Designing in Small Spaces: Scale and Pattern in Wall Coverings

Mike's kitchen.jpg

So, you are ready to design walls in a small space. There are plenty of considerations: color, tone, pattern, texture and of course, scale. People often feel limited in their wall options for, say, a powder room.  Take this opportunity to get creative. For one thing, the size of the room will certainly be more forgiving than many rooms with regard to cost per square foot.  With that in mind, why not consider that bold wallpaper you saw in a design magazine or the matte finish patterned porcelain tile you've dreamed of.  This is a space to go for it. Don't be intimidated. Pattern (and/or texture) on walls does not have to look overly "busy".  Tone on tone is one stylish way to exercise clean pattern and dimension without creating something that looks manic. Remember, this is not your grandmother's powder room. 

In an undated article from Better Homes & Gardens called, 20 Small House Dos & Don'ts - Short on square footage? Don't despair. Follow this advice for maximizing a minimal space, the author writes, “DON'T Overwhelm with a lot of patterns. "I like my home to be peaceful and serene, so I chose a quiet palette," Sheila says. "If it weren't for my cat, who likes to lie on the furniture, I'd have all white upholstery. Sage green is the next best thing."” While not perhaps the most cutting-edge article on the topic, the sentiments show that opinions on this topic wax and wane.

In another article, The Case for Using Pattern in Small Spaces, (April 2012 - Apartment Therapy), “It seems like the last thing you want to do: add a bunch of busy visual clutter by way of bringing pattern into your limited-in-square-feet place. But believe us when we say that sort of thinking will lead to a potentially boring, tiny space. To have a small space really shine, we argue on the side of pattern, always!”

Keep in mind that the wall covering material itself, dictates whether you will be covering all or just some of the walls.  I am not a fan of what most people historically think of as an accent wall. However, time and technology have also redefined that. Where a patterned paper may be right for all the wall surfaces, a strong matte-finished 3D tile with geometric patterning may be overwhelming on more than a single wall.  Additionally, a woven hardwood covering is a gorgeous, but strong look that carries a lot of "presence".  In other words, regarding whether less is more, sometimes it really is. A good designer will translate that for their client.

In considering any pattern on walls, it is a common misconception that small spaces require small pattern and scale.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Large scale pattern delivers considerably more wow factor in this case. The larger the pattern, the less the repeat of the pattern.  It creates a more dramatic look. In conjunction with this, consider darker wall colors as an option.  Another misconception is that small space must be as bright as possible.  Dark rich colors can evoke a comfortable, cozy feeling in a small space that subconsciously makes people want to be in that room.

Whatever your decision, technology has afforded us endless possibilities beyond paint.  Step outside a traditional approach and bring your own unique point of view to your walls.

By: Michael Feeley

Image 1 - Mike's Kitchen by Michael Feeley, used by permission from the artists.