I have a confession to make: all the different facets of
decorating intrigue me, but I do believe I am involved in a long term love
In many ways, what’s not to love? They can be the setting of the stage for the
rest of your room, or the finishing touch.
They provide warmth, contrast, and can be changed out with the seasons. They can be made out of anything–often the more
creative the material, the better they look in your living room. And if your passionate
feelings for them wane, they can either be stashed in the linen closet for a
few months then reinvented elsewhere, or simply recovered for the cost of a few
lattes. And when you are restricted as
to the permanent design changes you can make in your home, whether it be
because you find yourself in a rental property or are currently not in a
position to spend a lot of money, they
can easily brighten your space and make
it uniquely your own.
I once had someone survey my pre-Saratoga family room pillow
collection and comment, “I would never think that all of these different
patterns would ever look good together, but somehow, you make it work.” Let’s set aside the” is it a compliment or a
criticism?” debate for a moment to say this: when you use pattern in your
house, it should be unexpected and interesting.
There’s nothing wrong with admiring a collection of bedding or textiles
in a catalog or along the aisles of Bed Bath and Beyond, but if you merely copy
that image and repeat it verbatim in your guest room, it will be just that…a
copy. The same goes for those of us who
sew…going to Joann Fabrics and using three fabrics from the same company’s
current collection to make three pillows the same size to line our king-sized
bed with is just an unpaid advertisement for Waverly, not a reflection of who
we are. The days of a formulaic combination
of one coordinating solid, one stripe, and one print should be over…it is time
to have faith in our visual judgement and take a risk! And pillows allow us to take that risk with a
minimum amount of buyer’s remorse.
Counting the fabrics used on the seat cushion, 7 different patterns grace this bench on our back porch–including a nubby cream velour that was found in the baby section of the fabric store and a dish towel–yet they all seem to play nice with each other
So of course I do have a few guidelines I keep in mind when
I put together pillow patterns in my own home, so for what it’s worth, here are
several things to keep in mind when you decide to dip your design foot in the
Layer, Layer, Layer. I make fun of the solid/stripe/pattern
formula, but when it comes down to it, it isn’t necessarily wrong, it just
doesn’t go far enough. Yes, give your
eye a solid or two to rest on, and the addition of a linear pattern like a
stripe or a check is always a good idea, but then I would suggest two more
patterns, plus a dash of texture for good measure. For the patterns, pick one that is more
traditional…a paisley, damask, a cottage
floral…then go bold with a more modern print that screams “I saw this one-of-a-kind design and couldn’t walk away!” For
me, that often comes in the form of an embroidered or raised design, a graphic
pattern with strong contrasting colors, or something that has a dash of decorator
bling (beads, tassles, jute edging) applied to it. And these elements don’t have to all be
separate entities–your solid can have a subtle texture to it like a striated linen
or a sumptuous velvet, or one pillow can be two-sided–a bold graphic pattern on
one side, a stripe on the other, situated in a way where one pattern peeks out
over the other to keep things interesting.
This unique paisley is repeated throughout the room, but here creates a great partnership with the unconventional green stripe, the houndstooth check, and a softer leaf pattern.
Repeat. We of course don’t want to
be too matchy-matchy, but I like to use pillow patterns to guide a guest’s eye
around the room I’ve designed by subtly repeating it throughout the space. For example, the modern paisley slipcover on
the wingback chair in my living room is also framed on the wall in a distressed
barnwood frame I picked up at a yard sale for $10, then repeated in a 2-sided
pillow on the cream armchair on the other side of the room. My hope is that it makes someone who enters
the space move their eye from one place to the next, that it makes visual sense
and connects the different design elements I’ve thrown together. I’ve done the same type of thing with four other
pillow patterns in the same space…situated them throughout the room so your eye
will bounce from place to place and take it in as a whole, as if to say it all
goes together on purpose. My one
exception to this though is my bold accent pattern–just one because I want it
to feel like a unique find.
Play With Shape and
Size. People come in all shapes and
sizes and that’s part of what makes life interesting, so why not pillows
too? Time to play hardball with those
pillows and cushions that came with your new couch and eliminate some of them
to make room for varying shapes and sizes.
Go rectangular, circular, throw a few bolster (the ones that look like
oversized hot dogs) pillows in the mix–and don’t be afraid to make them small,
medium, large, and anything in between.
A primarily white color palette can still be pattern happy–in our guest room the matelasse bedspread contrasts with quilted texture on several accent pillows. The pair were reinvented with the addition of newly upholstered buttons and the black and white botanical pillow was made from a place mat
If You Can’t Find It,
Create It. Don’t ever limit yourself
to what you can find on the shelf at Target when it comes to pillows. I know that some of you start to freak out a
bit when I mention the “S” word…sew…but pillows are very easy thing to make,
and if you really can’t pull it off, find a friend who can and enlist their
assistance. Not only do the fabric
stores have great options that extend beyond what you can find premade
(recently I discovered KC Fabrics and Framing here in Saratoga and I’m hooked
on their unique inventory), but a variety of other materials are easily
available and can become the star of your display–vintage fabrics from estate
sales and local shops, tea towels, your favorite skirt that no longer…um…fits
perfectly, your child’s baby blanket or part of that quilt someone spilled
grape juice on…the possibilities are endless.
So give the patterned pillow a try, and be bold and
passionate in your choices…you just might love the result!