Dear Stella, I’d like to think I have some basic decorating skills – I know my damask from my tropical print – but I am a little stumped by what is acceptable when mixing patterns. I am specifically keen to do something bold on my sofa with scatter cushions and maybe a throw, but I am not sure where the line is between personality and garishness. Can you help?
Zizi M. (Observatory)
Dear Zizi, thanks for bringing this common question to me. And by common, I do, of course, mean that it’s often-asked.
‘Personality-appropriate’ has always been my approach to interior design – both in my own home and those of my clients. That means doing what’s right for you, and liberally sprinkling salt on the trend assault. Must we have Amazonian-style indoor plants? Must we use golden amber? Must we even say the words ‘golden amber’? No, my darlings, we may choose not to.
The mixing of patterns is thus an opportunity to add your personality to your space. So, go for gold I say! Not literally of course. I meant that metaphorically. I only take diamonds literally.
Zizi dear, I am sure you’re also aware of the dynamism patterning affords: contrast, tension, visual interest and all that. So, pattern-on-pattern may initially feel like ‘too much’. But, actually, the approach falls into what we call the maximalist style, where more is simply more. And who doesn’t like more? (Especially if it’s something bubbly from the Champagne region of France.)
I chatted to two divinely talented girlfriends about your dilemma, Zizi. They’re both brilliant interior designers and total pattern assassins. The first is the intuitive Juliette Arrighi de Casanova (trying saying that after something bubbly from the Champagne region of France), who suggested the following:
“A ‘pattern blocking’ approach always works. Similar to colour blocking, choose commonality in motifs, shapes and forms and group them together”. Clever Jules.
She also advises “checking your canvas”, i.e. the shell of your living room. By this she means turning to the foundational elements of your room like your furniture, walls and floors. Look to these and the shapes and forms they create, and you’ll find a starting point. If you have parquet flooring, for example, then you may want to look at herringbone patterns. Personally, I avoid herringbone; any food-inspired pattern makes me hungry.
The delightful Sarah Ord (her fearless multi-hued interiors are an inspiration) offered some extra tips about boosting your scale and depth game with geometrics.
She said: “When it comes to combining patterns, scale can play a big part: add large-scale prints to more intimate motifs. Throw in a more geometric pattern like a stripe or a check to give the look depth. You can’t go wrong with a black and white stripe to round off a scheme!”
Very Cruella De Vil, but that may be your thing, Zizi. I know it’s mine.
I hope that’s a help, darling heart. Be intuitive and be happy. Now, I’m off to pour myself something bubbly from the Champagne region of France (or I may even find my joie de vivre in one of these). Do you see a pattern emerging here?
Yours, lying blissfully amid houndstooth and brocade.
Juliette Arrighi de Casanova: jujliving.com | @jujliving
Sarah Ord: sarahord.com | @sarahordinteriors
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