How to Use Pattern in Small Spaces

One of the old rules of decorating is “don’t use patterns in small spaces”…. Along with a bunch of other “rules”, I think this one has seen it’s day. In fact, it’s not hard to learn how to use pattern in a small space, and I’m going to show you five easy ways to incorporate pattern without overwhelming your small room. Pattern adds energy and freshness to any room, and small rooms need that too! So here goes, my “guidelines” (did you catch that? ;)) on how to use pattern in small spaces!




Guideline One – Use pattern either sparingly, or boldly, but don’t be in the middle. The trick is to use it deliberately…as a small design support character in order to have a calm feeling room, or as a bold statement that plays up the personality of the room.



Guideline Two – Use graphic geometric patterns. Because they have such direct lines, geometrics maintain a more orderly look, even in a small room.



Guideline Three – If you want to use pattern in a small room but are afraid it will close it in or make it feel cluttered, use this trick. Choose a pattern with one dominant color and a white or light background. The freshness of the white will create a dynamic that opens up a space, even if you use it on the walls in a wallpaper.



Guideline Four –  Another trick for adding pattern in a small space? Concentrate it on a focal area, such as a rug or the bed. Then make the walls a cool or pale color and keep them simple. The walls will seem to face away and expand the visual space, while the eye goes to the focal point and all the pattern interest.



Guideline Five – Balance. If you add pattern to one area of the room, tone down another. All interior design is about balance, (well, all life is, but that’s another post) so make sure you don’t include several busy prints and then a collection of 100 china dogs… Love that vibrant wallpaper? Then keep the throw pillows a solid fabric. Just have to have that delicately detailed area rug? Then make the window treatments simple and match the color of the walls.


Don’t listen to old decorating rules, all you have to do is look around the decorating world to see that what is “in” is breaking them! Find what works for you in your small room, then add that pattern!

Image Credits: BHG, How to use pattern, Cottages and Bungalows, House Beautiful, BHG, Coastal Living


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  1. Terri Patterson
    June 25, 2014 / 4:17 am

    Where did you find the poka dot and plaid bedding?

    • Kathy Woodard
      June 26, 2014 / 4:46 pm

      Hi Terri,
      Its not our photo, so Im afraid we can’t help you with the source! Anyone of our readers know?

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