Pattern is the strongest element in any room. In Living with Pattern, textile and product designer Rebecca Atwood demystifies how to use that element, a design concept that often confounds and confuses, demonstrating how to seamlessly mix and layer prints throughout a house.
Oftentimes the living room is the center of your home and where most of the activity and socializing happens, as well as a space you can use to relax. So it’s important to create a space that encourages interaction while also allowing you to unwind. Read the excerpt below about how to make your living room your own and how pattern can help inspire conversations of all sorts.
THE LIVING ROOM
While pattern can be unexpected in an entryway and a great way to introduce your story, it can be unwieldy in the living room—but the opportunity here is to tell your story in a bigger, fuller way and to let it shine. You have more room to explore and play in. Together we’ll review the steps to successfully layering your story in this space.
First, define the mood and vibe. Take the time to create a mood board. Identify the energy that makes you feel best. Think about specific places, feelings, and moments in time that can guide you. The living room should be about your interests on the broadest level, making them understandable for those who visit and adaptable enough to change with time. It’s also essential to look around the space you have. Chances are you’ve already begun to build your base. After reading through this chapter, you may feel inspired to buy a new piece or two, but think about what you can achieve simply by rearranging the furniture and belongings you already own.
Adaptability is key here. My mom always was—and still is—moving the furniture around to try out different combinations. I’d come home from school and find that she had switched the orientation of the room away from the television by moving the armchairs in expectation of a family gathering. She’d then ask for my help to scoot a sofa over to just the right spot. She said her mother did the same, and I do it now, too. Of all the spaces in your home, the living room is probably the least static when it comes to furniture. Think of its elements as puzzle pieces that can be rearranged for different circumstances. You’ll always be moving pieces around and trying out different configurations as your needs change and guests arrive or depart, so you’ll want to keep your patterns flexible, too.
Once you identify the base mood for your living room, it’s time to add textiles and accessories. Pattern here should be vibrant and have movement and emotion. Expressing your interests and showing off your collections will support chitchat, heart-to-hearts, and discussions of all sorts. You want to create a space that encourages interaction while also allowing you to unwind.
CREATE A CONVERSATION
Beyond the practical needs of defining a space, pattern can more important spark conversation and activity with those who use a space as well as the design elements within the room. Let’s look at how to use pattern more abstractly in the living space.
CREATE A MOOD
Creating a mood is about building on your foundation and putting forth an atmosphere that expresses the tone you want to encourage within a space. I urge you to look at other rooms in this book that you’re personally drawn to and analyze the mood. Let’s look at two living spaces that share very different and distinct moods. Both of these areas build the mood with a focus on color, but pattern is also an important player.
Brian Paquette designed this moody bachelor lounge. Located in Victoria, British Columbia, this home has many spots made for cozy indoor days. This space feels like the perfect place to lounge and have fireside chats or read a good book, a feeling achieved through the room’s visual mood. Color, texture, and pattern all create this vibe by conversing to tell a story—one that is masculine and rich, and speaks to the period of the home while remaining modern. Brian uses a rich color palette of dark neutrals, including a deep satin brown, charcoal black, steel blue, and ruby, to make the space dramatic. Texture comes in through wood, tile, marble, and nature-inspired prints that feel earthy but sophisticated when paired with leather, tufting, and tailored silhouettes reminiscent of an old library. The pattern is the final layer in creating the mood. Brian plays on tradition but keeps the mix modern with his pattern choices.
An abstract marble pattern that references sedimentary layers but remains graphic is used on the curtains and a pillow. It is paired with a crisp geometric, which plays off the more traditional geometric in the rug to keep it fresh.
LET YOUR PATTERNS SPEAK
Creating dialogue between the physical pieces in your room also encourages conversation among people. Think of each pattern as a group of friends, since you’re essentially creating a space meant for enjoying time with your guests and family. Each pattern should be unique, but all should relate, support one another, and work well together.
Wayne Pate and Rebecca Taylor are a creative couple with three kids living in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Wayne is an illustrator known for his graphic, whimsical drawing style; Rebecca is a well-known fashion designer admired for her feminine yet modern look. It’s only natural that they would decorate in collaboration. They’ve created a home that’s classic but still free and full of idiosyncrasies.
Their living room truly shows a conversation between the pieces, each with its own unique identity. Wayne and Rebecca have collected items over time and move them around to encourage the conversation and keep it fresh. The bones of the space are traditional, and so are many of the lighting fixtures, but the fabrics on the furniture soften the look and keep the balance casual and refined, just like the couple.
One sofa is covered in a beautiful ikat fabric; the sofa cushions have become worn and washed, and the pattern is faded. The fabric is even more beautiful because it’s clearly been lived with and loved. Pillows with big dots on an indigo ground are layered on the sofa. The large-scale of the dot pattern emphasizes
its playfulness but also means the pattern doesn’t compete with the others in the room. In this same clustering of furniture, you’ll see a blue batik-inspired fabric and a leopard print. The batik relates to the ikat in several ways: it has a built-in distressed look; it pulls from the same color palette; it is a no-print
print; and they share roots in their history as patterns. The leopard print on the ottoman could feel unrelated, but it is printed on a natural linen fabric, which makes it feel more casual, putting it at ease with these more relaxed fabrics. Mixing casual pieces with dressy is a great way to achieve balance, much like you’d do with your wardrobe.