Making Fabric Patterns Work

Fabric patterns are a great way to add some life and texture to your home. Properly chosen and placed, they can turn an otherwise dull room into a fun, lively area that reeks of personality. Here’s how you can use fabric patterns to decorate your room.
Making Fabric Patterns Work

You’ve heard all about the importance of color and texture in your home, but how do you really do it? Most people think about customized finishes, wallpaper, and other expensive additions. But here’s the good news: adding color and texture is simpler—and less expensive—than design companies make it sound.

The key is to use fabrics and fabric patterns for texture. Fabrics are a great choice because they’re cheap and easy to work with, so they can work with any budget, theme, and home décor. Of course, it takes a bit of skill and planning to make fabric décor work for you. These seven tips can help you choose the perfect fabric pattern for your home.

Keep it simple.

One of the most common mistakes in using fabric patterns is going overboard. Patterns draw attention to themselves; you don’t need to plaster them all over the room to make a statement. Instead of making them the predominant theme of your room, add them in little splashes to complement your color motif. A patterned pillow, a rug, or furniture drape can all make great accents for your room.

Go for contrast.

In fashion, it’s a crime to wear plaid on floral, stripes on plaid, or combine any two patterns at all. The same applies to home décor: a patterned drape over a patterned couch makes a confusing, headache-inducing mess. Use the simple formula of plain on print, print on plain: the contrast will set off both sides nicely and keep the whole room in balance.

Put your pattern scales in proportion.

In textiles, “scale” is the size of the repeating element in the pattern. Thick, bold stripes make a large-scale pattern, while pinstripes are considered small-scale. Choose a pattern scale that matches your room’s size. Small-scale patterns make too much noise in a large room, so go for larger designs. Similarly, a small room works best with a small-scale pattern since large ones can be overpowering.

Avoid bold colors.

Patterns speak for themselves, so there’s no need to draw in any more attention with bold colors. Lighter shades will help the pattern stand out. Neutral colors like white, cream, gray and black work well, but you don’t have to limit yourself to them. To get the best match, pick out a predominant color in your room and choose a fabric in the same color, but in a pale or pastel shade.

Position your patterns.

How you place your patterns can greatly affect the mood and theme you create. Put patterns closer together for a cozy, country-home look, or farther apart for a more modern, minimal style. You can also use patterns to make up for flaws in size: place them close to pull the boundaries in, or add some distance to make the room look bigger.

Use more than one pattern.

It’s never a good idea to use just one pattern for the entire room. Instead, combine two or three patterns in well-placed splashes throughout the area. In large rooms, you can highlight certain spots (such as a reading corner) by placing a unique pattern on the floor or walls. For smaller rooms, try placing them in the walls and corners to blur the boundaries and create an illusion of size.

Choose durable fabrics.

Even the best fabric patterns are no good if they won’t last long. Flimsy fabrics may work for drapes and wall décor, but if you’re looking at patterned upholstery or rugs, make sure the fabric can withstand constant abuse and frequent washing. Also make sure it’s a colorfast or fade-resistant material, otherwise the pattern may fade after a few washings.