Category Archives: Decorating Basics

Playing with Pattern

While I fully believe that rules are meant to be broken (I mean did they really expect me not to go into that pyramid in Chichen-Itza?), when you are learning a new technique, such as mixing patterns, it helps to follow some basic rules. While many well known designers have earned the right to break design rules, I am a novice and find them helpful.

There are four classic combinations of pattern matching which I will draw attention to and exemplify through pictures. Please note that the pattern matches I show are based on the colour as I see it on the computer screen. It is very important to see samples of the fabric in person before purchasing as the colours as shown on-line can be deceiving and colour matching is very important for a cohesive design look. Many fabric companies sell differently patterned fabrics with coordinating colours which makes pattern matching much easier.

Another  important element of pattern matching is mixing the scale of the patterns. A room with all large scale patterns would be chaotic looking. It is good to have a mix of large, medium and small scale patterns. It is okay to have more than one of each scale but if you are worried about making errors keeping it to one of each will help keep you on track (in the pictures below I have noted what scale the pattern is because each picture of the fabric is taken from different distances so unless you look at the scale at the bottom of the picture it is difficult to tell the size. Some look quite large in scale but are actually just a picture taken from very close up and vice versa.) 

Without further ado…

Geometric plus floral:

Geometric

Geometric

Due to the flowing lines of this ikat it could be considered a floral

Due to the flowing lines of this ikat it could be considered within the category of “floral”.

dwell studio mazascene taupe geometric

medium geometric

Dwell studio vintage blossom azure

large floral

Two similar patterns of different scale (eg. a medium scale and a large scale floral or a large scale plaid and a small scale plaid). The four fabrics below could also be used all together for a complex pattern mix.

Richloom whipporwill blue have, fabric.com

medium floral

large floral

large floral

large plaid

large geometric

small geometric

small geometric

     Same pattern/ different colours:

cheveronpurpleyellow zig zags

Complex Pattern mix:

Three different scale florals plus one geometric:

premier prints graffiti drew berries

small floral

preimier prints rosa drew berries

medium floral print

preimier prints hippie chic

large floral print

very small geometric

very small geometric

Two different scale florals and two different scale geometrics.

thomas paul dahlia aegean

Large floral

robert allen multiop slub pool

large geometric

robert allen mod lay out slub

medium geometric

robert allen luxury floral pool

medium floral

While all the pattern samples shown above are fabric samples, pattern can also come from other aspects of the room like wallpaper and rugs. A general suggestion for larger surfaces like these is to use larger scale patterns so that it doesn’t look too busy.

I personally have commitment issues when it comes to colour and pattern in my main living spaces and if you are like me an easy and less expensive way to start your exploration in pattern matching is throw pillows.

I hope that this little tutorial is helpful for you. Please feel free to e-mail me at [email protected] if you have any questions. I purposefully only showed pictures of the patterns because I thought it might make things clearer. If you google search pattern mixing you will get a wealth of pictures with beautiful pattern mixes. Happy pattern mixing!

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Discovering colour palettes through art: Large Nude

In my colour class, in order to prepare us for future clients who may want their space decorated around a specific piece of art, we were asked to choose an inspirational picture. The goal was to then pull out colours from the artwork to make a colour scheme for the theoretical room.

This is the painting I chose:

"Large Nude" by Renoir

“Large Nude” by Renoir

This work was painted in 1907, and in my eyes represents a time when beauty was not determined by today’s impossible standards. It is inspiring to me to see a curvaceous woman lazing around nude, with a peacefully unabashed countenance. As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder in the past, it is a breath of fresh air to see an “imperfect” body portrayed as being so lovely that it inspired a masterpiece.

The colour palette I came up with below is an analogous colour scheme (See Colour Schemes 101: I can sing a rainbow). These colours represent all the different decorating aspects of the room, not just paint colour. One or two might be a paint colour in the room whereas the other colours could represent furniture, throw cushions, rugs, curtains, wood tones etc. They aren’t particularly colours that I would be inclined to design with in my own home, but the point was to pick colours that represent the artwork.

yellow-green (stretching a bit here, there isn't too much yellow in it)

yellow-green (stretching a bit here, there isn’t too much yellow in it)

yellow (cream is derived from yellow)

yellow (cream is derived from yellow)

yellow-orange

yellow-orange

orange (brown comes from adding black to orange)

orange (brown comes from adding black to orange)

red-orange

red-orange

I am still a novice at this practice but it is fun to play around with colour. The magazine House Beautiful has a section every month where they do something similar to this. If you are interested in the concept but don’t feel like buying a magazine check out the website design seeds: it beautifully demonstrates this practice and is fun to browse around.

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Colour Schemes 101: I can sing a rainbow

I have been teaching my daughter colour theory since she was under a year old, using colourful toys as props. Example, “Sofia, these blocks are red, yellow, and blue. Those are primary colors. When you add them together you get secondary colours like orange”. When I confused her enough with that I moved on to “Sofia, look at these balls, they are orange and blue. That’s a complementary colour combination”. When I recently started struggling with saying, “well..that’s not really red Sofia, its more of a red-orange…” my husband thought it was time to simplify things. Right. Keep it to “I can sing a rainbow”. For now.

However, if you are old enough to be reading this then you are old enough to let me indulge in talking about color schemes without causing too much confusion or stunting your learning curve.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are some beautifully decorated spaces exemplifying some common colour schemes.

Monochromatic Color Schemes: using any tint (white added to colour), tone (grey added to colour), or shade (black added to colour) of one colour.

Ah, Sarah Richardson, I love her bold style of decorating

Ah, Sarah Richardson, I love her bold style of decorating

Talk about sunny side up

Talk about sunny side up

Analogous Colour Schemes: using two to five colours consecutive on the colour wheel

analagous yellow-green, green, blue-green

analagous yellow-green, green, blue-green

Another beauty by Sarah Richardson. Analogous orange, yellow-orange, yellow, yellow green color scheme

Another beauty by Sarah Richardson. Analogous red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, yellow, yellow-green color scheme

Complementary: using two colours opposite one another on the colour wheel

I love orange and blue contrasting colour schemes. Or in this case, red-orange and blue-green

I love orange and blue contrasting colour schemes. Or in this case, red-orange and blue-green

Gorgeous lofty red-green contrasting scheme

Gorgeous red and green contrasting scheme. It doesn’t have to look like Christmas.

Split Complementary: Using two colors on either side of the colour’s complementary colour

Loosley a split-complementary red orange, red-violet, and green (though the couch is really more of a yellow-green)

Loosely a split-complementary red-orange, red-violet, and green (though the couch is really more of a yellow-green to be honest. Designers take liberties with these things)

Yellow, red violet, and blue violet (they snuck in a bit of blue-green two but ignore that :-)

Split complementary yellow, red violet, and blue violet (they snuck in a bit of blue-green on the ottoman but ignore that 🙂

Triad: Using three colours equally spaced from each other on the colour wheel

Triadic colour scheme done in red, yellow, and blue

Triadic colour scheme done in red, yellow, and blue

violet, orange, green triadic colour scheme

Violet, green, and orange triadic scheme. Orange is “the mother of all beige” and therefore the beige counts as the third colour in this triad.

Tetrad: Using a combination of four colours that are two sets of complementary colours.

Green, red, blue, and orange tetrad colour scheme. These schemes are mostly seen in children's rooms as they are quite loud.

Green, red, blue, and orange tetrad colour scheme. These schemes are mostly seen in children’s rooms as they are quite loud.

Two common color combinations that do not fit into traditional color schemes include blue and yellow (often seen in French country decorating) and red, blue, and white (often seen in…America)

A little bit of french country yellow and blue

A little bit of french country yellow and blue

Red White and Blue Colour Scheme

Tried and True, American red, white and blue. Its a fairly common coastal cottage type scheme.

Some non-colour “colour” schemes are achromatic, the use of black and white in decorating, and neutral, decorating with beige, grey, and/or cream.

Achromatic Living Room

Achromatic Living Room

Dining room decorated with neutral beige

Dining room decorated with neutral beige

One last colour scheme to consider is polychromatic…that is, the use of all the colours on the colour wheel.

I appreciate the artistry but I would go insane staying in this hotel room

I appreciate the artistry but I would go insane staying in this hotel room

Kids rooms or playrooms are about the only place you should see a polychromatic scheme in my opinion

Kids rooms or playrooms are about the only place you should see a polychromatic scheme in my opinion

Hopefully some of these examples will help you in your next decorating venture.  For more colour combinations pick up a colour wheel from your local craft store and have a gander. If you stick to the tried and true schemes it should help to make your decor a success!

If you don’t feel like buying a colour wheel this link is helpful for looking at different colour combinations on the colour wheel.

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