Playing With Pattern

by theartofbespoke in Designer style at home

It’s been a long time coming, but pattern is back in vogue. Interior designer Sara Corker shares her tips on bringing it into the home.

After what seems like forever in the spotlight, beige has finally had its day and pattern is making a comeback. ‘We like colour and pattern,’ says interior designer Sara Corker, director of Surrey-based firm Sara Corker Designs. ‘Some clients are frightened to use it as they feel safe with neutrals, but we’re seeing a movement towards it as people become more individual.’

Pattern certainly has its pluses – one of the main ones being that it can make a room feel bigger or smaller.

‘You can use it to manipulate the space,’ says Corker. ‘For example, using vertical stripes can make a low-ceilinged room feel taller.’

‘We have a client who’s using patterned furniture but keeping the walls plain, as they’re worried that if they use wallpaper, they might get fed up with it in a few years. There are other ways to use pattern, like art.’ 

She recently completed a job in Sevenoaks that involved using swathes of an Andrew Martin velvet, incorporating vivid pinks and reds. ‘It was a big room and using pattern on the walls made it feel warm and cosy,’ she says.

With a big room, you can afford to be bold. ‘We used huge Union Jack beanbags in a playroom, along with 1950s-style Andrew Martin fabrics for the blinds. Indeed, when you’ve a lot of space to play with, pattern plays a key role. ‘If you don’t use it in a big room, it can feel sterile,’ says Corker.

Most people, admittedly, have the opposite problem, whereby they’re trying to make a small room feel bigger. But even then, pattern can work in your favour. ‘If you’re trying to create space, use lighter-coloured wallpapers,’ she says. ‘If you’ve got a west-facing room, say, that gets the sun in the afternoon, then minty-fresh colours are very calming. Cole & Son does some fantastic wallpaper that’s like an old-fashioned Chinoiserie print in a pale green. Cool colours like that will make the room feel bigger.’

You needn’t limit pattern to the living room, either. It can also create an impact in a kitchen or bathroom. That doesn’t necessarily mean going for elaborate, Moroccan-style or patterned tiles (though those can look great, too). In the kitchen, Corker recommends mixing Victorian green and white tiles – the kind you might see in a traditional pie & mash shop.

In the bathroom, she advises using large tiles over smaller ones. ‘Tiles create pattern and the more pattern you have, the more closed-in you feel. It’s all very psychological,’ she says.

If pattern does have one drawback, though, it’s that it’s easy to go wrong. ‘Some people make the mistake of using too much,’ she says. ‘They’ll use a wallpaper with a clashing rug and cushions in another pattern.’ Her advice is to focus on one element. ‘If you’re starting with a blank canvas, then begin with the curtains,’ she says. ‘The rest is then easier to work with.’

But if you’re lacking confidence, there are gentler ways of introducing pattern to your home. ‘We have a client who’s using patterned furniture but keeping the walls plain, as they’re worried that if they use wallpaper, they might get fed up with it in a few years,’ she says. And if even that sounds too risky, Corker has another solution. ‘There are other ways to use pattern,’ she says, ‘like art.’


Sara Corker Designs –

Andrew Martin –

Cole and Son –

Surface Tiles –

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