How to Decorate With Stripes

striped pillows used as decor

Trinette Reed / Stocksy

Whether you use them in a traditional way or in a totally modern and contemporary way, decorating with stripes is a great way to get a "decorator" look and bring some order to your space. They have the power to reshape a room depending on how they're used, and they add a crisp, polished element to a space. Best of all, stripes mix beautifully with solids, florals, and other patterns meaning they can be used just about anywhere.

One of the best things about stripes is that they're versatile. They can be elegant when they're tone-on-tone, or wild when they're bright and bold; classic when the stripes are the same width, and modern when they're all different.

Where to Use

Stripes work anywhere and everywhere. Here are just a few places:

  • Walls
  • Pillows
  • Rugs
  • Lampshades
  • Ceilings
  • Window treatments
  • Dishes
  • Bedding

Vertical vs. Horizontal

Traditionally, vertical stripes have been a common way to go. They create the illusion of height thus making ceilings appear higher than they truly are. A tone-on-tone color scheme (like cream with white, or a matte and glossy version of the same color) creates a soft look that is classic and beautiful. As colors become more contrasted the look gets more powerful.

Horizontal stripes are a little edgier and modern than vertical stripes. They make rooms feel wider and can elongate spaces. Horizontal stripes are also often considered more playful—when used in a variety of colors and widths, they feel bold, fun, and fresh.

Decorating Tips

  • Avoid using colors that clash. Stripes are graphic enough on their own to create impact, so it's important to use colors that either contrast or come from the same color family (depending on what look you're going for). Clashing colors like orange and purple or red and pink will look cluttered and distracted rather than graphic and punchy.
  • Use strong colors in small areas. If you're afraid to commit to a large space, a foyer or a powder room is a great place to experiment. People tend not to stay long in these spaces so the look doesn't become tiresome or overwhelming.
  • Be sure to counteract stripes with less busy design elements. If you have striped walls, solid furnishings are probably the way to go. If you have striped throw pillows, add a couple of solids and dainty florals between them. The effect is cohesive, but it also gives your eyes a place to rest.
  • When decorating with stripes consider the size of the room. The larger the room, the wider the stripes should be (when used on walls). Thin stripes can look too cluttered in a large room, while wide stripes can lose their impact in a small space.
  • Subtle techniques like alternating flat and glossy stripes can add perceived depth and dimension to a room without being overly bold or confrontational. They are elegant and classic and work well in traditional spaces.
  • Mixing wide and skinny horizontal stripes work really well on the walls of rec rooms and children's rooms. They create a very playful look.
  • Floors are terrific places to include stripes. Striped area rugs add a great graphic element. If you don't want a large area covered, try a runner, a doormat, or layer a small area rug over another existing rug.
  • If you're nervous about decorating with stripes, start small. Including a striped vase, lampshade, or another decorative element can be a super way to introduce the pattern into a room.

Wall Treatments

If you want striped walls there are two ways to get them. You can either use wallpaper like the one in the photo from Graham and Brown, or you can paint. Painting stripes takes a little elbow grease, but it's not difficult. All it costs is the price of the paint and a few rolls of painter's tape. Plus, if you eventually get tired of it it's easy to paint over. If an entire room seems like too much, try painting a feature wall.

Stripes have been described as the "neutral" of the pattern world. They can be incorporated into any style or size of the room. They can be used in large doses or small, and they can work with just about anything. If you want to add some pattern to a room but you're unsure of where to start, stripes are always a safe bet.

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