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Home Design with Kevin Sharkey

Living Lesson: Playing with Pattern

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No matter how many rooms you've decorated, decorating with pattern can be intimidating. Knowing how and when to layer patterns or which patterns should stand alone is often a matter of experimentation and personal taste.

However, there are some basic design rules when it comes to pattern, which I'd like to share with you today. In general, I encourage to you to be a bit adventurous and go with the color and pattern combinations that are most pleasing to your eye. Hopefully, you'll find some inspiration in the images below!

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Can't find a pattern that speaks to you? Design your own printed fabric with the help of websites like spoonflower.com. Here, a standard baker's tray is covered in a custom fabric that was designed and ordered from the site. Now, the tray a one of a kind patterned piece.

1 Can't find a pattern that speaks to you? Design your own printed fabric with the help of websites like spoonflower.com. Here, a standard baker's tray is covered in a custom fabric that was designed and ordered from the site. Now, the tray a one of a kind patterned piece.

One bold print can make more of an impact than a repeat pattern. This larger-than-life botanical print (an enormous wall decal) is a clever way to add pattern to the walls.

2 One bold print can make more of an impact than a repeat pattern. This larger-than-life botanical print (an enormous wall decal) is a clever way to add pattern to the walls.

A cheerful pattern, such as gingham, is often used for kitchen curtains, tablecloths, and bedding. But it can also add a casual crispness to furniture such as sofas and chairs. Isn't this bench charming?

3 A cheerful pattern, such as gingham, is often used for kitchen curtains, tablecloths, and bedding. But it can also add a casual crispness to furniture such as sofas and chairs. Isn't this bench charming?

Drawer fronts covered in a sunny yellow toile fabric look distinctive. For a project like this one, choose wooden drawers with easy-to-remove faces, such as those held together with nails or screws.

4 Drawer fronts covered in a sunny yellow toile fabric look distinctive. For a project like this one, choose wooden drawers with easy-to-remove faces, such as those held together with nails or screws.

I designed this pattern-filled room as part of a decorating face-off between Rebecca Robertson and me. This gingham pattern by Schumacher has oversize checks that are bold rather than sweet. The more contemporary scale of the check allowed for adding florals without causing the room to feel stiff.

5 I designed this pattern-filled room as part of a decorating face-off between Rebecca Robertson and me. This gingham pattern by Schumacher has oversize checks that are bold rather than sweet. The more contemporary scale of the check allowed for adding florals without causing the room to feel stiff.

A grass-cut wall covering (cut into squares, with the pattern hung vertically and horizontally to achieve a checkerboard effect) creates a bedroom that is seductive yet not overwhelming.

6 A grass-cut wall covering (cut into squares, with the pattern hung vertically and horizontally to achieve a checkerboard effect) creates a bedroom that is seductive yet not overwhelming.

Vibrant patterns enliven Rebecca Robertson's son Luca's room. This layering of pattern is perfect for a growing boy's room.

7 Vibrant patterns enliven Rebecca Robertson's son Luca's room. This layering of pattern is perfect for a growing boy's room.

Rebecca's living room is another example of the proper way to use pattern. The monochromatic color scheme keeps things calm even though there is a great deal of pattern. A graphic damask fabric was used for the floor-to-ceiling curtains in the living area. The floral rug is by British designer Neisha Crosland.

8 Rebecca's living room is another example of the proper way to use pattern. The monochromatic color scheme keeps things calm even though there is a great deal of pattern. A graphic damask fabric was used for the floor-to-ceiling curtains in the living area. The floral rug is by British designer Neisha Crosland.

This outdoor use of patterns could work well indoors, too. There are so many patterns at play here: a floral, butterfly print, the pink woven acrylic, a sunny ikat pillow, a nautical stripes pillow, and an orange houndstooth seat cushion.

9 This outdoor use of patterns could work well indoors, too. There are so many patterns at play here: a floral, butterfly print, the pink woven acrylic, a sunny ikat pillow, a nautical stripes pillow, and an orange houndstooth seat cushion.

Stripes are one of the easiest patterns to place in your home. They also can provide a variety of looks -- rustic, refined, subtle, striking.

10 Stripes are one of the easiest patterns to place in your home. They also can provide a variety of looks -- rustic, refined, subtle, striking.

These days, a great-looking floor is within everyone's reach, thanks to three types of easy-to-install tiles: cork, linoleum, and carpet. With just a few basic tools and minimal cutting, you can use these tiles to create a variety of flooring motifs, including bold stripes and abstract houndstooth.

11 These days, a great-looking floor is within everyone's reach, thanks to three types of easy-to-install tiles: cork, linoleum, and carpet. With just a few basic tools and minimal cutting, you can use these tiles to create a variety of flooring motifs, including bold stripes and abstract houndstooth.

Unexpected pairings often have stunning results. With a stenciled damask pattern, a basic bureau takes a glamorous turn, while a wallpaper-covered shade gives the lamp a bold new glow.

12 Unexpected pairings often have stunning results. With a stenciled damask pattern, a basic bureau takes a glamorous turn, while a wallpaper-covered shade gives the lamp a bold new glow.

This round rug anchors a cluster of damask-upholstered chairs. Show off the pattern in a surprising, modern way by covering some seats entirely with a damask fabric and others with just a stripe of it.

13 This round rug anchors a cluster of damask-upholstered chairs. Show off the pattern in a surprising, modern way by covering some seats entirely with a damask fabric and others with just a stripe of it.

Love a bold print but are too afraid cover your room in it? Use a piece to create a custom headboard. You'll get the pattern you crave and save on the cost (and bulk) of a traditional bed frame.

14 Love a bold print but are too afraid cover your room in it? Use a piece to create a custom headboard. You'll get the pattern you crave and save on the cost (and bulk) of a traditional bed frame.

You are not limited to curtains or upholstery fabric when choosing patterns for your home. If the print on cafe au lait cups inspires you, group a collection and let it be the star in a kitchen bookshelf.

15 You are not limited to curtains or upholstery fabric when choosing patterns for your home. If the print on cafe au lait cups inspires you, group a collection and let it be the star in a kitchen bookshelf.

Pairing patterns in unexpected ways is worth the risk, but be mindful of where you do it in your home. It's easier to live with bold combinations in, say, a guestroom.

16 Pairing patterns in unexpected ways is worth the risk, but be mindful of where you do it in your home. It's easier to live with bold combinations in, say, a guestroom.

This geometric-pattern mural incorporates magnetic paint in the repeated motif. It's a sophisticated, innovative way to display children's artwork, of which there is a never-ending supply.

17 This geometric-pattern mural incorporates magnetic paint in the repeated motif. It's a sophisticated, innovative way to display children's artwork, of which there is a never-ending supply.

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