Design Lesson
Nov 4, 2008

Design lesson: Playing with pattern

By: Kimberley Seldon

Design lesson: Playing with pattern Author: Style At Home

Design Lesson
Nov 4, 2008

Design lesson: Playing with pattern

By: Kimberley Seldon

Drapery, cushions, upholstery and bedding -- we surround ourselves with fabric. It's how we soften the hard edges of the world. Although the textures and patterns you choose depend on personal taste, awareness of their impact allows you to make selections that will contribute to overall harmony. That's especially important in small spaces, where an abundance of pattern contributes to visual clutter. So, consider these strategies for incorporating pattern into your home.

How to choose pattern
Living room
To allow for visual breathing room, it's best to use simple designs and combine them with solid fabrics. Robust patterns can be distracting, shifting attention from focal points, and creating a confusing backdrop for works of art.

Dining room
Frequently more dramatic than other public rooms, this room is used mostly in the evening. For that reason, it's perfectly warranted to choose bolder patterns. In addition, patterned upholstery and carpets are highly practical.

Kitchen
In the kitchen, where most of the available wall space is devoted to cabinetry, pattern can be a welcome relief. A pictorial wallpaper or scenic drapery fabric can create interest and set the tone for other decorating in the room.

Bedroom
The pattern you pick is dictated by the mood you want to create. If the bedroom is used only at nighttime, consider a minimum of pattern in a restful palette. For those who use the room during the day, a more adventurous mix of pattern may appeal.

Powder room
The powder room provides a real opportunity to enjoy high-impact pattern, as it's a transitional space used for short periods of time. Choose a scenic or geometric design, classic floral or large abstract pattern, and use it abundantly.

Dos and don'ts
DO evaluate the scale of furniture before choosing a pattern for upholstery. A dining room chair seat can't handle a large pattern. In contrast, a three-seater sofa doesn't suit a tiny motif.

DO review the existing patterns in the room's background. For example, a herringbone floor adds energy, while a coffered ceiling brings order to a space. The crisp, heavy lines of shutters contrast with the minigrid of a mosaic backsplash. These architectural cues may influence the selection of other patterns.

DO combine patterns that share a similar feeling or expression. For example, an exotic paisley blends easily with florals or stripes if they have an exotic feel as well. Formal damask works with shimmering silk, but may clash with rugged leather.

DO use vertical stripes, like those provided by floor-to-ceiling wallpaper or drapes, to emphasize the height of a room. To accentuate a room's width, opt for horizontal stripes, using wallpaper or artwork hung in a row as a frieze.

DON'T ignore the rug, since it's one of the most influential patterns in any room. Because it's a major purchase, many designers begin with it when building a design scheme.

DON'T use more than one large-scale design in a small interior, as it can overwhelm. However, you can use several small or medium patterns if they are varied in scale. Layering patterns lends a sense of depth, vital to a small room.

DON'T overdo vivid pattern in small spaces. Remember, a fabric with pattern has more visual weight than a solid one.To include a variety of patterns, stick to a colour palette with tone-on-tone or two-tone fabrics.

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Design Lesson

Design lesson: Playing with pattern