Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Color and Pattern by the Barnload

In my post last week about color and pattern, I mentioned that I was scheduled to attend a class on just those subjects over the weekend. And so I did. I showed up at 10:00 am this past Sunday and sat in on the "Decorating with Color and Pattern" class at my local Pottery Barn store. Now, before you other designer-types get all skeptical and cynical, let me tell you right up front that I really didn't learn anything new. And I totally get that a class like this is, above all, a brilliant marketing tool.

But I can really appreciate how the average home decorator, who doesn't have a formal or even self-taught education in design, could be helped by the tips and rules presented. After all, as a non-gourmet cook, I have been drawn into the cooking demos at Williams-Sonoma countless times and picked up a couple of good ideas that my super-chef friends would sniff at. So it's the same concept, right? (Same company too! No surprise there.) And besides all the pretty merchandise and the review of design fundamentals, it was a lot of fun!

Our class was led by sales associate Briggett. She was funny and personable and really knows her way around a pile of pillows. She gladly answered questions and deftly demonstrated all the design concepts she presented--with new fall season Pottery Barn merchandise, of course! At presentation's end, several attendees followed Briggett around as she broke down the demo area asking her advice about their particular situation. She was happy to give them as much time as they needed. And I saw several classmates standing there with me at the cash wrap counter taking advantage of the 10% discount coupons we received (another genius idea from the PB Marketing Dept!)
All things considered, it was a fun experience and a nice way to start my Sunday, followed by more shopping and lunch with my husband (who did not attend the class but milled around for an hour enjoying the scenery and a Jamba Juice smoothie... he'd want me to make that clear!). Decorating, shopping, good food and great company... a pretty perfect day actually!

I know you're wondering, so here, in no particular order, are the "rules" of decorating with pattern and color the "Pottery Barn way" (and, truth be told, the PB way turned out to be basically the same as everybody else's way):

Refresh with Color
Updating with color is an easy way to change the mood of your rooms whether you do it to match the season or the latest trend. By switching out such things as pillows, throws, area rugs, and decorative accessories, you can get a whole new look quickly and easily.

Begin with a Neutral Palette
The neutrals in your spaces are typically the larger areas that can't be changed without major effort or expense. Wall colors, permanent floor coverings, primary furnishings and window coverings can be considered "neutrals". Not neutral in color, mind you; they can be whatever colors you decide to make them. What's neutral about them is that they form a dominant base, the backdrop, upon which to add other colors and patterns. So you'll probably want your neutrals to be solids. That beautiful floral sofa you had to have fifteen years ago or the highly patterned wallpapers you filled your home with, aren't as easy to redecorate around and are likely to date themselves long before they wear out.

Find Inspiration for Your Color Choices
Collect tear sheets--pages from magazines with images of spaces that appeal to you. Mark pages in any design books you have. After a time, you'll begin to notice repeating elements in your preferences. Look closely at favorite fabrics or a rug or artwork already in your home. What is it you like so much about them? Color combinations and patterns you like will reveal themselves. Take note and move on to making choices for your home.

Paint Colors Should be Personal
Ignore trends. Yes, they'll help you find your way but if the trend is toward chocolate brown walls and you don't think you can live with that much color in one large space, don't. Use a color for your walls that comes from your tear sheet file (light aqua and pale grassy greens are popular right now in combination with brown), then use chocolate tones in pillows and accessories.

Pick Your Patterns
Back to your tear sheets again. Notice which pattern combinations strike you. A large floral paired with a stripe and a couple of solids? Mixed up plaids and prints? Notice the placement of patterns in the rooms you like. Is the pattern on the floor? At the windows? All over the place or even nonexistent? Combining patterns is all about color and scale. Follow the example of an appealing room.

Mix and Match with Care
In the fall, home accessory colors will be darker, richer and follow the tones of the natural settings changing all around us. Likewise, in the spring, stores will feature colors that are lighter, brighter, fresher. If your home is designed in colors that relate more to one season than another, take care when buying new items in the opposite season. Lemony spring yellows will probably look out of place next to the golds and ambers more common in the fall.

Pay Attention to Textures
In the absence of multiple colors and patterns, textures will take on a starring role. Yes, they're important in every room, but a simple, monochromatic color scheme practically requires them. Smooth, tightly-woven cottons, natural linens and nubby silks each bring their own personality to upholstery, pillows or drapes. Then, of course, there are leathers, flat-woven, hooked and fluffy wool rugs, chunky knits and rough natural wovens like raffia and burlap. And those are just the textiles. Stone, wood, metal, glass... these all add their own unique textures to your space as well.

And So Much More Of course, if you want to really get into the details and nuance of choosing color and pattern, there is so much more to know and I could discuss this with anyone willing to listen all day long. But just so neither one of us has to endure that, here are a few book suggestions for you. Each contains enough basic information to get you started in the right direction.

HOUSE BEAUTIFUL'S THE HOME BOOK Lots of good basic information and inspiration presented in the same stylish manner as the magazine's editorial features. Beautiful photos and step-by-step guidelines illustrate the design process from start to finish including expert Q&A-style advice on the development of a color scheme.

BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS NEW DECORATING BOOK Again, more basic decorating lessons and advice in a friendly, colorful format. Designs and ideas for real people with real budgets. Color, pattern and texture are each given their own chapters with easy to read lessons and more than enough photo examples.

WAVERLY INSPIRATIONS The fabric and home decor company famous for mixing and matching patterns shows you how they do it. This book is ten years old, so some of the patterns and colorways may be dated, but the information is solid and visual examples are still very helpful. Fun quizzes help you determine your own decorating style.

POTTERY BARN LIBRARY There is a whole series of books available, most focused on a particular space in the home: Living Rooms, Bedrooms, Work Spaces, etc. There is also the newer Pottery Barn Home which I understand is a compilation of info from the other books. I know for certain that the Living Rooms version offers good color and texture advice. You might want to take a look at the whole library to see which book best suits your situation.

For obvious reasons, I've used interior images from Pottery Barn's catalog and website. Outdoor images of Victoria Gardens are by La Citta Vita via Flickr. There's been a lot of talk around the blogs about Pottery Barn lately. So clearly they're doing something right... or wrong?... or controversial? In any case, I'll be on to different things next post. Yay!


Jennifer, Inside Out Colour and Design said...

Sounds like you had a fun day. It's always good to go over the basics again and realise you were doing it the right way. Don't think we have Pottery barmn here in Oz but from all the goss about it on the blogs and the lovely images, I wish we did.

Content in a Cottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Good post Tracy! I always get e-mails letting me know about the PB decorating classes and agree with you. I think it's an excellent marketing tool and will probably be very helpful for some people.

Content in a Cottage said...

Tracy, Thanks for sharing your perfect day with us. ♥Rosemary

the gardeners cottage said...

Hi Tracy,

I just found your blog via For the Love of a House. I started reading this story and I realized you were at the PB in Victoria Gardens. I live in Redlands. Are you familiar with Redlands? Until I started reading blogs I didn't know it was a "sin" to shop PB. To me it was a luxury. I cannot afford high-end stores, so I have gotten a few basics from them and have been very happy w/the quality. Anyways I'm glad I found your blog and a fellow Inland Empire resident. Nice to meet you. Janet

Maria Killam said...

I love this post, I've always wondered exactly what they did in those seminars (to your point, not enough to attend of course, being that I consider myself to be a decorating expert :).

Room Service ~ Decorating 101 said...

my kind of day... such a great post too. I have white sofa and loveseat in my living room and change the pillows with the seasons. I always look forward to the change. thanks for visiting.

Connie from Big Bear Lake California said...

Beautiful Blog. So glad I found it!! Thanks so much for sharing. Connie

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Hi Tracy
I'd love to go to one of the PB decorating classes...looks like fun!
I love PB catalogs for ideas and BH&G magazine which I've had a subscription to for years.

the gardeners cottage said...


Why do you think there is such negative stigma attached to PB in the design world. I understand the mass-market approach turns people off, but their interiors are pretty darn good-looking. I have 3 large pieces from them and they are all well made. Whenever I walk into the store, it is very clean and beautifully styled. I kinda like that. Oh well, just wondering your thoughts.


for the love of a house said...

I think you never know where you are going to pick up one or two new ideas. I enjoyed reading this post; but, I must say my very favorite part was where the hubby wanted to make SURE that no one thought he went to the seminar with you!! That's too cute.

Struggler said...

Really enjoyed reading about your Pottery Barn experience. I have always admired how their basics stay the same but each season they create fresh new looks with the smaller pieces - they have a very clever knack with that.

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