Using Pattern in Interior Design

Pattern is the ordered repetition of line, colour or form. It needs to be handled with discipline. Pattern is susceptible to fashion, but patterns that are currently fashionable may well be outmoded by the following year. On the other hand the main elements in a furnishing scheme need to endure for quite a long time, so restrict the use of “trendy” patterns to small easily changed surfaces — cushions perhaps, or wallpaper for a small recess.

Types of pattern include geometric, abstract, floral, period, pictorial.

Scale is governed by the size of the pattern

repeat. The size of the scale determines suitability of the pattern for different applications. On the whole, large:scale patterns need large areas to make an effect. For example, do not choose a large-scale patterned fabric for a small cottage window, which may show only a part of one repeat. Small-scale patterns are nice for small, cottagey rooms. They can look annoyingly “busy- in large rooms.

When viewing patterns, view as large a sample as possible so that you can appreciate the full impact of the repeat. As with colour samples, view pattern pieces from the angle at which they will finally be seen — wallpapers pinned up against the wall, carpets on the floor — and view them in all relevant lights.

Combining patterns demands skill, especially when surfaces are immediately adjacent (a patterned settee, for example, standing on a patterned carpet). As a rule, patterns strongly contrasting in form but linked in colouring can go well together; for example, a small stripe with a large,

swirly floral. The colouring of a well-designed pattern on, say, a fabric or wallpaper may give you the inspiration for your whole colour scheme.

Practicality. Pattern is valuable in disguising stains and dirt, general wear and tear. Thus it is a practical choice for a heavily used floor or for the staircase wall.


On their own and in combination, textures add life and interest to a room. Sometimes they are interesting enough to make pattern in the room unnecessary.

Tactile appeal. Many textures have marked tactile appeal, creating a strong desire in the viewer to touch them or stroke them.

Dimension and scale. Unlike colour, texture has dimension and, as with pattern, there are considerations of scale. Some textures have a large-scale effect and should be used accordingly for large areas. Texture, like colour, is dependent on lighting; experiment with adjustable spots

until you find the angle that throws your textures into greatest relief.

Contrasts. Textures can be contrasted to great effect, the smooth with the rough, the matt with the shiny. But some textures do not match appropriately. Fine silk, for example, is unlikely to team up well with rush matting. Silk is redolent of stately drawing rooms; rush matting is more at home in a country cottage.

Fabrics often have pronounced textures. Velvet has a soft, rich glow; tweeds are coarse and nubbly; silk is smooth with a sheen: cotton ranges from dull to shiny, according to finish and weave, but the texture is usually smooth; man-made fibres are capable of assuming a wide variety of textures; coarse-textured hessian has become popular as a wall-covering and is usually sold paper-backed for the purpose.

When using fabrics, be sure that the texture is appropriate to the form and purpose for which the fabric is intended. Wallpapers sometimes have a texture as well as a pattern. Flock papers have areas of fine soft fur – alternating with a smooth background. Anaglypta and relief papers depend for their effect on texture: some: mes in the form of imitation natural textures, such as rush-matting or wickerwork: sometimes in the form of embossed repeating patterns. This type of paper can be painted over Other wall coverings imitate the texture of natural materials as faithfully as possible. For example, you can buy vinyl wall coverings which copy hessian so closely as to be indistinguishable from the real thing.

Brick can provide interesting rough texture if exposed walls and floors. When stripping off plaster in the hope of revealing the original brick, test a small area first to make sure the bricks will stand up to exposure.

Wood is usually sanded smooth. But the natural figurations of the grain give the effect of texture.

Carpets. Plain carpets often have a texture that help to disguise dirt and stains as well as looking good. There are shaggy long piles in wool and man-made fibres and twist and velvet pile Wiltons in wool and wool-nylon blends. One-colour tufted carpets (usually in man-made fibres, such as acrylics) often have a textured effect created by high and low level loop pile. Sometimes the tops of these loops are tip-sheared to increase the textured appeal. Cord carpets, an attractive choice for the highly budget-conscious, have ridged texture that varies according to their composition: hair, nylon, sisal.

Stone. Slate can be riven to give a rough irregular look. Marble can be polished to a high degree of smoothness and shine. Cork for floors and walls, usually in tile form, has an apparent texture, although the surface is usually sealed smooth for practicality of wear. But rich. Dark brown insulation cork is not sealed and feels rough to the touch.

Rush provides texture in the form of matting or chair seats.

Helpful touches

A room is not a static, once-completed never-to-be-changed affair. If your first efforts at achieving the schemes you want are not successful, there are lots of ways to improve matters, including:

1 Adding pictures to break up large areas of wall in an overpowering colour.

2 Adding touches of colour in the form of bright accessories (flowers, plants, cushions, ornaments) to too uniform a scheme.

3 Softening lines that appear too severe by adding cushions — or curtains to a window that had only blinds.

4 Adding small areas of pattern to schemes that seem to lack interest. The pattern could be in the form of cushions or a border round plain-painted walls or a patterned rug.

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