No space is truly complete without the addition of a beautiful pattern or two—whether it’s present on pillow covers, curtains, a throw rug, or elsewhere! For maximalists in particular, more patterns are generally better, and mixing and matching different shapes and color schemes is encouraged.
While it may seem like some pattern-happy designers have never met a print they don’t love, there are definitely some looks that the pros have grown a bit weary of over the years. This is only natural, given that styles are constantly emerging and evolving, and certain prints can quite quickly become associated with a particular moment in time and soon appear too trendy. So what prints are no longer making interior designers swoon? We spoke with eight experts who shared the patterns they’re ready to part with, at least for now.
Maybe it’s best to leave brocade pieces to museums and call it a day. Designer Andi Morse said that this intricate pattern, which we often see on Renaissance style furniture, seems “outdated in today’s world.” Why? “The pattern seems heavy and old fashioned,” Morse noted. “There are many that are beautiful, but it’s not my first choice to bring into a space to make it feel fresh and light.”
The simple, playful pattern is a miss for designer Suzan Wemlinger, who finds it to be a bit silly. “To me, someone may choose to use circles in a pattern to try and be ‘whimsical,’ but the reality is that it almost looks childish, or circus-y,” she explained. And the look is an even bigger offender when there are several colors in the mix, she added. It doesn’t matter how informal the space one is decorating—circles just won’t suffice in any scenario, Wemlinger noted. “Even a casual room needs a pattern that has a bit of sophistication, and circles just usually don’t cut it.”
Wemlinger finds these patterns to be “overused” in today’s designs. “I personally am all for a good arabesque—a pattern that has been around for centuries—but the modern version that started popping up seven or eight years ago is often a two-color pattern that is usually a base color with a white shape,” she said. “The trellis pattern, which can be either simple lines or the aforementioned arabesque, has been overdone as well. It’s boring!” But, Wemlinger noted, there is a way to skillfully incorporate these designs into one’s space; the key is that less is more. “Using just a portion of these tired patterns can make a room feel fresh and relevant,” she shared.
Ah, chevron—we all remember using it to deck out our homes and dorm rooms back in 2012. But these days, “it's become basic and not interesting or exciting anymore,” designer Alice Chiu explained. Designer Adnan Anwar agreed. “I’ve been over chevron for some time now, especially when it’s painted on walls or furniture,” he said. “There’s something about it that screams craft project in a juvenile way. It can look very dated or cheap easily. I also find it visually overpowering, making a room feel smaller.” Added designer Maggie Griffin, “Large scale geometrics can begin to feel too Hobby Lobby-like to me, and I tend to lean more toward traditional patterns in homes.”
If you’re not totally over chevron and are longing for something that resembles the look, though, Chiu offered a solution. “I recommend herringbone which is similar to chevron, but has a more modern and inconsistent zig zag pattern, which is visually more appealing and interesting than an inverted seamless zig zag pattern seen in chevron,” she stated. And Anwar agreed that chevron-like elements can look lovely in other contexts. “I love chevron wood floors and appreciate it in doses like decorative boxes, so it really comes down to how you deploy it,” he said.
We saw a lot of damask—particularly in black and white form—in the early 2010s. And while designer Aleah Carr of Mackenzie Collier Interiors hasn’t ruled it out entirely, she does offer some advice for ensuring the look doesn’t appear too dated. “This pattern can definitely add a delicate touch to the space if done correctly,” she explained. “I’d go for a damask that has more detail in it or uses an unconventional motif within the pattern like animals or flowers. Also making sure to use a modern or unexpected colorway guarantees a more timeless look that won’t tire easily.”
The sweet checkered pattern is a preppy pick, and one that we often see on clothing fabrics, but it’s a look that designer Dominique Fluker of DBF Interiors suggested skipping when it comes to the home. “While traditional and simplistic, the pattern seems one dimensional and lacks visual interest, ultimately making the space feel suffocated and stuffy,” she said.
Designer Emma Thayer agreed. “When it comes to its use on fabrics, a simple check has never made a strong impact on me,” she said. “There are far more interesting plaids to take their place, and a houndstooth, or a varied take on this traditional gingham look are easy substitutes.” That said, there is a case to make an exception. “The one place a checkerboard pattern will always shine is on stone or painted wood flooring. If you've been blessed with this timeless design detail, don't rip it out!”