Pattern. For some, it’s a thrilling world to dive into and unleash on their homes. For others, the very word brings on decorating dread. No matter which side you fall on though (or even if you sit somewhere in the middle), follow one of our three looks below – combining patterns with plain fabrics and paint colours – and you can’t go too far wrong.
Neutral patterns, colourful plains You can choose to focus on just one pattern with this look, but it’s also a great way to use several patterns together in the same room and for it not to feel overwhelming. You can see just what we’re talking about in our Olive-walled bedroom scheme. Here, we’ve combined four different patterns – the dividing curtain in Thea Natural, the Eira throw, and the Whytock and Burford rugs – but because they’re all based on a neutral palette of whites and stone colours, leaving the stronger colour to the wall and fabric accents, things don’t feel too busy. (In fact, we tell a lie: there are five patterns in this scheme, with a cushion in Orla Apricot that ties in with the other rust-hued textiles. Don’t feel you can’t use the occasional more pigmented pattern too.)
The neutral pattern, colourful plain principle applies just as well to a more subdued and restful scheme as well, which you’ll see in the bedroom with the Honed Slate wall. We’ve used just one pattern here – Orla Moss (yes, it’s technically green, but it’s a very toned-down, grey green) – and neutral walls, bringing in more colour with the plain Sefton Rust throw and Rupert footstool upholstered in Harry Rust, which peps things up just a little.
We’ll end this look with a quick note on a generally useful pattern tip: when you’re using only one pattern in a small way, it’s a good idea to repeat it in one or two more places, like we’ve done with the headboard and the cushion in that last bedroom. Just as you’d repeat colours around a room, it’ll help it feel like a more cohesive part of the space.
Patterns and plains with colours in common This is the look you’re likely already familiar with, but it’s a very effective one none the less: pick out colours from within your pattern and use those as your plains in the room. It’s an easy way to create a cohesive scheme, and a good way to make a bold pattern easier to live with.
Case in point: in our living room scheme, we’ve used Morris & Co.’s Blackthorn wallpaper – a richly coloured and detailed pattern – and we’ve used it on a large scale. But, by taking its green tones and using them on the panelling and the Chawton storage piece, and by continuing the hints of pink-red through to the Harry Rosehip cushion and even the flowers and some of the books, it feels like a very harmonious part of the space. Imagine if Chawton were painted in a pale neutral. It wouldn’t be half so successful. The same goes for the Ardingly larder image where, again, the Olive paint tones nicely with the wallpaper, and this time the red and yellow details in the pattern are picked up by terracotta accessories and even the richly-stained timbers.
The bathroom scene is yet another example of this in practice: where the dark grey, almost purple-toned pattern is reflected in the Ink-painted Shepton cabinet and the vintage rug. Even our first room puts the theory into practice, with the white walls and furniture speaking to the white-based patterns.
It won’t always work out this way, but it’s easier to choose your pattern before you choose your plains. There’s a whole wide world of paint colours and plain fabrics out there which means you can very easily find one that works, whereas patterns are a bit more restricted, especially if you’re after a particular style or theme. Don’t feel you have to match perfectly either, but do compare good-sized samples of both paint or fabric and pattern side by side first.
Contrasting patterns and plains You’ve fallen head over heels for a particular pattern and you want to really make it sing. Turn to the colour wheel and choose a colour opposite (or sort of opposite – don’t get too hung up on that) your pattern’s main hue, then apply that judiciously as a plain in the same room. It’s a bold look, and one that’s certainly not for everyone, but using complementary colours in this way will make both pattern and plain sing.
Our Sunbury sideboard scene is the perfect example: this room is papered in a hand-painted de Gournay design, ‘Askew’, whose main colour is green-blue, so for the adjacent sideboard we’ve opted for Paprika red which creates a strong contrast.
Often within a multi-hued pattern, there’ll already be examples of complementary colours which will give you a way in. Going back to the Morris & Co. paper and looking at it instead in the four-poster bed scene, rather than focusing on the greens that are the primary colours of the pattern, we’ve chosen to make more of the red – their complementary – that’s a smaller detail in the pattern, painting the Larsson chest of drawers in Chestnut. Look again at our Morris & Co. living room shot and picture Chawton in red with the cushion in green instead, and you’ll see just how swapping monochrome for complementary will create a more dramatic space.
If you’d like a look that’s a touch less strong than the one created by complementary colours, there’s still inspiration to be found on the colour wheel with an analogous palette. This time, you’ll be taking your plain colours from either side of the pattern’s main colour e.g. red with pink, green with yellow, or in our second de Gournay scene, blue with green. It’s a trick that’ll create a scheme somewhere between the dynamic complementary palette and one where you’ve picked colours straight from the pattern.
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