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How to decorate your rooms with pattern

Posted: 07/08/14 How to decorate your rooms with pattern

Getting the balance right when decorating with pattern isn’t always easy. But pattern can give every room in your home personality and bring it to life in a way that plains can’t. Follow our expert guide to find out how to use it effectively in your home.

Which colour scheme suits your room?

Before you begin to consider patterns, decide on a colour scheme for your room. The general rule is that east- and north-facing rooms tend to get cooler natural light, so look for warm but light tones to make them seem both more welcoming and lighter; south- and west-facing rooms get more natural, warmer daylight, meaning you can opt for most colours, including deep, dramatic shades, but should probably avoid bright primaries, such as yellow and red, which will be overpowering in sunlight. Bear in mind too that brighter colours tend to give a room a more relaxed look, while cooler shades create a more formal feel.

How to create the right colour balance?

With your basic colour choices made, think about the balance of these colours. In other words, which one will be your dominant shade, and which two or three others the accents? With this in mind, you can start considering patterns with these combinations. Don’t forget that the background colour over which the pattern is laid is often the more dominant, even if it’s not the brightest.

Dormy House fabrics

What are the basic pattern types – and what effect do they create?

There’s an endless range of pattern designs but the basic categories below will each affect the mood and look of your room differently.


Small repeat patterns create a feminine, contemporary style; larger motifs can be used to add interest to a contemporary scheme and tend to have a broader appeal. Florals go well with stripes, checks and vintage style designs.


This covers everything from very contemporary chevrons – one of the biggest trends when matched with bolds for 2014 – to more traditional designs or even an Oriental-style paisley. Again, the larger the motif, the more contemporary the final look – and the straighter the lines, the less feminine the finish. Geometrics go well with stripes and checks.

Checks and stripes

From gingham to tartan, pencil stripes to broad bands of colour, these designs tend to suit period rooms more – and will create a distinctly smart appeal if used against plains. They go well with vintage style designs and florals.

Vintage style

These patterns are often a combination of other types – perhaps checks and florals. They can be used to create an informal, timeless feel that’s perfect for retro room schemes. Can be matched with most designs, as long as the colours are right.


Not strictly a pattern, textured fabrics and wallpapers still add all-important layering to a room and are particularly effective at enlivening a neutral or natural colour scheme. Textures in the right colour can be matched with any of the fabric styles above.

How to choose the right pattern for your room?

Before you begin to shop for fabrics for curtains and upholstery and wallpaper for feature walls, alcoves or all four walls, consider your room. Is there any pattern in it already? This might include exposed brickwork (a geometric pattern) or period mouldings (possibly floral patterns). Is the room large or small? The larger the room, the bigger the motifs within the wallpaper or curtain fabric can be. Lastly, how do you want the room to feel and how do you use it? For example, if you’re looking to calm down a busy living space, a lively, colourful pattern won’t be the right choice.

Where to use pattern

Chest of five drawers, The Dormy House, thanks to Ideal Home magazineOn the walls

Bedrooms, where the focus is often on the bed and nowhere else, tend to suit wallpaper on all four walls, but a single feature wall can add lots of interest, particularly with a very distinctive pattern, and create focus. An eye-catching wallpaper can be used above a dado rail to add interest to an otherwise plain hallway. In other rooms, the trend now is to create feature or focal walls with wallpaper. So, you might choose to hang a pattern on a chimney breast or within the alcoves in a living room, leaving the other walls plain but in a colour that complements one of those within the pattern. Or, you can frame a large motif behind glass to create a unique kitchen splashback. Alternatively, brighten up a bathroom with a pretty pattern on one (splash-free) wall.

Right: Our five-drawer chest in a bedroom created by Ideal Home magazine

Quick tip
If you want a laid back look and have already chosen a patterned wallpaper, pick upholstery or curtain fabrics that complement its colours, tone and style, but that don’t match entirely. Instead, either go for plains or choose patterns with motifs that are of a different size for contrast.

Louis sofa, thanks to Homes & GardensOn furniture

Whether your room is plain or you have already chosen pattern for your walls, a focal piece of furniture, such as a sofa or armchair, can add extra layering, impact and attention to detail to a room. Restrained patterns on walls can be successfully matched to upholstery on one stand-out piece of furniture; covering a three-piece suite in the same fabric pattern as the wallpaper would be overpowering, however. If your room is quite plain, covering a single piece of furniture, such as a sofa or chair, in a dramatic fabric can make a strong design statement – and you can pick out colours within the pattern for accessories to help pull the scheme together.

Left: Our Louis sofa in a bedroom created by Homes & Gardens

Quick tip
If you want to create this look on a budget, you can easily do so by placing cushions in your chosen pattern on an existing sofa. This is a good trick if you like to change the look of an otherwise neutral room with the seasons. We can make cushions from our fabric range – or you can send your fabric for us to use.

At windows

When choosing fabric for a large window, follow the rules for picking pattern for walls. However, finding a pattern for curtains is a much easier choice than wallpaper because for much of the time the curtains are drawn and the pattern is more or less hidden, so it doesn’t dominate the room so much. However, bear in mind that you can use pattern to create a feature of and improve your window’s proportions. A large motif on a fabric that hangs to the floor and can be pulled right back to the edge of the frame on either side of the window will make it seem larger and grander; a smaller motif for curtains hung to sill-length will make the window less imposing and more traditional-looking.

Quick tip
Choose a contrasting fabric for a blind, picking out one or more colours in the curtain fabric. This will give your room a period or traditional look and add layers to create a feeling of luxury and comfort. Don’t forget, we can custom-make curtains and blinds for you from our fabric or your own.

In details

Accessories, such as plates, headboards, pictures, rugs and lampshades, can all be used to bring pattern and to add interest to an otherwise plain room. Subtle matching rather than strict coordinating is easily achieved if you stick to the same colours and style of pattern. See all our soft furnishings and accessories for inspiration and ideas.

Quick tip
If you choose a mostly plain scheme that’s accessorised with patterns, paint your furniture to complement the colours within the pattern. We can paint our furniture in a range of standard colours or can supply unfinished furniture to you, ready for painting.

We have a wide range of fabrics and wallpapers, and can upholster furniture and headboards, make curtains, blinds and cushions for you – with our fabric or yours. Plus, we’d be happy to help with any queries you have. Just get in touch with us on Facebook, by email or phone.