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Pattern Recognition: 5 Trendy Prints to Liven Up Your Living Space

Ready to liven up your space? Using a pattern is an easy and creative way to add flavor to a room; a well-chosen and well placed piece can spark a whole different vibe. Sophisticated, vintage, homey, calm. Patterns, by their very nature, are aesthetically harmonious to the human mind, and have been used in decoration for millennia. What with the recent trend in applying patterns not only to furniture but to walls and floors and installations, it pays to know exactly what you’ll be working with. Here’s just a little background info on five popular prints.

Damask 

Damask speaks of elegance and luxury. (by Julie Dasher, photo by Susan Gilmore)
Damask speaks of elegance and luxury. (by Julie Dasher, photo by Susan Gilmore)

Truly the most elegant and kingly of the patterns listed here, damask gets its name from the Syrian city Damascus, and was popularized during the early middle ages. Although the name evokes an interlocking pattern of swirls and vaguely foliage-like shapes, the word ‘damask’ originally referred to a style of weaving, not a print. It is a reversible fabric that can be made of multiple materials–wool, silk, linen, cotton–and decorated with a raised woven pattern. In modern parlance, especially in the decorating wold, the word usually refers to a pattern similar to the one above.

Damask is a great choice for a more formal living or dining room, or a space where you’re trying to achieve an old-world feel. I think it would also look cool paired with a less traditional setting–like the less formal pops of color in the picture above, or paired with a glass coffee table or a leather chair. Mixing patterns with your other decor and furniture can have really creative and unexpected effects.

Paisley 

Paisley is another elegant, old-style pattern. (by Kropat Interior Design)
Paisley is another elegant, old-style pattern. (by Kropat Interior Design)

Paisley is another old pattern with Middle Eastern origins, hailing from Persia in the 14th century, although it was not popularized in the west until the 1800’s. Characterized by the twisted teardrop or fig shape, paisley has a more organic and less refined feel that damask, and is found in every color of the rainbow and those in between. Paisley is a personal favorite of mine–I own sheets, dresses, and cushions all with the pattern. It lends itself especially well to bedrooms, in my opinion. There is something soft and restfully hypnotic about it that other patterns lack.

Arabesque 

Arabesques are commonly found in carpeting and tile (by Tuftex Carpets of California)
Arabesques are commonly found in carpeting and tile (by Tuftex Carpets of California)

Arabesque is another pattern with a gap between its use in interior design, and what the style originally referred to. The word ‘Arabesque’ in general refers to common motifs in Arab and Islamic design–interlocking, repeating patterns that can be woven or tiled or carved. In interior design, it almost always refers to the pattern in the photo above–interlocking tiles with elegant curves, often found in carpets and flooring. A soft, easy-on-they-eyes pattern that throws in a shade of luxury without being overly ostentatious, arabesque tiling can perk up an unexciting kitchen.

Plaid

Not just for shirts! (by Robert Brown Interior Design)
Not just for shirts! (by Robert Brown Interior Design)

Okay, stay with me. Plaid may not be your go-to idea for a couch. It may actually be the old worn-through flannel you throw on when you get chilly. Plaid is a popular and enduring pattern that is virtually everywhere. The word ‘plaid’ is synonymous with ‘tartan’, and refers to a criss-cross of perpendicular lines of various colors. It is a common pattern in clothing, but recently there has been an upsurge in its use and variety. Plaid has a homey, pastoral vibe, and you could use it to dress down a room or pair with wood.

Flower and Leaf

Flowers and leaves are popular and enduring. (by California Home + Design, photo by Teri Lynn Fisher)
Flowers and leaves are popular and enduring. (by California Home + Design, photo by Teri Lynn Fisher)

Floral prints are as basic and as classic as they come. Pervasive in everything from bed linens to high fashion to fine china, natural prints are incredibly versatile. For a long time I sniffed at anything with flowers on it, dismissing it as something my grandma would decorate her house with, but recently I’ve rediscovered just how cool and intricate the patterns can get. A recent trend has centered around leaf and tree patterns, rather than just simple flowers.

Although by no means an exhaustive list, these five patterns are a good way to get started. Once you know the options out there, it’s easier to begin visualizing your idea room and turning it into a reality!