Interior Style

How to decorate with patterns like an interior designer

Decorating with pattern may seem scary but, by following these simple rules, you’ll have the confidence to add bold designs to your home like a stylist.

How to decorate with patterns like an interior designer

While many people find using pattern in the home a little intimidating, it’s a wonderful way to personalise your space and can really lift a room from ordinary to spectacular. Pattern can be added into your interior scheme in a variety of ways from wallpaper to curtains, tiles and bedlinen. While your spaces should be all about what you love, there are a few guidelines worth considering if you are keen to add a splash or more of pattern.


Flower-based patterns never go out of style – they’ve been around for centuries and offer a reassuring connection both to the past and to our natural environment. A small-scale 1960s flower print feels whimsical and romantic, while a hyper-real, colourful floral harks back to the vibrant still lifes of the 16th and 17th centuries. There’s a floral era out there for everyone, including lovers of minimalism, who may prefer a more subtle, abstract floral motif.


The key to using pattern successfully in your room is balance. The ultimate aim is to spread pattern around the room, not pile it up in one spot. It is important to combine pattern with block colours that match those found in your pattern to make the room feel cohesive.

A good rule to keep in mind when deciding which pattern to go for is to think about the size of the room. The larger the space, the larger the pattern or print you can use, whereas the smaller the space, the smaller the pattern.

With stripes, remember that vertical lines create the impression of greater height while horizontal lines appear to widen a space. Stripes are also often used in period homes, and go surprisingly well with spots.

Mixing patterns

These days it’s okay to mix patterns, but it’s a good idea to pick a limited colour palette. For example, black and white is always foolproof, as are most neutrals.

The key is to experiment with different scales of the patterns you’ve chosen. If using florals, try combining large-scale prints with a tiny flower or foliage design. Florals also work well when teamed with stripes.

Animals prints seem to fade in and out of fashion but adding a few to a neutral scheme can really bring it to life. Stick to just two or three patterns to avoid a zoo effect!

Whatever patterns you choose to use in your home, make sure you add some plain and complementary colours into the mix so the overall effect is fun rather than full-on.


Repetition is what makes geometric patterns so pleasing to the eye, as a nice, predictable visual order makes us feel safe and secure. Soften a geometric look by selecting rounded forms, such as the tiles below. Alternatively, if you fall in love with a square or spiky design, contrast it with curvy ceramics, soft linens and organic shapes such as pot plants.

Where can I use pattern?

Pattern can be added into your living spaces in a variety of ways, from soft furnishings such as drapes, cushions, rugs and throws to larger furniture items such as a sideboard, coffee table or sofa.
The aim is to limit the number of patterns to between two and four and balance them with plain colours. For instance, in the bedroom a patterned duvet can provide a focal point to a plain room when complemented by plain colours in sheets and blankets.

When it comes to using pattern in the bathroom, most of us opt for a plain and neutral scheme but, if done right, a patterned tile on the bathroom floor or in the shower can transform a utilitarian space into somewhere decorative and delightful. The same can be said for the kitchen, where a patterned tiled splashback in a plain kitchen injects a shot of personality and energy into the space.

If you do pick a patterned tile for either of these spaces, it is important to repeat colours from the design in a few other areas so the room feels cohesive. This could be done through coloured towels, storage baskets or a soap dispenser in the bathroom, or via coloured appliances, tea towels, crockery and so on in the kitchen.


This bold look is all about creating a sense of being surrounded by lush greenery, so you can really go to town with multiple botanical prints on the walls and soft furnishings. Add tropical artwork and accessories to take your room to the next level, but also remember to give the eye a rest by including a clean, simple neutral such as white or cool grey for contrast.


We are seeing a lot more people being brave with wallpaper these days and this is a great option for adding a pattern to a space. The good news is that with so many amazing wallpaper designs out there, the hardest part is selecting one. Botanical palm prints are very popular for creating a tropical feeling all year round, and there is one to suit every decor style and budget.

Sometimes it’s the small or unexpected spaces that can really deliver a punch. Consider using an ornate wallpaper in a powder room or hanging a whimsical pattern in the home office to make it an inviting space. Papering an alcove, behind shelves or below a kitchen island are other ways to make a concentrated impact.

Whether you introduce some simple spots or stripes to your walls, furniture and fabrics, or go wild with animal prints, have fun playing with pattern in your home!

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Words by: Vanessa Nouwens. Photography by: Maree Homer/

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