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8 ways to embrace colour and pattern

We’re here to say, don’t be afraid to be bold

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Soho Home

It’s easy to dismiss yourself as ‘not a print person’ or a colour sceptic, perhaps because you just don’t know where to start, or automatically think pattern = OTT. But we beg to differ.

From velvet cushions to blankets and throws in heritage fabrics, textiles will add colour and texture to beds, sofas and armchairs. Comfortable spaces instantly become more inviting with the addition of colour and pattern. You just have to know how to make it work for you. We asked those in the know for tips.

1. Consider your colours

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Soho Home

‘There’s no hard and fast rule about where you should use colour, but a room works best if you keep to colours within the same tonal family’, says ELLE Decoration’s contributing editor Amy Bradford. ‘Too many strong contrasts can be overwhelming for the senses, so if you want to add a different accent colour, start by doing it with discreet touches here and there.’

The key to using colour is to exercise some control – and have a plan as to how you best execute your vision. ‘Colour can be carried in so may ways within your home depending on everything from room purpose, the size and even the amount of natural light it has’ says Kirsty Whyte, product and creative director at Soho Home. There are a few affordable ways to add in a refresh of colour. Try using textiles like rugs and scatter cushions to change the colour scheme around your house. Another way is to change your wall colour – it’s amazing how different a room can feel with a different colour scheme. ‘If you’re a little nervous about going too bold, you could try a feature wall’, says Whyte.

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Soho Home

SHOP: Jordaan Rug, from £395; Soho Home

2. Re-learn your complementary colours

We all learnt our primary and complementary colours at school. This is similar – it’s about colours in the same tonal family, says Bradford, which will always look harmonious together. ‘For example, if you were decorating in blush pink, you could add more grey-toned shades or warmer neutrals without it feeling too much. Having said that, a dramatic contrast of black and white always works – just look at any Danish home’.

‘The list of colours that work well together is endless and also depends on taste”, adds Whyte, “But moving into Autumn/Winter, there are a lot of dark forest greens and deep ocean blues, accented with a pop of mustard or maroon.’

3. Know when to go bold-bold

Bradford is a fan of really bold colours ‘anywhere you want to make a strong impression – such as in a hallway to welcome guests, or a living room.‘ ‘Quieter’ colours are usually better in restful spaces like bedrooms, but what really matters is that the colour you choose is something you’re happy to be surrounded by day to day.

Soho House Design and Build Director Siobhan Farley suggests that open plan downstairs spaces work with bold colour on the skirting and window frames and wooden floors, keeping the rest lighter to ground the room.

Again, it’s all about the balance, as Whyte points out: ‘If you have good core pieces, such as a neutral sofa (greys, or dark brown leather) or a rug, it allows you to play with the other elements a bit more.’

It really depends on the size of the room and what its purpose is: ‘The trick if you want to go bold is don’t go too far into garish! If you’re not sure, I would recommend using accessories to have a colour running through your home. You can move them around to get the feeling just right.’

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Soho Home

SHOP: Rosendale Highball Glass in Amber, £10.00; Saunders cushion, £110; all by Soho Home

Interiors and props stylist Laura Sawyer is also a fan of working a splash of bold colour into a room through accessories: ‘Colour can be incorporated in so many ways, from small hints of colour in your accessories or art on your walls, to big bold statements. Painted walls are an obvious way to go, but the current trend is to put colour on your ’

‘I’m currently on the hunt for a pink sofa and a green sideboard. But if that feels like too much of a financial or design commitment, scatter cushions, throws and rugs as a quick and easy way to get on trend or to refresh your look.’

4. Layer up colour and pattern

Taking inspiration from nature is a good tip, according to Bradford. ‘Botanical patterns work well with greens and earth tones whereas with more architectural colours, like black and white, graphic patterns complement their ’

Whyte takes a layered approach. ‘It’s important to keep it simple, but you can play with layering the scale of print and pattern. Mixing woven fabrics with block colour can add more depth to a room. Using a neutral like a mid grey, or a sage on your walls allows you to add pattern, through art or soft furnishings.’

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Simon Brown

5. Colour and minimalism are not mutually exclusive

Having a minimalist style doesn’t mean you can’t love and include colour in your home. Keeping your walls clean and neutral means you can add block colour in different ways. Bradford adds – ‘In an all-white interior, one or two accessories in a brighter accent colour can have a big impact without making you feel like you’ve overdosed on colour.’

Another option from Whyte – ‘perhaps opt for all your dining chairs in one colour. You can then use this one colour through out your space peppering it as an accent.’

6. Think hard about your sofa choices

Bradford says: ‘Sofas are an investment piece and one that realistically, you’re unlikely to change for some time; having one reupholstered is an expensive business. It’s much easier to pick something timeless and then you can change the colour and pattern of walls or accessories ’

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Soho Home

SHOP: Norton 2 seater sofa in purple velvet, £1495, Soho Home

A sofa is quite a big investment for your home and something you would like to keep for several years. ‘As much as I love the idea of a patterned sofa’, says Whyte, ‘I would always opt for plain. You can then accessorise it with exciting cushions/throws, that you can then update more frequently. If you have the space add the pattern on an accent chair or ottoman.’ The perfect compromise!

7. Reap the mindful benefits of colour

Colours have healing, or certainly calming qualities. It’s worth bearing this in mind when deciding what colour goes in what room. According to Bradford, ‘Blue is good for bedrooms because it’s scientifically proven to be calming – certain cells in your eyes are especially sensitive to this colour, and relay messages to the brain that reduce blood pressure and heart rate. Red is stimulating and grabs the attention – that’s why it’s used as a “stop” sign – and is traditionally used in dining rooms for that reason. Green, the colour of nature, is reassuring and balancing, so it can be used anywhere you want to feel rested.’

Sawyer agrees with the emotional response to colour: ‘white makes me feel clear minded, so it’s the best colour for my study. Pink makes me smile, so I put it in my living room. Green makes me feel creative, so I’ve used it on my kitchen cabinet ’ she explains.

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Soho Home

SHOP: La Merce Cushion, £165, Soho Home

8. Do your research to discover your pattern personality

Don’t be shy when it comes to pattern. Perhaps you just haven’t discovered what your likes and dislikes are, yet. This is why it pays to do some research. Or to take inspiration from our experts. ‘I am very fussy about pattern and I prefer dense, intricate designs drawn from nature, which look subtle from afar but come to life close up’, shares Bradford. ‘William Morris fits all of these criteria for me. I dislike anything that looks too artificial or loud, or as if it’s been drawn by a computer – I prefer to see the trace of a human hand at ’

For Whyte, it’s all about stripes and large botanical prints.

‘There is also a trend for illustrative pattern,’ says Whyte, ‘think painterly brush strokes. I really want to get the Pierre Frey ‘Rocky Boy’ onto something soon!’

For more bold homeware inspiration, head to Soho Home interiors by Soho House

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