Pattern Power: How to Choose the Perfect Wallpaper

By Nicole Barr for

 Scalamandré Zebra Wallpaper. Image courtesy The Inside. 


Wallpaper catches the eye by adding pattern, texture, dimension, and color to a room. With the right pattern, you can completely change the look and feel of a space in a way that paint alone often can’t. Because of its potential power, however, choosing the right wallpaper can feel daunting. As a result, knowing what to look for will help you make the best choice for your home.

Consider Depth

A wallpaper’s color and design can impact the perceived space in a room. Dark tones absorb light and will make a room feel smaller, while lighter tones reflect light, making a room feel more spacious. If your space is dark and lacks light sources, consider wallpapers that will reflect light, such as patterns with lighter or metallic hues. Dark wallpaper which absorbs light is best for more cozy designs when you want to create a more comforting and intimate atmosphere.

Further, patterns can impact a room’s perceived size, with horizontal patterns making a wall seem longer and vertical patterns increasing its perceived height. Meanwhile, textured wallpapers can be used to add a layer of depth, while smooth wallpapers create a more structured, angular, and elegant feel.

With so much dependent on your wallpaper, it’s important to test samples on your walls to get an idea of their true appearance in the available natural light as it changes throughout the day. All the aspects mentioned above, after all, are a product of how the eye perceives your wallpaper.

Use Patterns To Your Advantage

Patterns are an opportunity to have fun. You can highlight a room’s strengths or even hide its flaws with the right pattern wallpaper, so consider the size of the room with relation to each pattern’s figures. Smaller prints compliment smaller rooms and large patterns, larger spaces. Too large of a pattern can be dramatic, overpowering smaller spaces, while a small pattern in a large room can become monotonous. Consider an accent wall to break up a room or if you want to choose a wallpaper design that is closer to a piece of art. Accent walls can also help control the viewer’s narrative by drawing the eye to certain areas of the room you want to highlight.

Too Much Pattern

Layering patterns can create a unique depth, so when choosing a wallpaper, consider the room’s other designs and textures, be it those of your artwork, flooring, furniture, curtains, or general decor. A wallpaper with too loud a print will likely clash with the room’s other patterns if incorrectly layered. To avoid making a room look busy, mix and match. One pattern should be the focal point of the space, while others should complement it to achieve a balanced visual weight. Also, choose one one or two colors so the patterns tie together well. Though often difficult to source, similar patterns and motifs are fantastic for connecting patterns in a room.

What’s more, it’s often useful to incorporate different sized patterns to avoid a busy look. When mixing patterns, make the largest scale pattern prominent, and use smaller-scale designs as accents. Wallpaper doesn’t have to be heavily patterned to be powerful though, and simpler designs can still add color and texture without being overwhelming. Better still, simple designs are easier to mix with the often (though not necessarily) complex ones in art, to avoid a room having an overpowering display of patterns, while also breaking up shapes to add variation and contrast.

Decide on the Concept of the Room

When deciding on a room concept, think about how you want the room to coalesce with the design and architecture of other rooms. Consider the mood you wish to create when selecting a design. For example, in a bedroom, where you want to feel relaxed, a dark, simple, calm pattern works best. The moods can be different in different rooms but should still match your house’s overall design and tone. The moral of this story, then, is to choose wallpapers that complement each other: it wouldn’t, for instance, make sense for the complex floral wallpaper of one room to terminate into the flat-white walls of the next, whereas a simple, geometric pattern will easily flow into a more minimalist environment.

 Image courtesy Architectural Digest.

Deciding on wallpaper opens up numerous new opportunities–and also perils–to your home’s design, and understandably, mastering all these might at first feel overwhelming. But, by taking the above simple tips into consideration, you’ll make the process of choosing a wallpaper a lot less intimidating–and even an enjoyable process.  Remember: as with other aspects of interior and exterior design, the process of wallpapering your home is an opportunity for self-expression, so above all, have fun with it!

For assistance with your interior-design project, contact Galerie Perrie’s Private Consultant Services.