We're big fans of small spaces—in our world, square footage should never limit creativity. Patterns are a small space's best friend because they add big personality without encroaching on precious square footage. However, it's crucial to execute patterns in just the right way. That's why we enlisted some of our favorite décor masterminds to give us a master class in the art of patterns (spoiler: Patterned wallpaper can actually make a small space look bigger). To answer our questions on how to make a major design impact with limited space, includes Twenty2 co-founder Kyra Hartnett, Alegria Home founder and designer Allison Jones, and Eskayel founder and designer Shanan Campanaro.
MYDOMAINE: What is the biggest mistake people make when decorating a small space?
KYRA HARTNETT: Playing it safe! Using small patterns or patterns on only one wall makes the room look smaller. Take a chance. Install wallpaper with a big pattern on all the walls, and the ceiling of the room will expand in size. Grasscloth is a wonderful, neutral way to make the walls disappear. Create a jewel box by applying it to the walls and ceiling.
ALLISON JONES: Not editing. Don't cram the space with too many elements. Choose a couple of special pieces. Even if they are large, it will make the space feel much less cluttered.
SHANAN CAMPANARO: Keeping a small space too minimal. A small space is a great opportunity to let loose with color, pattern, and wild fixtures because it is contained.
MD: When it comes to using patterns, any hard-and-fast rules for small spaces?
KH: I love to use big patterns on all the walls and ceiling. Do it all! Chopping up the walls with different colors and patterns can make tight quarters feel even smaller. If you make the walls cohesive in their look, the feeling of space will expand.
AJ: For me, it's all about balance. If you use a bold pattern in one area of a small space, tone down another. This won't only help the pattern you've chosen to shine but also help the space to still feel calm.
SC: I don't exactly believe in rules. Generally, I think considering what already exists in the space that can't be changed, such as a window or a permanent fixture like a tub, is essential to your starting point.
MD: What are your favorite materials, patterns, and colors to use in a small space? Any dos and don'ts?
KH: Grasscloth is such an easy, all-natural way to add color and texture. When there is an added element of print on the material, it is an even more exciting way to transform your space. I like to mix natural and manmade materials: Sisal with chrome, barn wood with lacquer, etc. It adds dimension. Materials make all the difference!
AJ: I love all-natural materiality: Linen, cotton, wool. Textures can act as patterns. It can be interesting to look at the way something is woven and think about that as a pattern.
SC: In a bathroom, I would go with creative tiling as my number one way to introduce pattern and color. For a nook in a living or bedroom area, I think textiles in the way of patterned upholstery or drapes can add a lot without taking up too much space.
Consider weave and texture of natural materials as a pattern from which to design around.
MD: What's the one thing people might be surprised to learn about using patterns in a small space?
KH: Centering the pattern on a wall makes a huge difference. Try to install it so that the pattern is cropped equally on all sides. It will make the room feel bigger.
AJ: It might seem counterintuitive to fill a small space with a lot of busy patterns, but I find that by doing so, you can often make a small space feel more luxurious. Patterns often feel more special than solid colors in a small space.
SC: That it usually makes the space look bigger, especially a large repeat wallpaper.
MD: What's the best way to go about selecting patterns?
KH: Order samples of things that pique your interest, or even print pictures from the web. Hang the images and samples around your home, and live with them for a while. They will look different at different times of day, and you will come to know which ones make you feel good on an ongoing basis, rather than giving you a momentary thrill.
AJ: Choose something that you love in a color palette that works with other pieces in your home. If you love the pattern, you will enjoy living with it for years to come. If the color palette works with other pieces you already have in your home, you can always swap out pieces to freshen things up!
SC: I think you should go with your gut and choose what you are emotionally drawn to, even if you can't quite picture it in the room.
Ellie Cashman Design Dark Floral Wallpaper (price upon request)
MD: What are your top five tips for beginners using patterns?
- Trust your instinct. You have to live with it every day, so make sure the pattern makes you feel good!
- Start with something textural that you can layer with your own art and furniture.
- Once you feel ready, take a leap with something big. Even a tonal, neutral colorway can really transform a space!
- Remember nothing is permanent, so be bold.
- Patterned pillows and bedding are a great way to add patterns that can be easily layered with solids.
- Choose patterns you really love. Pick something you won't tire of in the future.
- Avoid anything overly trendy or the sort of thing you'll want to replace in a year.
- Think about scale. Consider where and how the pattern will be used in a room.
- Balance patterns in a space with areas of solid color.
- Use patterns to create a focal point within the space.
- Don't be scared of patterns!
- Think about the colors you’re interested in first. Narrow down your choices by hue.
- Seek out large repeats. They can really open up a small space.
- Use small repeats for pillows, accents, and smaller upholstered items.
- Go with your gut, and don't be afraid to mix and match.