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Pattern Perfect

by Nikki Willhite

I love pattern. There is nothing I'd rather do than go into downtown Seattle to one of the big wholesale fabric stores, and look at all the decorator (and quilting) fabric.

My poor husband has helped me cover the seats of our dining room chairs 4 times. Each time he tells me that the chairs are such poor quality that they will not withstand another redo. They do!

What is it about pattern that is such a visual treat for me and for others?

Color changes, depending on the colors around it. Orange next to blue looks a lot different than orange next to yellow. It is the same reason why I like quilting. I love to see the look of the different fabrics next to each other.

Then there is the pattern itself. I adore floral fabrics.  I love flowers, and floral prints are full of them.  I find them beautiful, from the hydrangeas to the daisies. 

After floral prints, my next favorite pattern are the plaids. There are conservative plaids, and there are very subdued, traditional plaids.  Plaids usually have all straight lines, which contrast beautifully with the rounded lines in floral prints.  I love to use the two together.

Stripes come in wide and narrow widths. I have to say that out of all the patterns commonly used, the one I personally don't like is the wide stripe. I don't like it on walls, and I don't like it on fabric. However, I love thin, traditional strips on shiny fabrics.

Other patterns include traditional and modern geometrics, novelty prints, vintage prints, toile,  herringbone, chevrons, and checkers.

Pattern is even found in texture. Fabrics like velvet and even chenille can be found with a cutout, or elevated design.

Pattern has personality. Pattern brings a room to life. Pattern is a reflection of personal taste.

Pattern can be used wisely by the frugal decorator, but there are some drawbacks.

Pattern can become very dated, and it is very taste specific. Even you can become tired of a print you love after a few years.

When it comes to decorating, the frugal school of thought is "Do it once, and do it right."

That means that you should be very conservative with the large items in your room so that they will last a long time, and then bring character and personality into the room with the use of color and pattern on smaller items.

The drapes in a room are easily changed, and not considered one of the larger items. The flooring and large upholstered pieces are what you want to last the longest.

An example of this would be to put a traditional beige sofa into a room with beige carpet, but to add a variety of pillows in colorful prints on the sofa and around the room.

You can also make drapes out of one of the prints, or edge the sides of purchased drapes in one of the prints.  Chairs or chair seats can be upholstered in one of the prints.

When choosing your prints, it is important that the prints do not "fight" with one another. None of the fabrics should be so similar that you can't tell them apart.

You would not want to use two large floral prints in the same room, but a large floral print and a smaller one would work nicely together.

Another option is to use a large floral and small stripe, or a large strip and small floral print together.

By varying the scale of the prints, you add interest to the room. You can also do the same thing with texture. Adding a lot of different types of texture adds interest to a room. It is just more subdued.

The other trick in putting together a good collection of prints is that the fabrics should share the same colors. It is easiest to start with your floral fabric, and then pull colors out of it for all the other fabrics.

Do not be afraid of pattern. Women used to spend hours to bring it into their homes with their needlecraft and quilting.

All we have to do is go to the fabric store, and sew up a few pillows, or find someone to do it for us.

Pattern is beautiful. Learn what you like, and use it wisely.  

About the Author: Nikki Willhite, mother of 3 and an interior design graduate, has been writing and publishing articles on the topic of frugal living for over a decade. Visit her at - where you will find hundreds of frugal living tips and articles. Frugal Happy Families- more than just money!

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