DDH Decorating Ideas

Combining Texture and Pattern by marygilliatt
Mary Gilliatt Using Patter

Photo Courtesy: Mary Gilliatt's Great Renovations and Restorations

Colors are so radically changed by differences in texture and pattern that a monochromatic or one-color room can be as lively and memorable through its subtlety as a more vividly contrasting space.  Therefore, textures and pattern need to be considered as seriously and, at least in the case of textures, as evocatively, as the process of color-building.

Take textures first.  The name of a known texture immediately conjures up an almost tangible surface.  Just as thinking about one color in depth can evoke many images and variations, so too, different textures engender their own imagery.

Consider for example the following:
Brick, Denim, Linen, Satin, Burlap, Felt, Louvers, Silk, Basketwork, Glass, Matchboard, Steel, Cane, Lace, Plaster, Stone, Cashmere, Lacquer,  Plexiglass, Tapestry, Ceramic, Leather, Quilting, Tweed, Coir, Limestone, Rope, Velvet

Mary Gilliatt on Texture in Decorating

Photo Courtesy: Mary Gilliatt's Great Renovations and Restorations

Pick out some of them and imagine how they would look distributed among floors, walls ceiling, soft furnishings, and furniture.  Obviously some textures are more in keeping with each other than others.  Rough contrasts with smooth and matte with gloss.  But brick or stone or rough plaster walls look generally better contrasted with natural linen or burlap or cotton than with silk or satin.  But there are no real rules, only sensibilities.

Mary Gilliatt on Pattern in Decorating

Photo Courtesy: Mary Gilliatt's Great Renovations and Restorations

As for patterns, it used to be a convention never to mix them, as much to create harmony as to make things easier.  One good way to become more confident about mixing pattern and texture with ease is to realize the pattern in a room is formed as much by possessions as by fabrics and floor coverings. Books with their various jacket designs; the way art is arranged on walls; the placement of objects; the slats of shutters; the play of light and shade; the shapes of different pieces of furniture; the leaves and flowers of plants… All these disparate things from patterns in their own right.  When this fact is considered, one fabric, carpet or rug pattern more or less can hardly make much difference as the scale, tone and proportion are right. These last are obviously important. Large patterns that look interesting and diverting in fabric stores or furnishing departments are often more sensible for public rather than private settings, or at least large spaces unless one possesses a sure sense of scale, although it is a fact that large scale patterns and furniture used with confidence can generally make a small space seem much bigger.  Similarly, one should remember that many small patterns often meld into one color when actually used for window treatments as opposed to hanging up show lengths.

Mary Gilliatt on Pattern in Decorating

Photo Courtesy: Mary Gilliatt's Great Renovations and Restorations

A play of pattern however, can be very effective, varying as it does the whole balance of color.

  • The same design in two different colors can look interesting-in a good way. So can the same design reversed – say blue on white predominating with white on blue predominating.
  • Very similar patterns in the same colors can be used together with effect, as in window treatments and carpet, with plain painted or plain textured walls.
  • Patterns with the same feeling if not design can also be used together effectively.  Vivid striped North African or other ethnic fabrics with heavily patterned oriental rugs.  Florals of all sorts with stripes or checks.
  • Use a large pattern with a smaller pattern in the same color way.
  • Do not forget the subtle effect of sheers printed with the same pattern as the curtains, or used with an allied or more simplified design, or in toned-down versions of the same main colors.
Mary Gilliatt on Pattern in Decorating

Photo Courtesy: Mary Gilliatt's Great Renovations and Restorations

Lastly to mix patterns and textures together successfully, assemble as many samples of each as you can.  Juggle them around.  Think of them, as I said, in the context of existing surfaces, furniture, window treatments, upholstery, accents.  Look at them in different lights.  Then pick out two or three schemes for a final choice.  This is the most effective way to learn.


International Designer Mary Gilliatt


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