Patterns are an important tool in any interior designer's repertoire. However, you don’t have to be a professional to appreciate the difference that the right wallpaper pattern or rug can bring to a room. Whether you prefer geometric designs or traditional motifs like floral and paisley, it's important to know when and where to use patterns in your home.
Patterns come in a variety of densities, from fine, to medium and oversized. We use the word “density” here to describe how close together the images in the pattern are placed to one another. One example of an oversized pattern would be a bold geometric design. Some examples of medium patterns typically include botanical motifs and plaids. Fine patterns, on the other hand, can be so small-scale that they look like a solid color from a distance.
In addition to density, patterns can also be categorized by their style. Organic patterns are based on natural images, like plants or animals, while geometric patterns include abstract motifs such as stripes and squares. Both geometric and organic patterns can be used to create different visual effects.
Vertical stripes will make a low ceiling seem taller, while floral and toile prints give the room a soft and cozy feel. Animal prints are associated with glamour, and can work in either traditional or contemporary settings. If you want to cultivate a Bohemian or artsy look, ikats and paisleys are smart choices. Finally, stripes are a fantastic multi-purpose pattern that complements almost all other patterns, whether they are abstract or traditional.
It may be tempting to use the same pattern throughout your room, but be warned: doing so is a surefire way to make your home feel dated! From a design perspective, too much of one pattern is also just overwhelming. Incorporating complementary patterns that are in a variety of styles is the way to go these days. When in doubt, mixing different patterns that are all in the same color is a safe strategy. A monotone color scheme will give you leeway to mix patterns that might otherwise clash with one another.
The kind of pattern you choose for each piece should depend on what you're displaying it on. If you want to feature an oversized pattern, it needs to dominate the room. Use that pattern on wallpaper, a sofa, or an area rug. Large rooms can handle both darker and bolder prints, while small rooms will feel more open if you decorate them with fine, softly-colored patterns.
As a general rule, only use one oversized pattern per room. From there, you’ll want to complement your single oversized pattern with medium-density patterns on your chair upholstery, ottomans or curtains. Fine patterns look best on accent pieces such as pillows and lampshades.
If you've decided on a pattern but aren't sure what color you want, you can use your other furnishings as a guide. For example, if you already own a green upholstered ottoman, why not buy pillows or drapes in a similar shade of green? Once you’ve chosen your patterns, keep in mind that it’s important to space each pattern evenly throughout the room for visual balance. Putting solid color fabrics in between acts as a visual buffer.
These are only general guidelines. Experienced designers know that sometimes the best results can come from a little experimentation. Don't be afraid to play around with patterns until you've found the perfect combination!
Written by Caitlin Crowley