Love colour, but feel overwhelmed or a bit commitment-phobic at the thought of bringing it home? No worries! Here’s how to experiment with colour and pattern for rooms that excite, surprise and energize.
Wallpaper has had a good run. It’s said to have originated in China’s Qin dynasty (approximately 221 to 206 BC). Although it has had its ups and downs over the last 50 years, wallpaper’s popularity has thankfully rebounded. It gives you the chance to test out living with more pattern and colour without making a long-term commitment to either. Applying a bold pattern above neutral-painted wainscotting (opposite) allows you to experiment without overwhelming a space. As well, leaving some white space is a fresher, more modern application than papering all four walls.
• Why try it? Wallpaper transforms a room in an instant. For those accustomed to living in neutral spaces, peelable wall decals let you test the waters. A thick paper also hides defects in the wall’s finish.
• How to use it? Bring in colour and pattern by papering panels (above). Create “frames” with trim and apply sections of a mural within the frames; think of it as similar to how an artist paints a diptych or triptych.
Photography, Gap Interiors
Scrutinize the work of any designer whose colourful rooms you admire and you’ll likely find a confident expertise in the way they combine patterns. They’ll use textiles – upholstery, window dressings, area rugs and more – to build interest. Often a tight palette will keep things cohesive, but look closely and you might notice that layers are built by combining patterns of different scales in tandem with blocks of solid colour. The solids are as much a part of the overall effect as the patterns. Elements like white walls or a blue chair are foundational colours upon which to build pattern.
• Why try it? Patterns are designed by textile artists, so each one (whether a fabric or a rug) is a successful colour combo. That makes them a fail-safe way to add colours that look great together.
• How to use it? Pick one or more coordinating patterns, then mix in solid colours (in textiles, wall colour, upholstery) lifted from the prints. Add in accents in the same colourways.
Colour blocking has a fine pedigree. Pioneering abstract artist Piet Mondrian (1872–1944) was reaching for a way to express high ideals beyond the realm of realism with his now-familiar works of red, yellow, blue and white blocks of colour. Painting our bookcases is hardly high art, but there’s an undeniable energy and power in bold, graphic blocks of colour. A century after Mondrian’s groundbreaking work emerged, it still feels modern and edgy. Any colours you love could be blocked on a wall
or portion of a wall, in a niche area, on an architectural feature – almost anywhere, really! – but contrasting colours make the most impact and are truer to historical colour-block applications.
• Why try it? If your rooms lack personality and you want to create a focal point, delineate a space or enhance an architectural feature (above), give colour blocking a try.
• How to use it? Paint isn’t the only way to add colour blocks. Solid-colour area rugs, window treatments, and even furniture in contrasting colours will create the same effect.