The Butterfly in the Room

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Have you ever walked through a butterfly house?  I remember doing it as a child and recently visited the Butterfly Conservatory and The Museum of Natural History.  What a wonderful experience!  Everyone should take some time to enjoy the delicate beauty of these fluttering creatures.  As I slowly walked among the butterflies I was drawn to the amazing patterns on their wings.  I understand that these patterns serve a purpose in nature to attract and/or deceive.  Patterns can help to attract a mate, but they can also help to hide from predators or aid in the capture of prey.   I think of how patterns can impact the design of a room.

The best patterns come from nature.  Think about the popularity of leopard prints, floral designs, grain like textures.  Patterns can bring a room together or they can overwhelm a room.  It’s all about how and where it is used.  As I watched the butterflies I noticed that depending on the open or closed position of their wings, their patterns looked different.  When the butterfly was still, sitting on a branch or leaf, the pattern was subtle.  It was sometimes hard to see the butterfly as it blended into its environment.  On the other hand, when the butterfly was flying, it was bright and magical.  There are some lessons here that apply to interior design.

If there is an exuberant  pattern you like, don’t be afraid to use it – let it complement or add interest to your overall room design, not overpower it.   Imagine a client who loves paisley patterns.  The focal point of their living room is a rather large sofa.  A natural inclination might be to use a paisley fabric to upholster the sofa.  However, this now makes the already large sofa seem even bigger!  My suggestion would be to use the paisley for throw pillows on the sofa or for curtains – especially if the window views are interesting.  By using the pattern  in this manner it will add interest rather than taking over the room.  Your large sofa, in a subdued neutral or texture, is still in the room, but it no longer dominates.   Think of using patterns as the butterfly in the room.  They attract interest and introduce complementary colors.

Sometimes our best design inspirations come from a casual experience.  I highly recommend that everyone take some time as visit the American Museum of Natural History in New York.  I found that you are never too old to enjoy the magic that exists within those walls.

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