Pattern adds life and rhythm to interiors, blending or contrasting colours in figurative or abstract shapes. It also creates a sense of order, through the regular repetition of motifs, whether these are geometric, figurative or floral.


Many modern prints take their inspiration from historic styles. When Laura Ashley first started designing fabrics and wallpapers, she developed many prints from the decorations used in Victorian homes. These were simple patterns used in small country houses and cottages and in turn reflected earlier eighteenth-century designs. They are ideal for small rooms and those with awkward proportions, which are best camouflaged by an all-over pattern. The more elaborate prints of the period, popular among the urban middle classes, are equally suitable for larger modern homes, and are often recoloured to suit current tastes with brighter tints of blue, sage green or plum replacing sombre Victorian shades.
An earlier source of inspiration was the east, which provided the paisley, floral chintz and distinctive chinoiserie designs first popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Abstract patterns have been borrowed from Moorish and Turkish designs which reflect the rules ofIslam, which forbade the representation of living forms. The stencils and patchwork of early American styles and the folk patterns of Eastern Europe also influence modern styles while the rich damasks, blocked in gold, that evoke Venetian and Renaissance interiors and the splashy exuberance of the Bloomsbury prints of the Thirties have been adapted to suit current fashion.

Using pattern

The choice of an appropriate pattern always helps if you wish to create a period atmosphere A Morris wallpaper, for example, immediately evokes the enthusiasm of the Arts and Crafts movement while an eighteenth-century damask recalls the grace of Georgian times. The scale of the pattern can play an important part in creating the right mood, though it should always be in keeping with the size of the room. A large-scale design in traditional powder blue and gold can add grandeur, while a small single colour design conveys a cottage-style charm.

Trellis, sprig and stripe designs provide a transition between figurative pattern and plains. They are invaluable for wallpaper and upholstery as they add interest without conflicting with patterns used elsewhere. Flamboyant patterns are more successfully used for curtains, where texture and drape add softness, than for walls, where simpler motifs which relate to the master design look effective. Both designs can then be repeated by a border or frieze, cushions, bedcovers, table linen or rugs, building layers of pattern and colour to make a rich feast for the eyes. Remember that it can be equally effective to use a single area of pattern - a sofa or a rug - to create a focal point in a room where plain surfaces predominate.