Dorothy Draper once said of her decorating projects, "I always put in one controversial item. It makes people talk."
The influential Manhattan interior decorator was known for her exuberant use of color and pattern, such as bold, black-and-white checkerboard, hot pink and crimson, lime green and blue.
That cheeky sense of fun is all over home decor these days, a counterpoint to the serenity of minimalism and neutral palettes.
Accessories: New York-based designer, potter and author Jonathan Adler is known for playful accessories, such as ceramic trinket trays in the shape of pouty lips. Brass and acrylic objets d'art and vessels include mustache, finger, hippo and talon shapes.
Yet Adler's serious about creating chic design.
"A lot of my stuff explores a hedonistic streak that I deny myself in real life. The wink in my work is just that — a wink," he says. "My formula? Ninety-nine percent classicism, 1 percent witticism."
Color: Maureen Stevens, an interior designer in Austin, Texas, seeks a similar balance. For a project in the city's Seaholm District, "the client wanted a boutique-hotel vibe with all the frills."
Stevens clad some walls in cobalt and magenta, and then dressed the home with bold pops of pattern, curvy furniture, statement art, and velvet bar stools perched on hairpin legs. There's sex appeal, but it's infused with tasteful, thoughtful curation.
"I love a room of storytellers," she says. "Pieces that act as little mementos, curiosities and artifacts."
Furniture: Furniture with a soft, sumptuous feel — think velvet, chenille, buttery leather — is a good way to introduce sensual elements. Metals can be highly polished to dance the light around the room, or burnished to give the room warmth. Glass or mirrored pieces add glamour.
Appliances: Jenn-Air has disrupted the traditional high-end kitchen-gear market with a new collection called "Bound by Nothing." The appliances are tricked out with Italian leather covers and trims, etched and tooled hardware, and deep, rich hues.
"Our inspiration came from fashion, furniture and jewelry, and from art, music and travel," says Jessica McConnell, senior design manager at parent company Whirlpool. "Having free rein to push boundaries was quite freeing for us as designers. We stopped thinking about the way it 'should' be done and instead about the possibilities."
Faucets: Other utilitarian elements are getting a fashionable approach too. Kohler introduced the Ombre faucet collection, inspired by the technique's popularity in clothing and even hairstyles. The graduated shading, from a rosy gold to nickel, or dusky titanium to a pinky hue, gives the hardware a beguiling edge.
For a stronger statement, check out Timorous Beasties' Graffiti wallpaper covered in wildly colorful and chaotic spray-paint and spatter patterns.