Graphic Design: Decorating With Geometrics

Whether you passed geometry class or not, decorating with geometric shapes is an easy A. Here's how interior designers do it, and how you can incorporate them into your home.
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November 25, 2014
By: Jessica Cumberbatch Anderson
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Photo By: Carlos Domenech

Geometry 101

Not all geometrics are created equal, and designers have found that some are easier to incorporate into your decor, as well as more transitional over time. Their go-to prints include, hexagons, diamonds, stripes and the Greek key pattern. Photo courtesy of Mary McGee

Start Small

Little flourishes go a long way when it comes to geometric shapes. Use bold prints in small doses, such as throw pillows for your sofa, a geometric carpet, which also hides wear and tear, or on the cushion of a side chair. But if you do one, don't do the other, says Los Angeles designer Mary McGee, who kept this all-white living room refined and calm, while adding visual interest in the form of zebra- and lattice-print pillows.

Keep Your Balance

A common trick of the trade is to juxtapose modern shapes with more classic ones — which is what Dallas-based designer Elaine Williamson did when she chose these mod, Jonathan Adler fixtures to counterbalance the elegant sophistication of a bathroom's carrera marble countertops. The mirror works as a mix between the two styles — mod with sophisticated lines.

Color Coordinate

Designers agree that color is critical when incorporating geometric prints into your decor. Their best advice: choose one that weaves through all of the patterns in a room. "The reason that these geometrics work well together is due in part to the fact that they're kept in the same subtle color family, so as not to compete with one another," designer Julie Massucco says of the rug and woodworking her firm Massucco Warner Miller chose for this master dressing room. Design by Melissa Warner

Show Your Soft Side

"To ensure your patterns don't become too harsh or rigid, remember to add patterns with curves, such as concentric circles or waves, to patterns that are more structured, such as chevrons," Elaine Williamson says. She does it in this small living room by using a curvy zebra rug and circle-like honeycomb pillow to offset the sharp diamond pattern on the wall.

Size Things Up

"Scale is the most important part to keep in mind when introducing a geometric, or really any pattern, into a room," says New York designer Elizabeth Bauer. If you pair, say, a large pillow pattern with a small one, the larger pattern will certainly overshadow the small. An easy rule of thumb: pair geometric shapes with the next largest or smallest pattern, like Bauer does here, matching the large stripes in a vintage print with slightly smaller ones in a pair of chevron stools.

Stay Neutral

This tiny powder room, designed by San Francisco-based Niche Interiors, is a study in bold design. Principle designer Jennifer Jones used a slightly metallic ogee trellis wallpaper to give the space an element of surprise. When working with this much pattern, however, you'll want the palette and other elements to remain neutral. "It works because we kept the rest of the bathroom neutral — white moldings, wood floor and a mirror to tie it all together," she says.

Ground Your Graphics

Bold prints may win your attention when you enter a room, but your eyes inevitably need a place to rest. Create a few spots in between using solid color. They'll help ground the geometric patterns and keep it from feeling overly busy, like in this tiled kid's room created by Miami designer Deborah Wecselman.

Advanced Geometry

Ready to take your geometric game to another level? Layer it on with other patterns, says Chicago designer Summer Thornton. "I'm a huge fan of layering patterns, but it does take some practice," she says. Blending and layering adds depth, as in the case of this floral window treatment and graphic pillow combo Thornton used in her own home. Plus, it's much softer and easier on the eyes than two geometric patterns paired together, she says. Thornton's trick for making sure two patterns are complementary, "Imagine the pattern in black and white. How much contrast would the pattern have? Is it entirely mid-range or lots of very deep saturated colors contrasted against bright white? When layering, look for some of each."

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