Patti Lorenzi Cowger.jpg

Patti Cowger

I’m seeing a lot of plaids lately. From winter flannel shirts to cookie box wrapping paper. This strong pattern gave me the idea to write about patterns, in general, today. How does one mix them in home décor without making a space look too busy or conflicted? Do all patterns suit all design styles?

A current job I’m working on may help answer these questions. I recently gathered fabric samples to show my client, Bev. We just reupholstered her two living room sofas and now want to add a few accent pillows. The new sofa fabric is a deep, soft, emerald green chenille. I had pulled the green from Bev’s large and striking Afghani rug. Because the rug consisted of many colors and had an active pattern, I chose a solid chenille, one without a pattern. That way, her beautiful rug would remain the focal point.

Bev’s home and furnishings have an Old European feel. Because of this, I ruled out modern abstracts and country patterns such as stripes, checks, plaids, and dots when looking for accent fabrics. Instead, I looked for more solids as well as scrolled, floral, damask, brocade, and tapestry patterns. Why would I want solid fabrics when the sofas were solid? Because I wanted to use one of my many glass-beaded pillow trims and such a trim would show up best on a solid fabric.

When I next met with Bev, I had a basket full of possibilities. She chose a gold paisley reminiscent of Florentine stationery, an emerald green floral, and a solid sapphire blue. All colors were represented in the rug and all were made of luxurious, Thai silk. The sapphire blue closely matched two chairs that were also in the room. There were many glass bead options but I suggested the gold ones because the contrast to the blue was the most apparent — and tied into the gold paisley.

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Once Bev agreed to the glass beads, I did not tempt her with the other trims and fringes in my basket. To use them on the other pillows would have detracted from the beaded pillows. Besides, the paisley and floral patterns were decorative in their own right. I’d just have them welted in the same fabric. This self-welting would add a small finishing detail without adding more decoration. I could have left out the welt altogether but it would have looked less traditional and more modern.

Another note about mixing these paisley and floral patterns. If they had been the same scale, they would have clashed or looked too busy. But the paisley was small, about one-inch in length, and the floral was large, about four inches. The floral also had a large open (empty, no pattern) background, and in a way, could almost be considered a solid. Because of the differences in scale and the open background, these patterns layered and complimented one another rather than looking hectic.

As a general rule when working with patterns, it is important to pay attention to scale. You can choose a small, medium and large pattern. You can use all three. But don’t duplicate them. That is, don’t use two small, two medium or two large-scaled patterns.

Patti L Cowger is a credentialed, award-winning Napa-based interior designer and owner of PLC Interiors. For more information about her design services, visit her website at plcinteriors.com call (707) 322-6522; or email plcinteriors@sbcglobal.net. Demystifying Design appears every other Saturday.

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