The harlequin look — Venetian in origin — is as international as champagne, and as classic as a black and white marble floor.
In this room from the mid-1950s, a striking harlequin pattern wallpaper, as dramatic and colorful as gift wrapping, lined one side of a small dining room.
With the wallcovering’s three shades of blue, yellow and black on a white background, its effect, teamed with black-and-white marble-effect rubber tile flooring and slender black metal chairs, was similar to dining on a loggia overlooking the Grand Canal.
One of the three blues of the wallpaper was on the ottoman and as repeated on the doors, where there was a glimpse of a checked ginger and gray rug beyond.
The petite square wooden card table, and the three chairs and one bench surrounding it, were solid but delicate in scale, working with the room instead of dominating it.
For some flair, you can see the sheen of brass on the antique gilt lionhead doorknobs and the furniture legs, as well as the same color reflected in some of the wallpaper diamonds.
Essentially, the harlequin is accent material. To achieve the look, use the motif for one bold note in a room. Since the effect is electric, it is best used with discretion to accent a muted decorating scheme or to inject a sudden surprise.
Note the distinctive colors, with hot and cold played against each other. Lemon yellows are teamed with sky blues, sharp oranges with purple or green — and they are often linked by black, gold and white.
The harlequin’s ingredients are simple but daring: slightly clashing bold colors used together, and very defined geometric patterns, which are as neat as plaid and as cheerful as polka dots.