Wednesday 16 January 2019

Holding patterns... how to create individuality

The right pattern in the right place is a great way to create individuality, writes our expert

Picture: John Lewis
Picture: John Lewis
Photo Cuckooland
Picture Harvey Norman
Photo Michael Murphy Home furnishings

Caroline Foran

When it comes to interiors, whether you're a play-it-safer or you crave a minimalist aesthetic, patterns aren't something you'll typically veer towards. They take a certain amount of confidence, as well as a willingness to commit - unless you're prepared to change up your decor as often as you change your mood, of course. The thing is, it's just too easy to default towards that which is plain, and even easier to shy away from strong colours, but the right pattern in your bedroom or living room could be the key to the individuality you're after. For those who balk at the idea of pattern overload, or fear you'll wind up with a house that resembles your dear old aunt Esther's, worry not. Here's how to get it right.

Trend or treasure?

The world is very good at convincing you to fall in love with trends - think fashion, beauty, home decor, even cars. But just as you get used to the idea of something, they switch it up again, and you too decide you're over it. This is something you have to be very mindful of when making bigger decor decisions and working with patterns. If you've been taken with the botanical trend, do you really want to commit to a banana leaf print wallpaper? Is it something you will stick with long term? For more vibrant and trend-lead patterns - such as this mirror's eye wallpaper from Mind the Gap - make sure you've thought it through.

Start small

Photo Michael Murphy Home furnishings

If you're only beginning to flex your patterned muscles at home, take it slow. Ease yourself in gently by introducing patterns into soft furnishings, fabrics and upholstery. In the same way soft furnishings allow you to experiment with colours you're not used to, this is a great way to test the patterned waters without a massive commitment. Introduce a patterned bedspread - and, yes, a simple stripe still counts. Consider swapping out your scatter cushions in the living room for something a bit more interesting. And remember, patterns don't have to demand your attention; they can be pared back, too. A patterned rug is a step somewhere between a cushion and a sofa, and as it's usually partially covered by a coffee table, it's not quite as scary a purchase. Curtains are another way to push your comfort zone.

Less is more


When styling your room from scratch - be it a living room, bedroom or even a kitchen - start with one pattern that you love. If it's vibrant and you want to go for a feature wall with patterned wallpaper - for example you could fall for a chevron pattern - start with that. Then choose your furniture to balance out the pattern (something neutral would be a wise choice here so the room doesn't totally overwhelm you - unless that's what you're going for). If you set your eyes on a patterned sofa that makes for an eye-catching statement, decide on that and then consider the rest of your decor around it. But that's not to say you can't introduce several patterns at once...

The clash

Photo Cuckooland

The biggest fear around patterns is clashing. What goes with what? What are the rules? There are none, but there are suggestions. If you're worried about clashing, consider sticking within the one colour palette or with a mix of soft pale colours with different patterns. You could choose a pale blue stripe for your bedroom wall and then carry that through with soft grey and white polka dots in your bedspread, or mix crosshatch and chevron patterns in your fabrics. With patterns that are much more vibrant, remember that they will make a strong design statement. To avoid things looking twee or granny-esque, don't choose two patterns of the same scale. For example, go with a thick stripe and a smaller polka dot. Or a bigger botanical print with a more subtle cloud print (for example in a kids' room).

Get The feels

Picture Harvey Norman

Once you get comfortable with patterns, you can take them up a notch with texture. Mixing textures is also another way to avoid the twee effect with patterns in the home. Patterns and colours add depth to a space, but the varying textures is what really brings the room together. In the living room you could introduce a series of statement cushions all with an alternate pattern and texture. For example, you could have one boho-inspired woven cushion with a pared back pattern, one velvet cushion with a vibrant geometric print and soften everything up and add a pop of colour with a linen cushion.

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