Category Archives: Decorating Tips

Why and How to Use Floral Patterns

colorful floral patternFloral patterns have gotten a bad reputation for being girly, or gaudy. Labels that were earned by their over-use at various points in decorating history, and in colorways that are feminine, such as bright pinks and pastels.  The Victorian’s were notorious for over-use of florals, as were the classic revivalists of the 1950’s, the “hippies” of the 1970’s, and the trend-followers of the 1980s/90s.

There is also a misconception that “real men don’t do flowers”. Guess what – men DO like flowers! Whether they will admit it or not, they can appreciate florals (in at least small doses) and how they make a room feel.  The key to choosing a floral that everyone can live with is in choosing the right color and style of pattern, and using it with restraint.

People avoid using floral patterns because they’re worried about doing it wrong. How do you choose the right flower pattern?  Where do you use it?  How much floral is too much?  What kind of patterns do you pair it with?

Despite these misconceptions and fears, there are many reasons to use florals, and many ways to use them in any room to suit just about anyone:

  • Florals add a visual freshness to a room. Plants are often used to bring an earthy, organic, natural element to a room. When you don’t have a green thumb, a floral pattern can achieve the same result.william morris periwinkle & green scheme
  • Floral patterns provide you with a ready-made color scheme. Choose a floral pattern you love, then build your room around it, using the colors in the pattern for your furnishings, walls, carpets, accents, etc.
  • Florals are easy to mix with other patterns. You can pair florals with just about any other type of pattern, depending on the style of the floral.
  • Florals are natural stars of a room. They make a great centerpiece for a room, featured on one item or one wall. Allow them to guide the rest of the room, choosing all other patterns and colors based on a floral fabric, paper, carpet, or piece of art.stylized rose pattern in blues
  • Florals come in a huge variety of scales, styles, and colors. The variety of floral patterns available is mind boggling. This is one pattern that spans all decorating eras/styles, from Egyptian to American Colonial, to modern.
  • Flowers make us feel good. In fact, flowers have been proven to improve our moods. They inspire optimism, playfulness, and creativity; reduce pain, blood pressure, pulse rates, and fatigue. Plants and flowers have also been found to improve cognitive performance. Flowers make a space feel both fresh and cozy, comfortable, and welcoming.

Here are some tips for how to use floral patterns successfully:vintage-small floral-pattern-rose

  1. Start with a small dose – Just a pillow or two, artwork, a window valance or shade, or an area rug are good ways to discover your tolerance for flowers. By starting with a little, you can always add more.
  2. Go small scale – Smaller floral patterns are less likely to overwhelm a room. Be cautious of concentrated small patterns as they can make you dizzy when used over large areas. Use them with restraint, like on bed sheets or pillows.
  3. Go subtle rather than bold – Choose a softer colorway, such as muted blues, greens, or yellows/beiges. Softly colored patterns will give you the subtle impression of flowers without dominating the room.tropical floral pattern
  4. Use a tropical variety – This type of floral print is often mostly leaves with a less prominent flower.   The foliage reduces the “girly” factor and can make it more acceptable to those hesitant about florals.
  5. Try stylized rather than detailed – A stylized, artsy interpretation of flowers is perfect for modern themed rooms, and for people who “don’t like flowers.” Good examples of this are the craftsman/art nuevo and mid-century modern styles.
  6. Keep it simple – If you prefer a clean and minimal style but want to soften it, and outline or silhouette type of floral will add an organic feel while maintaining your uncluttered style.
  7. Maintain breathing room – Patterns with “breathing room” between the floral elements are less likely to overwhelm.
  8. Plan its partners carefully – One of the keys to success with a floral is to pair it with the right partners. Depending on your room style, stripes, plaids, geometrics, larger or smaller floral patterns, even animal prints can work. Then again, sometimes, matching them with solid color and texture is all that’s needed.

Don’t be afraid to incorporate a floral pattern into your décor. Start with your preferred style and colors, take your time finding the right pattern, and seek the help of a professional decorator it you’re unsure.  Remember that floral patterns are playful – even in a formal room – so have fun!


Coordinating Colors Throughout Your Home

You have probably experienced entering a home that seemed uncomfortably discordant, with a jarring transition from one room to the next. There are three primary causes for this: inconsistent decorating styles, drastic color jumps, or a lack of architectural detail.  Nine times out of ten, it will be an abrupt change in color scheme.  Perhaps pastels in one room, bright/saturated colors in another, dark/rich colors in the next, all neutrals in the next.  Colors evoke emotional responses.  When a home’s color schemes are chaotic, our emotions are too.

The Color Connection

Creating a color scheme that flows from room to room is not difficult. It all starts with choosing one color…perhaps your favorite color; perhaps a color chosen specifically to work with the other colors already in your home; perhaps one color already in your home that you really love.  If you thread that one color throughout your home, it will create a “connection” for the eye to follow as you pass from room to room, or look from one room into another.

whole house color scheme example

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How can one color be used in all your rooms yet still allow those rooms to have variety? The key is in variations on your connector color.  For instance, if yellow is your chosen color, lemon, French cream, wheat, harvest gold, and goldenrod are all yellows, yet their unique qualities make them compatible with different colors.  Variation can also be achieved by using different values of the same color, or in using the color in various ways and amounts in each room.

Let’s look at four different ways to make using one color (yellow) throughout your home successful:

Variation in Color – If you stay within the same color temperature (warm or cool), you can use different versions of your chosen color in each room and still maintain a visual connection.  For instance, you could use cream, lemon chiffon, wheat, straw, autumn gold, ochre, and antique gold….all warm varieties of the color that can work in different color schemes.  This is a good option when you are working with colors you already have in your home, because you simply need to select a variation on the “connector” color to suit each room’s scheme.

color and value scale imageVariation in Value – Choosing one color – let’s say straw yellow – and using it throughout your home in varying values (light to dark) is another option for creating a connection between rooms.  The name of the color will, of course, change with its value.  But they are still based on the same color. (Go to your paint store and look at their sample cards; those strips of one color in shades from light to dark and a name for each one.)  Base your value choices on the room’s decorating style, the feel you want to achieve, the other colors in the room, and where you will use the color.  Do you want your yellow to stand out as a pop of color or light amidst darker or subdued tones?  Does your room have mostly light value colors and need a darker tone to “ground” it?  Is the color going on a whole wall, or just a pillow?  Using varied values is a good option when you are working with existing color schemes, as you are only altering the value of the “connector” color you are adding.

Threading the same Color throughout – Perhaps the easiest way to connection your rooms, is by using the same color (without variation in value) throughout your home, though it does take more up-front thought if you are working with existing color schemes.  When your chosen color is paired with different colors in each room, you achieve both continuity and variety.  Again, using straw as an example, you might pair it with cranberry in the dining room; with sage green in the kitchen; with chocolate brown in the living room; with taupe in the entry; with coral in the bath; with navy blue, plum, and burnt orange in the bedrooms.  This option can be the addition of a color that works with your existing room color schemes, or it can be a starting point for a new home or a re-design project.

Variation in Quantity – Your chosen “connector” color doesn’t always need to be just an accent in each room.  It can also be used as the primary color, such as the wall color; as a secondary color in a smaller amount than your primary color, such as drapes; or as an accent in small “pops” of color that stand out against the room’s other colors, such as accessories like pillows or lamps.  It can even be used on the woodwork throughout your home.  To make the quantity method work, be sure to adjust your color to suit its use, or make sure your use suits the color’s value and intensity.  For instance, lemon yellow might be too intense to use on all your walls (or even one), but perfect for an accent or in a pattern.  This option is especially helpful when working with existing color schemes, because it gives you so much flexibility.

variations on yellowFinally, although it’s trickier to do successfully, you can also use Variation on a Color.  Each color varies in value, intensity, and temperature.  For instance, sage green is a cool to neutral, low intensity color that can be used in various values.  Pine green is a cool, low intensity, dark value color.  Each of these greens have a different variety of colors that they pair well with. Using different variations on a color allows you the most variety in your color schemes, but can look random and chaotic if you’re not careful….much like a patchwork scrap quilt.  Limiting the number of greens and keeping them in the same temperature makes for the most successful use of this option.

There are a couple additional ways to create visual “flow” in your home: maintaining the same color temperature (warm or cool) in all your rooms, and maintaining similar values and intensities in your color schemes. Combine these with choosing and “threading” a connector color throughout your home and you will create a smooth transition between your rooms.

Where a Decorating Project Starts

When you are approaching a decorating project, it’s a lot like a writer or artist facing the blank page or canvas. Where do you start?  You need an idea – inspiration: something that excites you and makes want to look at it and live with it every day.

Decorating projects often begin because you see a trend that “inspires” you, but don’t just follow a trend; find your own, unique inspiration. The stores and internet are filled with trendy items, which they are hoping you will buy every couple of years as the trends change.  But trends are over-done, short-lived, and usually look “staged”.  True inspiration is an ethereal thing, triggered by an emotional response to a sight, sound, smell, even a flavor or word – so take note of it when it appears!  Finding YOUR decorating inspiration comes from being aware of what you are drawn to and responding to, and somehow keeping track of these.

decorating sampleboardThe inspiration for your room could begin with a color, object, era, place, piece of furniture, artwork, or even your profession or hobby. You may find it in a store display, museum, book, magazine, while on a trip, on the Internet, shopping, or watching a movie.  Even the grocery store, a community event, or a walk through your neighborhood can be a source of inspiration.  The opportunities are endless, and different for everyone.  You need to find YOUR inspiration.  That’s where your decorating project begins!

How do you capture the many sources of inspiration? Your Smartphone is great for keeping a photographic record of what inspires you, either random images that you love or items and rooms that grab your attention.  Collecting color samples, fabric swatches, brochures, and other representations of what you find appealing (make sure you keep track of where you found these) is important too.  When you can’t physically or visually capture ideas, a small notebook or a memo app on your Smartphone will allow you to jot down ideas on the run.  You will soon see a pattern develop in what you are drawn to, and that’s where your decorating plan should start.

Decorators and Designers use a “presentation board” to plan-out a project, and to present it to their client in a way that they can “see” how their room will look.  It brings together samples or photos of the paint, wood, flooring, fabrics, furniture, lighting, fixtures, cabinets, window treatments – all the elements they have chosen to decorate a room.  You can do the same on a bulletin board or piece of foam board. Pinterest is also a great tool, allowing you to create an “inspiration board” of images online.  This will be very helpful if you plan to use a decorator or designer for your project, as they will need a starting point from you; images that will guide them in what look you have in mind.

So, once you have your inspiration, where do you go from there? Base all your selections on your inspiration; it will guide the style of the room, and you can pull all your colors directly from that item.  Usually, the most expensive and long-lived items (furniture, carpet, wallpaper, cabinetry, and fixtures) are chosen first.  If you intend to use patterned wallpaper, drapes, or bedding, they should be chosen first, followed by those expensive and long-lived items that may remain the next time your room is re-decorated.  The final selections will include your paint, accessories, and solid-colored fabrics.  There are thousands of colors of paint and custom colors are now possible, so they are usually chosen last.

Whatever you choose for your inspiration – or if you need help finding that inspiration – working with an experienced Interior Decorator or Designer can help. Someone who is experienced in bringing personal inspirations to life can open your eyes to where your decorating project should start, and create a truly inspired room!