Learning How To Design With Patterns

EXERTS from The Elements of Design NKBA, Design Principles by Ellen Cheever, CMKBD, ASID

After  becoming familiar with various lines and shapes, designers can combine them into patterns that appeal to the client and support the design theme. Patterns are  made up of elements of design: notably line and shape. A “pattern” can be defined as something the eye follows. It is the arrangement of designs. Design patterns are also classified in five broad categories. Designers who can identify the client’s preference will quickly find the most appropriate direction to follow in material recommendations.

The five broad categories are:

  • Structural
  • Naturalistic
  • Stylized
  • Geometric
  • Abstract
All offer possibilities in keeping with both the style and mood of different motifs. Following are a series of kitchens and bathrooms that have these various patterns.
Structural patterns allow the structure of the product to determine the form of the design. Enrichment and pattern come from the materials used. There is little, if any, applied ornamentation. The grain in the wood, cabinetry or floors, the veins in the slate, the specks in the granite or stone-like surface materials all fall into the category of structural pattern. Clients who prefer natural presentation of materials often choose structural design.
Naturalistic patterns represent subject matter drawn from nature, such as flowers, leaves, fruits, animals and landscapes. The motif in as realistic as possible. The colors are frequently related to those found in nature. Such designs are typically seen in decorative ceramic tiles, custom painted murals, wall paper patterns or borders and fabrics selected for the kitchen or bathroom space. The patterns led themselves to either formal or informal transitional rooms.
Stylized patterns are drawn from recognized natural sources, but the pattern makes no pretense at actual representation. The themes used are simplified, exaggerated, rearranged or distorted to achieve the purpose of the design. A stencil pattern on the wall in a Pennsylvania farmhouse kitchen is an example of a stylized pattern. Such patterns are also often selected for wallpaper or border choices. Many ceramic tile decorative patterns feature a stylized motif.
Geometric patterns follow mathematically predictable formulas. Circles, triangles, rectangles, stripes, plaids, polka dots and lacy patterns are all based on geometric forms. This type of pattern works extremely well when colors or shapes of the same naturalistic materials are combined. Transitional and modern kitchens and bathrooms, which typically have little applied ornamentation, often showcase geometric patterns.
Abstract patterns are based on geometric form, but also introduce an element of impressionism and artistic freedom. The shapes and patterns are less rigid and formal than the traditional concept of geometric design. Such a pattern may work well along the backsplash, or at a custom hood in kitchens. Bathrooms may feature an abstract pattern within the tub area, shower walls or floor.