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Interior Design 101: Playing with patterns

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
Design with us online by CS DESIGN
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Since kick-starting operations back in 1991, local interior-design company CS Design has significantly evolved. In addition to changing the way South Africans view interior design, the Johannesburg-based CS Design has also gifted its clients with a generous list of available services such as finalising 3D renderings, creating mood boards, implementing renovations, custom furniture designs, and much more. 

The firm, which was founded by Carin Shardelow, presents quite the inspiring collection of projects (residential, retail, hospitality… ) as can be seen in its portfolio.

Speaking of which, let’s be inspired by some of CS Design’s past projects while learning more about the beauty (and potential, and advantages… ) of playing with patterns in interior design.  

1. To pattern or not to pattern

Final new lounge by CS DESIGN Classic

Final new lounge


Including patterns in your interiors doesn’t have to be a headache – as long as you understand the nuances of lines and colours. But even the most experienced professional designers can sometimes pause when it comes to big, loud patterns with vivacious colours and lively shapes.

So, let’s break down the basic rules of thumb of designing with patterns and motifs. 

2. What lies in a pattern?

2015 Classical Interior Renovation - Revisited 2019 Classic style corridor, hallway and stairs by CS DESIGN Classic

2015 Classical Interior Renovation—Revisited 2019


Think of patterns as furniture: the right ones can liven up a space and add more detail to it, while the wrong ones (or too much of the right one, even) can easily overwhelm a room, especially small ones. Be sure to size your patterns according to the room’s size, as sometimes large prints can ensure a touch of luxury instead of overcrowding a space. 

• Similar to fashion, patterns can create illusions. Think of vertical / horizontal lines that make a room appear taller or wider.  

• Patterns and motifs can also help establish a consistent flow throughout a room.

• Always consider your patterns’ colours: the higher the contrast, the more vivacious the pattern will appear. 

3. What to look for in patterns: Variety

Final selection for old TV Room by CS DESIGN Classic

Final selection for old TV Room


Gingham, Striped, Chevron, Polka Dot… there is no airtight answer on what pattern to include in your design. But opting for variety can make quite a difference.

While a room usually just has one huge background pattern on the wall, adding “supporting” patterns in furnishings and décor can up the overall style. In fact, you can combine up to four patterns without disrupting your space’s harmony (as long as you base all the other patterns on the large-scale one for consistency). 

4. What to look for in patterns: Mixing and matching

Home Renovation, Jukskei Park, Johannesburg by CS DESIGN Modern

Home Renovation, Jukskei Park, Johannesburg


Your patterns may mix, but they must match. One idea to accomplish this is to use blocks of solid colour (i.e. navy) that’s the same as or close to the dominant colour on all the different patterns. While helping to unify your design, this trick also prevents the space from being visually swallowed up by the patterns. 

5. What to look for in patterns: Establishing a vibe

Beach house Living area by CS DESIGN

Beach house Living area


Just like colour, patterns can help to set up a specific vibe in a space. Want to opt for a clean, elegant atmosphere? Tone down the colour to neutrals (whites, beiges, greys… ) and stick to simple motifs like Clover, Waves, Stripes, etc. For something more eye-catching, up your colour’s intensity and move over to busier patterns such as Spades, Florals, Paisley, etc. 

6. Patterns and textures

Fourways Project Modern living room by CS DESIGN Modern

Fourways Project


Never ever forget the amazing potential of mixing the right pattern with the right material. Some patterns just pop better with texture (i.e. a striped scatter cushion won’t necessarily flaunt the same vibe as a striped wall). 

At the end of the day, the two best decisions you can make for yourself is to:

• Plan properly before buying or altering anything (seeing what patterns are available online, then sketching these into your dream design on paper), and

• Bringing a seasoned professional on board to ensure no time and money is wasted on your design project.

Next up: 9 considerations before you build your dream deck

What are some of your favourite patterns and motifs to use in interior design?
Modern houses by Casas inHAUS Modern

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