Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A dozen delights from Rebecca Atwood's Living with Pattern

You found this photo on BoHo Home @bohosusan. Living With Pattern is by Rebecca Atwood. Photos by Emily JohnstonAnd yes, of course they’re boho!! Or pretty close. Well, mostly… 

I judge an interior design book by how many practical, usable ideas it gives me. By that measure, this book scores off Boho Susan's chart.

My favorite part was the beginning, in which Atwood tells her own backstory of growing up on Cape Cod and how it informs her interior decorating choices as well as her designs.

Her backstory got me thinking more about my own and why I love pattern in textiles and pottery so much. I’ve concluded I came by it honestly, from my mother, who was always searching the remnant stacks for fabric she might use eventually for clothes for me or herself, draperies, pillows or slipcovers. She sewed the even smaller odds and ends left over from her projects into doll clothes—some for me and some to sell. I hadn't made this connection before. My mom passed in 2010, and this recollection of her brought her back to me.

The last section of the book is full of pattern-related projects—dying, stamping, weaving, decoupaging, and painting—that even all-thumbs Susan may try. Atwood includes suggestions for keeping idea books/sketch notebooks and inspiration/mood boards. Her thoughtful narrative already has me ordering art supplies, which could be a warning sign I'll ignore for now. ;->

In between “story” and “DIY” Atwood has analyzed a myriad of pattern mixes to help you understand what works and why. Here are my 12 favorite photos from the book, along with the nugget of pattern wisdom in each, paraphrased, of course, to match my boho leanings.



1. Go a little wild for transition’s sake


I’m a writer by trade, and even though transition is so important in writing, I never thought much about it in terms of interior design. But I get it now, thanks to the wallcovering in this entry.

You found this photo on BoHo Home @bohosusan. Living With Pattern is by Rebecca Atwood. Photos by Emily Johnston
Emily Johnston photo

Wild and crazy works in a foyer because it’s a small space you don’t spend a lot of time in. But that wild and crazy first look a visitor gets ties together (or not) the other parts of your home, at least subconsciouly. In this example, color is pulled from the wallcovering in vibrant pops from room to room. You can only see into the living room, but take my word for it—er uh, I mean Rebecca’s word—it ties together the entire house. 

It also reminds me so much of the first dress I ever sewed for myself—a wild and crazy, swirling mix of orange, pink and yellow, sewn into a caftan-style mini-dress. I wore hot pink fishnet hose with it, orange and yellow love beads, and hot pink earrings.

I am NOT kidding. I was 11, okay? And it was 1968. That explains a lot, right? My mom—God bless her—never told me it was too loud or suggested something tamer. She let me go my own way with it.

Many years later I felt embarrassed about that dress, and I wrote about it in a writing workshop, as if I had to apologize for it. My essay opened with, “Orange is the color you wear before you learn you’re not supposed to stand out.” And stand out I always did, whether I wanted to or not. Not because I was some great beauty but because I was just always me. A real WYSIWYG. What You See Is What You Get. Get it?

But when I wrote that then read it aloud to the group, I was liberated! I not only let orange back into my life, but I realized I didn’t need to apologize for that dress, my love of color, or even who I am.

See what I just did there in my writing? I told a story and started a conversation as TRANSITION to our next photo and idea, which is…



2. Start a conversation.


Sneaky, huh?


You found this photo on BoHo Home @bohosusan. Living With Pattern is by Rebecca Atwood. Photos by Emily Johnston
Emily Johnston photo

This is definitely a masculine room, and it is, in fact, lived in by a man. But what woman wouldn’t love it? Consider how the tree print on the window treatments converses with the marble print on the throw pillow and the pattern of the worn wood in the rustic coffee table. 

And what about how the blue fireplace tile chats with the rug and the chair? The sofa is the center of attention, of course, but it’s the painting on the mantel that convenes the conference.


3. Incorporate your interests into your interiors.


You found this photo on BoHo Home @bohosusan. Living With Pattern is by Rebecca Atwood. Photos by Emily Johnston
Emily Johnston photo

This living room brings together a mixture of styles that appeal to this homeowner—Danish modern, British colonial/West Indies plantation, safari style, Southwestern Americana, surfer style and vintage campy. 

Too much? Maybe for some, but you can’t argue that it works, especially if these are the things that make this homeowner happy.

I feel more courageous after reading this!


4. It’s okay to break it up. In fact, it's encouraged!


You found this photo on BoHo Home @bohosusan. Living With Pattern is by Rebecca Atwood. Photos by Emily Johnston
Emily Johnston photo

I love how the homeowner has layered art over the map for an easy update. Does it look too haphazard to you? I think it looks alive.


5. Quirky works. 


You found this photo on BoHo Home @bohosusan. Living With Pattern is by Rebecca Atwood. Photos by Emily Johnston
Emily Johnston photos

I love the Fulani hat in the larger photo and the African baskets in the smaller one. And the pairing with pink velvet and quilts (low and high) makes the room more interesting, don’t you think?

We are, after all, big messy patchworks in the gi-normous quilting bee called life.


6. Make artwork a focus, and go big and colorful. 


You found this photo on BoHo Home @bohosusan. Living With Pattern is by Rebecca Atwood. Photos by Emily Johnston
Emily Johnston photo

Oh, if I only had that orange, pink and yellow caftan, I could hang it in my dining room. Think how cool it would look hanging from a dowel rod placed through the arms, like a kimono! It sure would say...

SUSAN. At 11. 1968. No apologies.


7. Lay a good foundation. 


You found this photo on BoHo Home @bohosusan. Living With Pattern is by Rebecca Atwood. Photos by Emily Johnston
Emily Johnston photo

Here the wallcovering is the foundation that allows this dining room to be dressed up for formal occasions but still feel relaxed for everyday use. The owner took her cue from the view, which we unfortunately can’t see. But it’s a river view, and the wallcovering seems to ebb and flow in rhythm to it. Dreamy, isn’t it? 

I also love the pattern added by the embossed brass platter, the delicately curved chair backs, the chevron vase, and the matte-black pendants with their differently-shaped shades. 


8. Bring nature inside.


You found this photo on BoHo Home @bohosusan. Living With Pattern is by Rebecca Atwood. Photos by Emily Johnston
Emily Johnston photo

I have some serious envy over the huge cactus on this dining room table. I wonder what Dr. Freud would make of it?

Me? I’m thinking my fascination has more to do with trying to grow cacti outside in Indiana’s mucky summers and winter them over inside in its never-ending gray winters.

That said, plants and other natural materials do add pattern. Consider shells, sticks, tree branches, feathers, fruit, even vegetables! I love a platter of pomegranates and artichokes at Christmas. They don’t look so cliché, and they dry relatively well, holding their color long enough to carry you into the new year.


9. Faux nature works too.


You found this photo on BoHo Home @bohosusan. Living With Pattern is by Rebecca Atwood. Photos by Emily Johnston
Emily Johnston photo

No green thumb? No problem!

I don’t usually like faux bois, but I gotta say this wing chair really kicks it. And since vintage animal skins are a bit out of park for most budgets (not to mention kinda creepy), animal prints do the trick without the loss of any life.


10. Create spaces to think in. 


You found this photo on BoHo Home @bohosusan. Living With Pattern is by Rebecca Atwood. Photos by Emily Johnston
Emily Johnston photos

And don't stop with an inspiration BOARD. Do what this homeowner did and create an inspiration ROOM. Pattern is a tonic that can inspire, provide visual stimulation AND comfort.

Now I can stop worrying about the conglomeration of stuff I love that I’ve layered into my home office. That’s MY creative space!


11. Don’t let your sofa pillows have all the fun. 


You found this photo on BoHo Home @bohosusan. Living With Pattern is by Rebecca Atwood. Photos by Emily Johnston
Emily Johnston photo

Go for broke and give your neutral sofa a mini-reupholstering. Here the homeowner has tucked a rug in one pattern around seat cushions and a quilt in another pattern around back cushions. The pillow and ottoman patterns jazz up the conversation, but think how dull they would have been on their own.

This is one thing I’ve already tried in a modified version! Check out my cat-proof kantha-quilt sofa HERE.


12. Mix it up on a finite level.


You found this photo on BoHo Home @bohosusan. Living With Pattern is by Rebecca Atwood. Photos by Emily Johnston
Emily Johnston photo

In this bedroom, the bottom sheet is different from the top sheet, which is different from the pillowslips. Plus there’s additional pattern in the rug, bedskirt, duvet, throw, curtain panels, headboard and art.

And it still works, besides looking EXTRA homey and inviting.

This idea of breaking up the sheet set marries my inner pattern-lover to my inner bargain-hunter. Just think of all those marked-down, mismatched sheets and pillowcases you can now provide a home for! I love it.


I’ve merely scratched the surface of all that’s packed into this book, but… 


You’ll have to discover the rest on your own 'cause I’m heading over to ebay to track some vintage and ethnic fabrics I want to start collecting. And my art supplies arrive tomorrow. And I’ve got some batik blouses I don’t wear anymore that would make great pillows or a quilt. And I gotta work on my Etsy shop...and...and...and...


If you want more…

  • Learn about Rebecca’s designs and shop her products at Rebecca Atwood Design
  • Follow her on Instagram. 
  • See how she does what she does in this Apartment Therapy maker video. 
  • Use the affiliate link below to get Rebecca's book for your very own.
  • Don’t miss a day of BoHo Home! Follow my blog with Bloglovin or get to-your-inbox posts when you sign up through one of the email subscriber services listed at the bottom of this page.


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