Play with pattern


Interiors expert and colour champion Sophie Robinson explains how to make pattern work in a real home


Pattern is an essential tool in an interior designers’ box of tricks, creating flair and impact when done well. I’m not one for ‘rules’ preferring a more free flow approach to making your home your own, however, I’ve never approved of the overly co-ordinated ‘fresh out of the box’ style of decorating. It feels too impersonal, and your home should say everything about you. So, it’s worth doing a little soul searching first, by asking which ‘pattern personality’ you are.  Are you a blousy carefree floral, a neat and subtle stripe, or a sassy pop of leopard print? 


I’m a maximalist at heart, and so my mantra is ‘more is more’ and I delight in the clash of pattern on pattern. I have a total of 13 scatter cushions, no two the same, across my two sofas with everything from florals and abstract prints to stripes and geometrics. For me, the joy is in the jostle. 


Max Pattern


My approach is a playful one and the way I make lots of different patterns work is to have a fairly tight colour palette, which stops it all tipping into an incoherent mess. A good place to start is with a hero pattern, this may be a floral chintz for example, that has a palette that you can draw your colours from. There isn’t a maximum number of colours you can incorporate in a scheme, but my advice is to make sure you have at least three for interest. With your core colour palette in place you can mix and match to your heart’s delight- stripes, polka dots, ditsy and blousy florals, a vintage fabric and a fabulous geometric too. Make sure you throw in a plain fabric as it helps keep the peace. 


Subtle Pattern


For a more pared back approach, reign back the number of colours so the pattern becomes the focus but be sure to mix up the scale. From a neat ticking stripe to a bold over-scaled geometric print, make sure your patterns have tempo. Consider that pattern can be applied everywhere from walls to floors, from furniture to artwork, and don’t forget the finer details too. A patterned lampshade for example is one of my favourite ways to pull a scheme together.


Singular Pattern


Having said all that sometimes pattern can look really striking when kept in isolation. It may be a dashing patterned rug in an otherwise pared back scheme, a bold feature wallpaper or a loud and proud patterned sofa. Sometimes making one strong statement is more powerful than a cacophony of pattern.


Deciding which approach you decide to take boils down to how you want the room to feel. For a cosy and inviting room, plenty of pattern on pattern creates a very feathered nest. If you want sophisticated and calming, then limiting the colour palette or the amount of pattern in a room will achieve this. If you are after making a striking style statement think about going all out on one fabulous pattern while everything else in the room is pared back, allowing the pattern to be the start of the show. 


Once you have decided which pattern approach will work for you, I have one condition, that you must go for it with conviction! Don’t be intimidated by pattern, grab it by the toiles and transform your room with verve.

posted on 19 Jul 2021 by Sophie Robinson

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