10 ways to use pattern in your home

Design expert Julia Kendell shares her advice on using pattern in the home

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Whether you want to create a subtle, stylish look or introduce clashing prints for an eclectic design, Julia advises on how to make the right choices for your home.

Where colour presents the mood of a room, pattern defines its style – whether evoking the elegance of times past, or perhaps setting a feminine scene with pretty florals. It can also make up for a lack of architectural detail and create interest in an otherwise blank and lifeless room. Yet pattern is possibly the scariest of all aspects of interior design, and the one area that I still struggle to lose my design inhibitions with at times. Just as more people are finding the confidence to experiment with bright and bold colour, so, too, is pattern emerging as a popular way to bring energy to an interior space.

1. Have confidence

Understanding the impact of pattern within a space is the key to having confidence in putting together a scheme. As with strongly saturated colour, any surface featuring a bold pattern will give the illusion of bringing the surface closer towards you, which can be used to great effect to re-proportion spaces or emphasise particular areas. For example, vertical stripes can be used to evoke a sense of height in a room, and horizontal designs to create flow from one open-plan area to another. It can be difficult to envisage a motif or print as a pattern within a room, however, as small samples tend not to do the design justice. If you’re using pattern for the first time, look for those that have been photographed on large expanses of wall, curtains or sofas, for a better idea of how the end result will look in your own home. Fabric companies also produce collections that are designed to be used in combination, which makes choosing an interior scheme easier. If in doubt, add pattern into your space gradually while you adjust to the new look.

Image above: Deakin solid oak and oak veneer dining set, £1,495: extending table, (H)74x (W)180-270x(D)100cm, and six Star acrylic chairs with chrome frame, (H)85x(W)48.5x (D)55cm; Deakin oak veneer three-section sideboard, (H)80x (W)160x(D)45cm, £715; Bones wool rug, (W)150x(L)230cm, £995, all Barker and Stonehouse

2. The starting point

Always begin with a design you love and won’t tire of. As the defining element of the room, it should directly reflect the look and style you want for the space. Decide where in the room you want the main pattern to feature, whether on the walls, curtains or furniture, remembering that this will become the dominant feature. Some of the most successful schemes have the main pattern on a sofa, chair or rug in the centre of the room, as this creates a different energy, where the room expands from that point, as opposed to the space feeling encompassed by a large pattern on the walls or around windows. This is a useful trick to ensure the room feels spacious but also has interest and colour.

stripes, pattern, wallpaper, kitchen

Adisa wallpaper in 110475, £34 per roll; Passaro cotton blind in 120205, £27 per m, Scion

3. Achieve a good balance

The more striking patterns incorporated into the space, the more neutral areas are required to give the eye somewhere to rest and allow the prints to be appreciated. Choosing patterns that already exist in the architectural elements of the home is another way to achieve balance. For example, a very boxy space with little detail takes geometrics and stripes well, whereas in an ornamented room with rounded coving, circular, paisley and more organic shapes tend to sit better. Use three or four key patterns intermingled with textural and plain elements, and avoid using two patterns of the same scale next to one another. Prominent paintings and patterned ceramics should be considered as part of the scheme to ensure a cohesive and not overly-cluttered look.

paisley, print, wallpaper, pattern, living room, home

Curtains and floor cushion in Bohème cotton/linen mix fabric in 131090, £45 per m; sofa upholstered in Merino polyester fabric in 140206, £29 per m; Bohème wallpaper in 110655, £59 per roll; Lulu wool rug in 44602, (W)170x (L)240cm, £499, all Harlequin

clashing, prints, patterns, design, motif, cushion, sofa, rug, living room

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