How to build a scheme around large print wallpaper

It’s Ask the Designer. And today I’m talking about one particular wallpaper from Cole & Son and how to build a scheme around it. Designing with pattern is not difficult as it might seem initially. The biggest mistake people make is they stick it on “a feature wall” and don’t link it with anything else in the room. Patterns need the story to carry on throughout the space. Like colours. So let me show you how I do it.

So to put you in the picture the question was all about this wallpaper and how to incorporated into a small living room.



For many designers features walls go straight into 101 but if done correctly I think that they are still relevant and many clients like them as an option. So to make the room more “gelled” you need to incorporate other colours, textures and patterns. Yes, more patterns. Which is the key…to pull this room off successfully. So let’s build the scheme around this wallpaper.

Wall paint

I think neutrals are the way to go in this case study. Colour like these..for example  (from Farrow & Ball)

Keeping the rest of the room calm and neutral creates a perfect backdrop for the other elements in the room.


I put rug as the second item on the list because it’s so important. Everybody should have a RUG. Full stop. Even on carpets! They are great colour and pattern breakers! And warm and cosy too. So I quickly search on John Lewis site and found this one…


It’s from Harlequin and it’s like an abstract contemporary artwork. So what I’m doing here I’m breaking the wallpaper floral pattern with geometric abstract stripes. And I’m also introducing another colour into the scheme.  Mustard yellow. YUM!

Now the colours so far are something like this:



The 2 blues are from the wallpaper, neutral backdrop and mustard yellow as an accent.


Now I have established what colours I have so I can narrow my search for choosing sofas, armchair and any other soft furnishings. I like playing with texture when I need to work with solid colours. So I’d  go for glazed linen, crushed velvet (only for very feminine and glam looks!), jacquard.

Let’s start with the basic neutral sofa like this.



Ottoman or footstool
soft touch polyester (chenille)  (from Prestigious Textiles)

Maybe with a contrasting ribbon for a border. Like this one from Samuel & Son.Samuel-son-ribbon


Similar idea continues on the curtains or window treatment. Using solid colours but textured. Like this one from Clarke & Clarke. Plus as an option I would also suggest the purple Greek key trim (see below) for added interest.


Now the interesting bit begins. This is where I introduce smaller scale patterns to keep it in symmetry, balance and proportions.

First I picked the mustard yellow from the rug and introduced sharper, clearer stripes. This fabric is from Clarke & Clarke.

Then I wanted some more geometric pattern so I went for this deep, dark, rich midnight blue velvet fabric which is again from Clarke & Clarke.

I also need some circles or some form of roundness. I found it in this fabric. Guess where? Clarke & Clarke.


Finally I want to break the colour scheme a bit with just a hint of another colour. But this time only in very small amount. So I found this fabric from Designer’s Guild which will go perfectly with the rest of the fabrics and the wallpaper. Smaller pattern but floral based.


So now I have floral patterns – large and medium, with geometric – medium and small, and stripes. The overall scheme is coming together like this..

CS-wallpaper-pattern-all-schemeI added the purple Greek key trim from Samuel & Sons for the curtains outside border to make a link back to the purple cushion fabric.

The final colour scheme is like this…


And that’s it. So when you have a large pattern print as your starting point work around it and scale your textures and patterns down gradually – big, medium, small. And don’t be afraid of using colours. Many people stop at 3 per room which is not enough. Generally you can use between 5 – 6  per room. Use other pattern types – florals, geometric, stripes, ikat, damask and so on to again balance them out so none of them is too overpowering.

Now it’s your turn. If you have patterns in your home how did you incorporate them in your scheme? Any thoughts?

Karolina Barnes


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