Repeating Pattern Adds Interest

While a repeating pattern can be boring and repetitive in some instances it can also be eye catching and inspiring. A black and white checkerboard floor in a bathroom can be quite dramatic and pleasing to the eye.

I’ve made special note of the “repeat pattern” practice in my decorating magazines and have noticed that the special touches that catch the eye are things like a straight row of bud vases along a dining table, a row of tea light candles or crisp green apples along a ledge. Why does a row of apples look better than a single apple or one tea light or bud vase? Is it that we humans thrive on abundance? Is it the visual appeal of the pattern that calms the eye? It might be a little of both. After all, a repeating pattern is not a challenge to the eye, but rather, a soothing arrangement that neither excites nor bores our senses. Maybe we’re so tired of being bombarded with constant advertisements of all kinds that we need a rest for our eyes and our brains. When we’re stressed we may dream of lying on a warm beach with waves lapping at our toes — again, the waves are a repeating pattern of sight and sound.


In the home, small touches like the long row of bud vases mentioned above can have a dramatic yet calming effect on your décor. There’s something orderly about, say, a row of decorative soaps placed along the edge of the bathtub beside a symmetrical pile of fluffy white towels. It might seem a little decadent, but what a feast for the eyes. These spa-like touches make you want to stay and have a tub. The simple act of displaying your bath linens in an open shelf in a neat repetitive pattern can change the look of the space. Your bathroom will feel spa-like with little effort on your part. By simply using the repeating pattern strategically, you can create a little drama in no time.

In the bedroom, hang a floating shelf over the head of the bed and display decorative orbs for dramatic effect. (The orbs can be as simple as glass Christmas ornaments in a co-ordinating colour. Be creative.) Use wallpaper with a repeating pattern, like a soft stripe, to cosy up a boring bedroom. Add decorative elements to a padded headboard or other furniture like upholstery tacks as an edging treatment. These small touches of repeating patterns add continuity to a space.

In the family room, an even row of identical throw pillows along the sofa can be dramatic when they are in a contrasting colour; like red on a white sofa for instance. Symmetry and order is important to the success of using the repeating pattern in the décor. A bunch of throw cushions tossed onto a sofa is not going to have the same visual appeal as when the cushions are placed evenly along the sofa.

A great place to try a really creative pattern project is on an interior stairway. Repeat a colour and/ or pattern on the risers of each stair and you’ll have a wonderful, almost three-dimensional pattern. It could be something as simple as a repeating stencil pattern, decorative ceramic tiles or even something like a licence plate collection tacked to each riser. If you don’t want a permanent change to the stairway then you can place small baskets (or some other decorative item) on the side of each step in a wide stairway to create a unique display. (Be sure that there is adequate room to try this. You don’t want people to trip on something and tumble down the stairs.) A stairway is a “natural” repeating pattern that most homes already have. All you have to do is enhance the look with a little ingenuity.

You might not even realize how much you prefer the repeating pattern, until you think about the differences between things like a pair of french doors versus a plain interior door, or the lovely design of natural brick exterior versus plain stucco that has no pattern. Pattern wins most every time.


Be careful though. I do think that one can get tired of pattern if it is unchanging. For example, that black and white checkerboard floor mentioned at the beginning might be something you’ll want to consider carefully. It’s a strong statement that can get tiresome in a fairly short period of time. Upholstery and wall-to-wall carpet are other areas where you might want to stay away from bold or strong patterns. I think that repetitive patterns are best utilized in a temporary fashion so they can be changed regularly. Stay away from strong pattern on permanent areas like tub surrounds, flooring and upholstery unless you’re sure about it. Use the eye-catching repeating pattern in accessories, wallpaper, paint treatments and in your displays. You can have a lot of fun toying with various displays using things you already have on hand. It costs nothing except a little time.

Connie Oliver is an interior designer from Winnipeg, Manitoba.



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