How A Small Pattern Will Impact Your Overall Design Plan / Scheme


When examining samples of fabrics or tile or any type of finishes for a room, it’s natural to want to look at them up close. After all…

Samples are small. A piece of fabric or mosaic tile pattern can sometimes measure in at around 3” x 3”.

People closely examine large samples, too. They’ll zoom in on its tiny bits of color and then focus on either matching that, or they’ll build an entire color scheme around it.



When a pattern of small scale appears on a piece of furniture, drapery, walls, a backsplash, or any of the many other places it could be featured, it could, quite possibly, appear to fade a bit, making it read like a texture, or maybe even a completely different color altogether.

And if you examine a small pattern from a distance (especially it it’s not a high contrast pattern, like black and white), its detail tends to blend together. It’s more about the overall look as opposed to the individual colors within the pattern.


You can really wreck a design plan if you’re thinking a single color within a small pattern will stand out or marry itself to other colors or fabrics in a room.

Rule of thumb:

When collecting pattern samples, try to only get the largest size available. And when you’re evaluating them, make sure you’re looking at them from a distance.

Once you’re standing a good distance away, ask yourself…

  • How does this pattern truly read?
  • Is the color I’m trying to pull out easy to see? If not…
  • Does the color blend in with the background? Or…
  • Does it read like a completely different color?

Oh, and btw: When buying products with small patterns online, get swatches first!


While a small pattern can be a vital part of any design, it’s important to understand their primary purpose; that purpose being…

To support the primary visual focus of the room.

And you can make sure it does just that by always remembering to stand a healthy distance away from your small pattern as you examine how it reads within the context of the entire room. In other words…

Look at what you have from the vantage point in which it will actually be seen.


Small Patterns With Big Impact!

See how this black and white houndstooth pattern looks grey from a distance?

Chair; small pattern; pug | Image source: Ralph Lauren Home


Ralph Lauren Home

Here, the overall pattern color works well with the paint colors selected:

Kitchen; backsplash pattern; cabinetry| Interior Design -er: Sarah Richardson


Sarah Richardson


Country Living

This is a bold, large scaled pattern with very distinctive colors:

Chair; ikat pattern | Image source: Calico Corners


Calico Corners

Notice here how the narrow stripes of the ticking make the fabric appear, overall, more gray, as opposed to the black and white it really is:

stripe pattern; chair; lamp; decorative pillow| Image source: Southern Living


Laurey W. Glenn


Here you can see that the larger the pattern the more distinct its colors become:

chair; stripe pattern| Image source: Home Edit


Here, tiny red and white patterns appear pink when viewed at a distance:

Bedroom; bed; decorative pillow; lamp; curtains| Image source: Country Living


Bathroom; bathtub; red| Image source: Apartment Therapy





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