Color and Pattern

Color and pattern work together to bring a space to life in a way that is pleasing and comfortable. Here are the lessons you need to achieve that desirable quality in your rooms and be successful at decorating with color and pattern.

Cohesive Design

What you may or may not notice in well-decorated rooms is the interworking nature of color and pattern. Far from random, these two elements work hand in hand. The pattern in a room, whether it's in the wallpaper or on a throw pillow, plays off the color scheme and vice versa. For example, you could choose a wall color that is complementary of the pillow pattern, taking a hue straight from the fabric. Or, you could pick upholstery fabric for the sofa based on hues in the wallpaper. Both of these approaches lead to success as long as you achieve overall balance -- the pattern should not dominate the color, nor should the color overwhelm the pattern. Let's use this living room to demonstrate. The wallpaper and upholstery hues are the same, wrapping the space in a livable blue-green shade. There are plenty of patterns at play, but no pattern is stronger than the other, all keep to the same colors, shade intensity, and scale. To prevent the room from being too one-note, there are zings of bright pink in the artwork, flowers, and pillows, and they tie into floral pattern pillows that show all the hues in harmony.

Using Pattern to Develop a Color Scheme

One method in decorating a room is to use a pattern to inspire the color scheme. For example, in this dining room, the goal of the design was to invoke drama and energy in a space used for entertaining. The saturated raspberry red on the walls took its cue from the boisterous-and-bold floral pattern on the chairs. Because both the wall color and the fabric pattern are assertive, they complement each other. If the tepid white, tan, or mint green would have been the color of choice, the walls would have seemed meek in contrast. The strong tone, which could also have been the petals' dark green, purple, or gold, achieves balance and a fearless attitude. Other elements in the room -- an ebony table, crisp white woodwork, and a transparent chair and chandelier -- do not tip the scales, staying simple and neutral.

Use Color to Highlight a Pattern

Sometimes, it's the pattern you want to emphasize in a room, and you need to use color to help it take center stage. This fetching duvet cover and shams in a worldly print were chosen to be the star of the bedroom. The solid-color quilt, headboard upholstery, and Euro pillow shams pick up on the warm tan from the pattern. Because it's a soft, mid-tone neutral, this shade doesn't compete with the pattern like other strong choices, such as navy or salmon, could have. The walls have an even softer quality with whispery gray paint and white cotton curtains that meld visually with the white window trim. The result is an ethereal space that recedes while the pretty bedding pattern pops to attention.

Embrace color in your decor. Designer and color consultant Khristian A. Howell explains what you need to know when using color.

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