Design Field Notes

Design Field Notes

Design Field Notes

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How To

On Colour and Pattern: Where to block, where to pop

Many people feel utterly daunted by the prospect of working with colour and pattern. While they may know what they like, they also know, usually from bitter experience, how easily it can go wrong.

And how often – and quickly – colour and pattern can date.

I’m well known for my bold use of colour and pattern to inject contrast, ensure balance and create a particular mood in ways that can be powerful, enchanting and sometimes even enigmatic.

But the fact is, colour and pattern are among my last considerations for an interior and there’s a reason why they should be thought about further along the conceptual process, particularly in the case of colour.

Colour is actually a tool to be employed as an element that helps bring balance to a space.

It’s important to remember that picking colours just because you like them doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily translate well into an interior.

Whether it’s macro blocking or micro popping, experimenting with different colour combinations can be rewarding providing you adhere to some simple principles.


While it’s true that white walls provide an ideal canvas upon which to build your layers, some spaces really come alive with a different paint choice or wallpaper treatment.  I’ve even used wallpaper on ceilings for added impact, a luxurious feel and surprising effect.

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What prevents it from becoming overwhelming is the restraint applied with neutral-toned furniture, with the only extra colour in soft furnishings or accessories that connect to the walls.

And when it comes to coloured paint on walls, very bright shades tend to date quickly and you can tire of them easily.  Using a colour from nature, such as green, can be a good choice because it’s less obtrusive and offers a range of moods via different shades as a way to connect a home’s interior with its environment.

I’m well known for my love of monochromes, both in paint and pattern, and that’s no surprise. Charcoals and greys can bring a beautiful and elegant atmosphere to walls too, particularly when they’re partnered with white painted woodwork.

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When it comes to furniture, I prefer neutrals for larger pieces like sofas because they work more cohesively as a sound base to add colour and pattern.  I also tend to avoid patterned sofas because it will dominate a room and make the task of tying everything together extremely difficult. Good sofas are expensive too, while colour and pattern trends tend to come and go.


As a rule of thumb I’m not a great fan of feature walls but a carefully chosen hit of colour or pattern in a kitchen splashback, for example, can lift a room and enhance the effect of surrounding surfaces.

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In a bathroom too, mosaic tiles can bring a burst of colour or concentration of pattern to a neutral space.  Gold tiles amid a mass of white in a bathroom can also deliver a delicate touch of glamour without overtaking a whole room.

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In the case of furniture, statement chairs are a dynamic way to introduce colour and pattern into a room and soft furnishings like cushions and throws are one of the easiest ways to bring hits of colour and pattern into a room.  Don’t be afraid to mix up your cushions, placing different patterns with block colours, varying shapes and using contrasting bands or trims. You’ll find the result is not chaos, but character!

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To read more about Greg Natale’s design inspirations, read Greg’s first book, The Tailored Interior – available for $69.95 at all good book retailers, in store at Coco Republic and online at Bookworld.

Greg Natale