If there’s one thing that sets designer rooms apart from the rest, it’s their fearless use of pattern. From showy florals to preppy stripes, designers’ catalog of patterns runs deep—and so does their know-how on how to use them. For anyone who’s ever committed to more pattern, only to find themselves asking if nubby linen counts as a pattern (hey, no one said taking the plunge would be easy), we’ve sampled 15 interior designers and asked them to give us their all-time favorite patterns, plus their top ways to use them. Finally, a guide for picking patterns that’s worth repeating!

Photo by Thomas Loof

Florals & Chintz

“There is nothing I adore more than a tufted chair upholstered in floral chintz. It is so old world and glamorous and truly the most practical fabric. Like most things in life, it only gets better with age. Nancy Lancaster used to take her new chintz pieces and let them sit out in the garden to be beaten up by the elements. If that isn’t a testament to the material’s durability, I don’t know what is!”—Cece Barfield Thompson

“I am a sucker for anything floral. In my bedroom I have a large-scale sunflower-printed fabric and I went a bit overboard, as the fabric is on the curtains and my upholstered headboard. I think you can use florals in any space, even in a more masculine room.”—Lindsey Lane

“Any Tree of Life pattern I love; it’s just a classic. Many fabric houses are recoloring their archival prints, and no pattern more successfully handles a bright new palette than the Tree of Life pattern. Of course, I love it in the original documentary colors, but also in fresh colorways. Whether in fabric or hand-printed or painted on a paper, I’m obsessed with the organic movement in the trees that draws your eye up-and-around a space, or a piece of furniture.”—Ashley Whittaker

Pro Pick:
“Schumacher’s Pyne Hollyhock. It’s beautiful on chairs, and I love how the black/white color way gives a graphic, yet traditional touch to a room.”—Jenny Wolf

Photo by David Hilegas


“I love to use a stripe—it’s classic and timeless. Lately, I have been hanging stripes or painting them horizontally. I think feels a little more modern and a little unexpected.”—Lindsey Coral Harper

“We love an overscale black and white stripe on a main upholstery piece. We just finished a project in East Hampton where we covered a big curvilinear 70’s style sofa in a wide stripe from Clay McLaurin. It adds a graphic punch to the mostly neutral scheme and anchors the room.”—Jesse Parris-Lamb

“A pinstripe. I’ve always been drawn to menswear fashion and the pinstripe is a classic foundation for layering on more patterns.”—Cortney Bishop

Photo by Kathryn MacDonald


“I like pattern when it’s small-scaled it almost visually reads a texture, like a mini herringbone that adds a subtle tailored elegance to upholstery, custom placemats or table linens.”—Eche Martinez

“Greek key. I use it on a trim of a pillow or on the leading edge of curtains or roman shades.”—Grant Gibson

Pro Pick:
“Schumacher’s Fuzz and Deconstructed Stripe.”—Dara Caponigro

Photo by David Hilegas


“I like tortoise shell and shagreen—patterns from nature. They add elegance and old world legitimacy to a room, whether used in accents like on trays and picture frames, or larger pieces like coffee tables or even wallpaper. I designed a tortoise one with Schumacher and love seeing it on ceilings or the interior of bookcases.”— Celerie Kemble

“Animal print is fab because it’s versatile, classic and essentially reads like a neutral. I recently purchased a Karl Springer style waterfall bench upholstered in faux leopard fur, and it goes gorgeously with the nearby antique Persian rug that has oxblood, red, tan and black accents.”—Caitlyn Murray

Photo by Maura McEvoy


“I love using ikats in my projects. They feel both glamorous and exotic and work in just about any space.”—Paloma Contreras

“Chinese patterns or motifs often found in old rugs, but we sometimes paint it like fretwork on the walls.”—Miles Redd

Pro Pick:
“I like anything slightly ethnic, in a not-so-obvious kind of way. My personal favorite is Fortuny’s Tapa with Stripe in any color. Robert Kime’s Indian Pear is up there too. I love that you can mix them with anything: hand-blocked linen florals, chintz, or simple cotton or linen.”—Matthew Carter

Lead photo by Kathryn MacDonald / Design by Grant Gibson

August 31, 2019

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