Plain vs. Pattern: What To Choose And When To Use Them

It’s no secret that specific eras and styles lean toward plain materials or patterned fabric. When we think of more unadorned textiles, we envision California’s coastal and 80s or 90s modern. As for patterned fabrics, well, the list is endless! Think about Marie Antoinette or more traditional Southern styles. Both provide a visual of multiple layers of patterned fabric.

Some may consider this style fussy or overdone, but we appreciate all design styles, old and new! 

Trends come and go, but our love of textiles is forever. Whether you’re a fan of large prints or tend to go for pattern-free fabrics, I’m going to give you some ideas of how to work each into your project. Mixing and matching is probably our favorite, but if you’re starting with one, here are a few things to consider…


I couldn’t help but start by talking about patterns because it’s misunderstood as an element in interior design. There’s a strong history connected to pattern-making, and can make us nostalgic for another time. 

When you visit older family members’ homes, do they have patterns in their upholstery? Some may consider this outdated, but there’s a beauty and history that goes along with this design element.

At one point in time, someone designed that floral motif or diamond pattern. Then we copied it, again and again until we were all a bit overwhelmed. Many people still embrace this design aesthetic, while others prefer a simpler interior style. Many people grew up around many patterns and are afraid to dip their toes into the world of printed upholstery for fear of looking outdated.

We’re here to do a little myth-busting and show you why you might want to reconsider your stance on patterns.

Pros to using patterned fabric for your next DIY project:

  • Your project will stand out among the rest of your home decor.
  • The inside of your house will be unique to you and your taste.
  • The pattern opens up more opportunities for color.
  • Stains are easy to hide. 
  • Mixing and matching patterns is playful and fun.
  • Your home will have more personality and depth. 

Where to use pattern for your next DIY project or home decor refresh:

  • Consider starting with smaller surfaces such as a pillow or seat cushion.
  • Pick a pattern that is in a color palette you already have in your home. If you choose a fabric with a different colorway, it will be challenging to blend with your current interior.
  • Are you thinking of going bold and recovering a large piece of furniture in a patterned material? Consider which direction you’d like the material to go, and be sure to recover each piece going in that same direction. 

Plain Fabric

There’s something so comfortable and soothing to the eye about plain fabric. Somehow it feels cleaner and more zen all at the same time. The beauty of a simple material is that there is still room to have fun selecting the textile material, whether it be cotton, linen, or leather. You can have fun with these options to add personality to your project.

Some of our favorite upholstery projects are those that allow the material to shine through. A plain design on an interesting textile is just as attractive to the eye. Just because your DIY is going to be one color doesn’t mean that it will fall flat. Leather adds texture and shine, while linens add a certain softness.

When it comes to your next home decor project, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Pros to using plain materials for your next DIY:

  • Simple materials are easy on the eye and make us feel relaxed or calm.
  • Letting one color be the star of the show adds thoughtful drama.
  • You can still create pops of color while using plain fabric. Just be sure to spread the love around so your home feels balanced.
  • Have fun with the material! Let’s say you’ve had your heart set on a cobalt blue chair…search all materials based on that preference and consider your options outside of standard cotton material. No offense, cotton, we love you!
  • Our tastes change over time, and having fewer stylized elements within our home make it easier to transition from one home decor taste to the next. 

Where to use a plain fabric for your next DIY or home decor refresh:

  • Larger upholstery projects are easier to visualize when using plain material. Think sofas, curtains, bedding, etc. 
  • If you’re someone who wants the attention to be on your art, decor, or sweet family photos hanging on the walls, go for a simpler fabric! We don’t want anything competing with the focal point of your space.
  • Not drawn to any particular style? Think of plain fabrics as neutral in the world of upholstery, and don’t lean toward any specific design aesthetic. 
  • Working on a project that will be in a gathering space, guest space, or high-traffic area? Larger spaces with more surface area are a great place to add a lot of plain textiles. A lot of people gathered together with a lot of patterns surrounding them can be overwhelming to the senses.
  • Already have a home full of patterns? Add in some plain fabric!

Pattern Play

Suppose you’re probably a fan of both pattern and plain textiles. So how do we bring them together in our space?

Take a look at what you already have at home. Do you currently lean more towards one or the other? Is this a balance you’re happy with? 

Having this information will be valuable as you begin to add and make changes to your space. Maintain a balance (or none) that feels right for you and your project! 

Ways to blend both plain and pattern textiles:

  • Keep in mind that you want each space in your home to strike a similar balance. It can be off-putting if one room is 80% patterned fabric while the next has none. Make sure your project will bring you closer to your desired mix of plain and patterned.
  • As we’ve shared before, if you’re getting started on mixing, add small amounts of pattern at a time until you’ve reached your desired outcome.
  • Take note of your design inspiration. If your favorite designers use a 50/50 mix of plain and patterned materials, use this as a touchpoint when planning your next DIY.

Mix It Up

Were you looking to go 100% plain OR patterned fabric? We love to hear it! Whether you’re a fan of simple, zen spaces or prefer pattern-on-pattern, we hope you follow your inspiration while working on your next project!

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