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show your stripes

Timid about mixing patternsin your home dècor?Are you one of thosepeople who meticulously matchyour belt and shoes or handbag?Afraid to mix a striped tie witha check-patterned shirt? Well,don't be scared - incorporatingpatterns in your home is mucheasier than you think.

Understanding a few basicdesign principles will give youthe confidence to be bold andcreate a look that is both fun andunique to express your own styleat home. We have all seen a roomdone entirely in one pattern, likestripes or toile, and although itestablishes a theme, it can alsobe "one note" as well. This lookmay be fine for a guestroom in abed-and-breakfast, but after a fewdays I would be ready to checkout (but maybe that was the pointand intended goal).

Pattern can give oomph to aspace, but why stop at just one?Mixing patterns can add a greaterlevel of sophistication and interestto your decor, contributingboth depth and richness to theoverall scheme.

The goal is to establish nuancesby manipulating scale anddesign while echoing hues andtint. The trick is creating a lookthat is both classic and colorfulwithout being chaotic. There areso many types of patterns to usewhen designing a room, the possibilitiesfor combining them isalmost limitless.

Geometric patterns includestripes, checks and polka dots.Stripes can be bold or subtle,large or small. Vertical stripes canadd height to a room. Horizontalstripes can add width to a narrowwall. Checks can be either classicor modern, and either casual (likegingham or country French) orformal. Polka dots can be playfuland fun.

Floral patterns run the gamutfrom realistically rendered tohighly stylized or somewherein between. My favorites are themod and Op-Art versions fromthe 1960s. Most people think offloral patterns as feminine, butthere are many available todaywith palm trees and fern frondsrendered in more masculinetones of greens and browns.

Motif patterns consist of repeatedelements or figures, usedto inject a theme-think of aGreek key, Chinese fretwork oran Egyptian lotus blossom. Thesepatterns work best on smallerpieces like pillows or side chairs.

A pictoral pattern is more scenicin nature, think of a toile withits depictions of English, French,or Asian life in the countryside.Toile is typically rendered in asingle color (red, blue, or black)on a light or neutral background.However many pictoral patternsuse a full palette of color to depicthunt scenes, wildlife, and architecturalillustrations.

Give patterns some space-youdon't need to use a pattern or printon every surface. Sometimes itworks better to leave some spacebetween patterns: For example,you could use plain drapery panelsagainst a wallpapered wall,patterned drapery panels against aplainly painted wall, and so forth.

You want to avoid too manycompeting points of interest.

Think about Joan Riverscritiquing people on the redcarpet for having too much goingon "between the hair, themakeup, the jewelry, the dressand the shoes."

Let one pattern take centerstage and allow the other motifsto play supporting roles.Vary styles and scale, mix alarge floral with a small geometricand a medium stripe.

Remember, the more patterngoing on, the simpler the linesof the furniture need to be.

The shape of furniture influenceshow a pattern in a fabriclooks in your overall designand where that furniture is inrelation to other pieces in theroom. Think about how muchof a pattern you will want tosee. I almost always use a moresubtle pattern on large upholsterypieces. A busy or boldpattern becomes overwhelmingon a big sofa or sectional.

Pattern can be used on everysurface, from the floors, to thewalls, to the ceiling and everythinginside the room's architecturalenvelope.

Don't forget about area rugs,artwork, pillows, and evenarchitectural details like a cofferedceiling or the grain ofveneer on a dining room table.Mix it up and have some funwith it.

Gregory Vaughan is an interiordesigner at Kelley Designs Inc. onHilton Head Island. Contact him at843-785-6911.

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