How To Combine Pattern, Colour And Print In Interior Design, with Penny Morrison

It takes skill to design a beautiful room combining pattern, colour and print. If you are unsure about how to balance pattern, colour and print in interior design, consider beginning with a simple scheme and adding accessories – from cushions, and throws to art prints – with a similar intensity or undertone of colour. Another option is to select a focal point to lift a neutral or primary-colour design scheme, such as a patterned rug or sofa. The rule is, that if you are introducing more than one pattern it is best to stick with similar tones so there is a link between the different elements in the room. Scale is important as well: one large pattern rather than many, mixed with smaller prints can work well. Colour palettes can be neutral or pastel for a sophisticated look. None of these rules, however, necessarily apply to Penny Morrison’s master class in interior design style. We asked Penny to reveal her successful formula for combining pattern, colour and print.

penny morrison living room image_Mike Garlick Photography

You seem to effortlessly combine patterns in interior design projects; how do you do this so successfully?

Rooms needs personality and pattern is a great way to add this. There are no rules for designing with pattern. I think the whole idea of the mix and match look of earlier decorating has evolved as decorators have become braver about creating an eclectic look, mixing different periods of furniture, other decorative objects and paintings and a variety of patterns and textures in fabrics. Life is full of fun and colour so combining patterns really is just an extension of this.

Generally, if trying to create a calm atmosphere, it is best to do upholstery in plain colours or muted small prints and then have larger, bolder patterns on cushions, an ottoman or just one or two small chairs – it depends on the size of the room, the number of items that require fabric and the client’s confidence.

How do you decide on a colour palette for a room?

Natural light probably plays the most significant part in choosing a colour palette. You do not necessarily have to paint a dark room a light colour though. You might want to accentuate the fact that there is not much natural light; for example, in a basement, a rich, dark colour in a high gloss finish that reflects the artificial lighting looks very chic.

penny morrison dining room

Where do you add texture to an interior?

Upholstery is a great way to add texture. Floaty linens work very well for curtains and relaxed-looking loose covers, whereas weaves and richer textured velvets can add more formality. Rugs are another way of adding texture and softening a room aesthetically as well as softening a room’s acoustics.

penny morrison interior

How do you weave accessories into interior design?

A room is not complete without accessories, so they are integral to interior design. Rugs, lamps and lampshades can add colour, pattern, texture as well as being purely functional. Art, artefacts and ‘objets’ build an additional layer of interest and character in a room.

penny morrison bedroom image_Mike Garlick Photography

Does the same colour scheme run throughout the properties you design, or is there another common thread?

I don’t start out with this intention as every room has its own identity, but I sometimes build schemes for a whole property on a big board and it is funny how the palettes naturally seem to end up linking together.

penny morrison interior design

When is wallpaper preferable to paint for interiors?

Wallpaper adds a layer of texture or pattern to a room and I use it as often as possible! It is more interesting than paint and can make a feature of any space. I love using it in bathrooms as these rooms can often be slightly forgotten or a bit boring in their design.

Sarah Vanrenen’s Aspa wallpaper in Penny Morrison’s bathroom
Pictured: Sarah Vanrenen’s Aspa wallpaper in Penny Morrison’s bathroom.

How did your collaboration with Sarah Vanrenen come about?

She is my daughter! She is also a fantastic designer, and our collections complement each other really well.

What is the inspiration behind your fabric and wallpaper collections?

I originally started my collection when I was struggling to find fun, printed, floppy linens for a project I was working on in the Caribbean. I have always been inspired by block prints from India as well as old fabric documents. That said, I am continually inspired by patterns and colours that I find on my travels around the world.

penny morrison bedroom design

Why did you create your own range of accessories?

I like to be able to sell pieces and that I have found and share unique craftsmanship from around the world with a new audience. We feel very lucky to have been able to support small and local artisans from around the globe throughout the pandemic.

Secondly, as we are taking on more interior design jobs, we can see where there are gaps in the market for items that we are sourcing for our own projects.

penny morrison wallpaper

Penny Morrison is one of the world’s leading interior designers, known for artful blending of pattern, colour and print in interior design. The Penny Morrison accessories range, inspired by Penny’s travels worldwide, incorporates lighting, tableware, rugs, cushions, waste bins and gifts. Decorative accessories, fabrics and wallpapers are on display and available from The Fabric Collective, 9 Langton Street, Chelsea, London SW10 0JL.

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