Proper use of patterns can make small rooms bloom

September 19, 2005|bY CHRISTINE BRUN /Copley News Service

Decorating with pattern can be exciting, but it also raises a lot of questions. Which patterns go together? Does the fabric pattern have to match the wallpaper? Is the pattern too large for such a small room? Will multiple patterns make the room seem too busy?

You'll need to consider several issues while you assemble your design in a small room. First, do you plan to use color on the walls? This might be accomplished by painting the walls or with wallpaper. If the walls are a solid color - as seen in the photo of a little bedroom shown here - there is more opportunity for pattern to be used on the other pieces in the room. If you opt for wallpaper, however, you'll need to proceed more carefully. Can the area take any more patterns without being overpowered by activity? It could be that the wallpaper provides all the pattern you need.


Fortunately many of the major fabric houses and wallpaper manufacturers produce companion pieces. Companies like F. Schumacher, Stroheim & Romann, and Lee Jofa do this type of packaging. Other fabric houses organize their samples of fabrics by color, which is another way to create friendly pattern use.

Here the large pattern on the bed coverings works because the linens are not complicated and fussy. The circular pattern in yellow/gold and aubergine is from Gaston y Daniela. The bold awning stripe used for the window shades - called Stripe Oro Viola - acts as a good counterpoint to the swirling pattern on the bed. The same colors appear in both pieces of fabric, only the color recipe is heavier on the gold in the stripe at the window. The creator of this room showed restraint by stopping here.

Fear of using pattern usually is based on memories of overdone, claustrophobic rooms from the past. In order to avoid that mistake, think of the pattern, shape and size of everything in the room as working together to create a rhythm. The trick is to couple friendly partners. When you fall in love with a big, bold pattern, think before leaping. Can you live with the pattern for a long time? Find companion fabric or wallpaper that will either be a little smaller in pattern or a little larger or that repeats.

Take the time to pin up samples and drape them over chairs. Study the pieces for a while. Look at all of the components in various kinds of light. Does your arrangement work as well in bold morning sunlight as it does in soft evening lamplight? Don't forget that the other elements in the room can count as pattern. Factor any area rugs into the equation. Does your wood floor produce pattern through the size and length of each board? Do you have parquet floors?

See if you can borrow on approval any items about which you have questions before you actually purchase them. Chances are your eye will tell you what looks good together. If you don't trust your own opinion, consult with a friend or a trained interior designer for additional help. It will be worth the time and investment.

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Big Ideas for Small Spaces." Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at or to Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112.

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