Designer's Q&A: John Robshaw on "The power of pattern and color!"

Designer John Robshaw's fabric designs and home collections have been described as exotic and romantic, but he'll tell you that his world is all about eclectic comfort.

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  • Layer. Different colors, different cultural influences, different patterns; they can all work together if you layer them right. Bedding is a great place to experiment, Robshaw says, because it offers so many planes (the side view, the top view) and a huge surface, so it has a big impact in the room. Get a lot of stuff together so you have plenty to work with, the designer suggests – sheets, quilt, throw, shams and duvet – then edit, adding new things, taking away old. "I love to make all the prints and designs then see what people do with it," Robshaw says. Buyers, decorators and customers often mix Robshaw’s textiles up in "combinations I would never think of," he says. "It’s like fashion, some people can wear some crazy vintage piece and some new thing and pull it off so that it works."

  • Be whimsical. Robshaw’s new collection includes "crazy hand-painted birds on linen" and "crazy woven Bolivian tribal pillows." His baby bedding line includes bright green parrots with red beaks dancing across a cream background; another line, "Pichhwai," inspired by intricate Indian paintings of Lord Krishna, features pink trees and blue-domed palaces.

  • Make small mistakes. Many large home furnishings retailers feature similar color palettes (beige, black, burgundy), textiles and shapes. Big retailers can’t "go out on skinny branches" with offbeat colors or patterns, Robshaw says, because they have to order 10,000 units and are stuck if they don’t sell. "We can do a crazy design because we only make a hundred." Similarly, you may not want to go out on a limb by purchasing a new sofa in shades of hot pink and Kelly green, but you could buy a duvet cover or quilt in those colors and see how you like living with them.

    Kathy McCleary is a frequent contributor to She lives and writes in Falls Church, Virginia. Read more of her articles here.

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