Make An Impact With Pattern Play

With New York’s Fashion Week right around the corner, we’re already dreaming about the animal print clothing we’ll find in Chicago stores this fall. And for good reason, since animal prints rarely go out of style thanks to their neutral hues (how can beige, brown, tan, black and white ever be passé?). So as interior designers, this makes us like them all the more; after all, they’re a foolproof way to raise the decorative quotient or add a hit of luxury to virtually any space.

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Animal prints are always in style—on the runway, ourselves and in our homes. Photo: POPSUGAR

Given such potential, we make expert use of animal prints in many of our projects. And clearly, we are not alone, as shown by celebrity interior designer Celerie Kemble’s fabulous new line of faux tortoise and inlaid bone wallpapers. But our lust for skin- and bone-patterned fashions for body and home reminds us that pattern is a powerful and important tool. We can use it to call to mind a specific style, suggest a particular period or set a certain mood. Graphic animal prints or vibrant paisleys can give a room an ethnic or exotic flavor, while plaids and stripes can turn a plain space into a crisp polished affair.

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Celerie Kemble’s new line of faux tortoise and inlaid bone wallpapers is aptly named Natural Attraction. Photo: Schumacher

Bottom line, our homes would be very boring indeed without pattern. But the big problem, for most homeowners, is knowing when and how to use it, which is where we come in; decoding the pattern challenge is one of our strengths. We’ve used seemingly disparate patterns that run the gamut from tribal and feral to floral and neo-classical to give rooms a range of demeanors, from majestic and opulent to kicky and bold.

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Seemingly disparate patterns that run the gamut from tribal and feral to Oriental and neo-classical work together to give this room its opulence and majestic demeanor. Project: Astor Street Residence

Given all this potential, it's easy to get excited about the impact pattern can have on a home’s décor. But it's equally easy to become intimidated when choosing patterns given the vast array of options. There are literally thousands of designs to choose from, in every style, colorway, scale and motif imaginable. Plus all those attributes are important aspects to consider as we pick patterns, since we often use several at once to achieve specific objectives in a space, or singular decorative schemes.

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A mix of precise plaids and stripes in various scales can turn a plain space into a crisp, clean, polished affair. Project: South Loop Residence

For us, mixing-and-matching patterns is part science and part art. As a discipline, pattern play is a “language.” And just as every language has its own rules, so does this one. We offset lush, curvy motifs, such as paisleys or florals, with simple geometric forms, such as plaids or checks. Or we temper audacious patterns with those that are buttoned up, such as an exploded ikat with simple stripes. In other words, opposites attract.

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Two different patterns with same bold palette and scale are paired with a third that is smaller, with similar colors, to heighten the room’s personality and panache. Project: City Retreat

But the ‘artistic’ part of pattern play is an entirely different matter. It requires a practiced and discerning eye, and as interior designers we have spent years honing our collective ‘eyes’ to use patterns in unexpected yet pleasing permutations. To be frank, the balancing act that pattern play requires is often a group effort. It brings to mind the old adage about too many chefs spoiling the broth, but we think the opposite applies. Our team of many “chefs” works together to make the “broths” we create stronger, more nuanced and far more interesting.

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In the language of pattern play, lush, curvy florals and straightforward geometrics make a grammatically solid pairing. Project: Urban Loft

22 Jul 2015

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