Have you noticed how much colourful, joyful pattern there is about at the moment? Not just in fabrics, which have traditionally been the way to get your pattern fix, but also with a lovely resurgence of bold wallpaper, multi-coloured carpets, patterned tiles and jolly household accessories in just about any design or colour your heart could desire. I know this look is not for everyone, but I dare even the most monochromatic interior lovers not to be a tiny bit tempted by a touch of pattern to bring some cheerful chaos to our lives and homes.
The thing with pattern is that you will know when to stop adding pattern to your home when you hit the ‘blimey, that’s enough’ moment – you know, when you start to feel a slight headache coming on. It’s different for everyone – some people like a lot of pattern and others find a small amount is plenty – neither is wrong, it is just important to know how much you want which, as with so many things in life, can be tricky.
If you are starting a room scheme from scratch, you will most likely have the wall colour, the flooring, curtains and the main furnishing items to play with in terms of adding and mixing your patterns. This is an important moment to work out not only how much pattern you want but also how strongly coloured you want the pattern to be. A scheme with smaller patterns and softer colours will obviously provide a much calmer end result than bold patterns coupled with strong colours, so you need to work out how much you want your patterns to blend with each other or how much contrast you can cope with.
When you are working with pattern, one of the most important steps in the design process is to get large samples of the products that you think you might want. A patterned piece of fabric or wallpaper, for example, will look really different when it is a metre square than when it is A4 size, so it is worth paying for a larger sample or even buying a metre of fabric or a roll of wallpaper before making a final commitment. This seems to be even more important when the pattern you are working with is of a very geometric design – there is something about the repeat that makes a significantly different impact to the overall effect when there is an obvious structure to a pattern.
If you find, whilst devising your scheme that you are finding the layers of pattern too busy, remember that inserting plain colours will help to calm things down. Traditionally, rooms have often been decorated using a patterned wallpaper with a plain curtain fabric or vice versa, and either will give you a lovely result. Should you feel a little bit deprived of pattern when you insert a plain colour into a scheme, it is incredibly easy to add more in the way of patterned accessories (cushions, rugs, artwork) as a top layer but so much harder to calm the pattern down if you have already committed to pattern in a major way.
One of the things to keep an eye on, whether you are devising a scheme from scratch or adding more pattern to a current room, is to consider the scale of your patterns. A large-scale design sits very comfortably with a little pattern but you do have to be careful that several large-scale designs do actually work together. Similarly several tiny prints can start to get overly busy. There is no hard and fast rule with this – you will know if prints work together when you see them but it is something to keep an eye on and with both large and small prints, it is much better to see the effect of the prints together, in larger samples, before making your final decision.
When we think of pattern, we tend to think of wallpaper, fabric, sometimes carpet although the historical influence of the pub carpet still has much to answer for (there are a lot of really beautifully patterned carpets available – very few of them found in local hostelries) but we should remember that pattern can be added to our interiors in a lot of different ways. Tiles have emerged from the plain neutral desert that we have had for a while and whilst I would never discount a plain tile, it has been wonderful to see the colour and pattern emerge back into the floors and walls of our kitchens, bathrooms, fireplaces and other spaces where tiling can shine. More unexpected places to see pattern, such as washbasins, bathroom towels, picture frames and painted furniture are available without too much investigation and can be used with huge effect, either in amongst our other patterns or against a plain backdrop.
If you are using wallpaper, particularly one with a strong design, don’t shy away from putting artwork on it. Wallpaper should always be thought of as a background to other items in a room – curtains, furniture etc. – and pictures are no different. A gently patterned wallpaper can take almost any artwork you want but if you have gone very bold on the wall, try to place artwork on it that can hold its own against your paper choice. This may be about making sure that the artwork is also bold, or if it is not, ensuring that your art is framed in such a way that it gives some breathing space between the artwork itself and the wallpaper.
Whatever your own personal taste, there is a lot of pattern around at the moment – for some this is to be celebrated and for others to be avoided at all cost. But you never know, even the pattern haters among us might be tempted by a little bit of decorative ornamentation, should the just the right product emerge. Either way, I would urge you to think about embracing your own world of pattern – it can be a very happy place to be.