Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What's the magic number?

When I taught Community Education classes in Interior Design, and later when I taught an introductory Interior Design class here, that was the question my students would ask when we discussed pattern. How many patterns should you have in one room? How many is too many? Well, I have the answer. Are you ready? The answer is...wait for it...there is no magic number. Ha! Trick question, yes!
Back during the times of people like this (extra credit if you can name that king):
there were hard and fast rules regarding architecture, textile and furniture style characteristics. Do NOT combine styles, lest the offended monarch demand you be sent to the dungeon for a decorating misdemeanor.

But nowadays, these hard and fast rules of design are rarely followed or enforced. Today's style is mostly eclectic, and we have the freedom to combine elements to create our own style.

Even so, here are some general guidelines when using patterns:

1. Begin with one pattern to build on. Whether it is a piece of art, fabric or a rug, start with that and find coordinating patterns to suppliment.

2. Avoid using equal amounts of different patterns. One pattern should always be dominant and the most prominent in the room. All other patterns should occur in smaller areas, like accent pillows, an upholstered chair, or curtains/drapes.

3. Consider how each pattern will be used in the room. If an accent pillow fabric doesn't quite perfectly match what is in the area rug, remember that the pillow will be on a sofa and not right ON the rug. It's OK to not be too "matchy", although many home decor fabric lines provide you with coordinating collections that are meant to match in both color and style.

4. Choose bolder patterns for smaller areas. A large stripe sofa is much more difficult to change out than some accent pillows or wall art of a similar pattern. Don't commit yourself to a pattern that will be difficult and/or expensive to change out when you tire of it.

5. Choose what makes you comfortable. More contemporary interiors rely on the use of texture more than patterns, and that's just fine too. I don't think I'd be able to pull off this look in my current house, but it does feel comfortable and balanced.

So, I guess the most important rule in using pattern is don't be afraid!

And, on a different but related topic of pattern, my mom just taught this quilt pattern to 15 eager learners at her 7th annual quilt retreat.

Man, does she know how to use pattern! I didn't attempt the quilt (my sisters and I are the resident cooks for the event), but I've finished some long overdue projects while I've been here that I'll share later.
Now, go pick some pretty patterns!

P.S. That handsome fellow at the beginning of the post is France's own Louis XV of the Rococo period. Did you get it right? Well done!

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