Christmas is over – happy 2014 – and I’m now starting to think about putting all the decorations away and getting on with ‘the new year.’ But I’m still not quite ready to say goodbye to the flowers I used to decorate my table and mantlepiece!
For me the fresh flowers I use (and I include my Christmas wreath in that) are the centrepiece of my festive decorations. I think it harks back to the fact that my grandmother always used to have flowers in her house. They smelled beautiful and I imagine that’s why I’ve often thought that a house feels just a little bit unloved without a vase of flowers. Even a single bud or flower adds its magic and at this time of the year, when it is dark early and the weather is grim, I like to take the time to appreciate just how divine something fresh and delicate looks sitting in my front room.
Given that they bring so much pleasure, I wonder why flowers are often considered simply something for special occasions? Of course they enhance a celebration – but why stop there? Why not add a touch of nature to your every day environment? The freshness of a bouquet (even those from the supermarket) as you place the blooms in a vase is uplifting and because they don’t last long your pleasure is all about that moment, that particular season and that specific flower. In a way that small gesture is about the wider world we live in, those flowers are like a visitor to your home. They bring with them a greeting from the outdoors, they fleetingly open our eyes to what is happening outside and beyond our world of work and school runs.
This connection is something that wallpaper and fabric designers have long understood. We need a dose of the outdoors to feel balanced. Introducing a floral aspect to your interior will subconsciously allow you to relax, to breathe ‘fresh air’ and to ground your decorative schemes with nature. Even the most ardent minimalists would agree that fresh flowers add visual impact to their homes! A patterned wallpaper used cleverly does the same thing.
So why are we nervous to use pattern if there is so much to be gained from introducing a natural element to our homes? As I’ve been investigating today, I think I’ve come up with a theory. The big furnishing companies like Designers Guild and Osborne and Little advertise their collections on a grand scale. The room sets are vast and the furniture is almost dwarfed by palatial surroundings, the lighting is dramatic and theatrical which doesn’t feel aspirational – only intimidating. It’s hard to visualise how this type of styling will work in our own homes and into this void of not being able to see what our homes will look like when a different style is introduced, comes the fear of trying something new.
There doesn’t seem to a stepping on point for someone who wants ideas but doesn’t want to make expensive mistakes – unless you consider the room sets at Ikea, which again are limited by colour palette and styling. (But first let me say there are many fantastic ideas to be taken from Ikea. Many of their individual items are well designed, clever pieces that make a statement and on their own, create a focal point – but used en masse, the impact is lost.) And this leads me to the opposite end of the decorating spectrum Homebase and Brewers, who somehow create such a bland environment (even though Brewer’s do stock fabrics and wallpapers from the above brands) that decorating your own home simply doesn’t give you any sense of excitement. Why would you even bother, if the end result isn’t going to excite you?
And that’s my point. We’re all savvy consumers these days. We have an interest in making our homes comfortable and we’re prepared to make the effort to instil personality into them. In doing so, we go through upheaval and uncertainty. To experience that – and still not know if what we’re going to achieve is what we want – we have to feel confident that the ‘journey’ is worth it. With a sense of nervousness and doubt about our own taste, we settle for decorating ideas that are safe and not a true reflection of what we actually want our homes to look like – we end up disappointed with the results. If the images portrayed by the ‘home design’ companies alienate us – because they’re either too aspirational to be real or they use sales figures to guide the style of their home decor collections (they only stock what they know will sell to the largest market) – we are simply settling for someone else’s idea of who we are. How frustrating – how boring.
And being prepared to use a floral wallpaper or fabric is going to give us a better sense of who we are?? Well, actually YES. The human eye loves pattern. It loves to follow lines and curves and to connect them up, to see new pattern within the print. It is the same thing that we do when looking at clouds. We look for shapes and images that we can relate to, something from nature that reflects our human-ness. Introducing even a small touch of nature as a permanent feature of our home decor does the same thing. And it doesn’t have to be overwhelming – though I am a fan of statement wallpaper!
Using a floral motif as a backdrop doesn’t limit a scheme and neither does it ‘date’ it. The images above all have contemporary or mid-century pieces of furniture, they’re family friendly and individual. Because they have a patterned element, they are relaxed and ‘down-to-earth’ – pattern is great for hiding wear and tear. In that sense, it is very easy to live with and the other features such as paint colour can be changed to inject new life – even adding a feeling of drama can have a playful side to it.
So, let’s start this new year being bold and taking a few chances with how we want our homes to look. Pattern is about expression and vibrancy. It enhances a simple scheme and increases the usability of a room. Like nature, pattern isn’t something to be afraid of, use it to make you feel good, be empowered by flowers. Happy 2014.
wallpaper sample images – osborne and little
roomset images – sandberg