and funky.

Design rule: Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

Design pet peeve: Art hung too high, beds without headboards, area carpets that are too small, drapes that are too short, clients who want to pick the paint colour before choosing the furniture or finishes.

Favourite lighting tip: Have a dimmer switch on every light in the house.

Best DIY project: Art. When you can find new meaning in an old object, art can be found everywhere. It doesn't have to be expensive, it just has to be original and interesting. The antique scissor collection that hangs in our bathroom here is a great example. We just hung old scissors on a wooden dish rack, but the impact on the room is dramatic and it causes the occupant to think about it in a way they may not have expected.

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Best use of $500: Custom pillows or a good lamp. Don't be afraid to splurge: A beautiful lamp can make a big impact on a room, and pillows create a feeling of luxury and are a great place to add a hit of colour.

Signature room: Here is one of our favourite bathrooms. It shows some of our favourite things: contrasting black and white, hexagon tiles, DIY art, furniture up off the floor to create more visual space, and having nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. This space captures our style … or one of our styles.

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