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!