Tips and Tricks for Adding Stripes Around Your Home

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Cole & Son, Ian Mankin, Weaver Green

Stripes are a deceptively versatile tool in your design arsenal, establishing your color scheme, providing clever visual effects to widen or lengthen a room, and adding a touch of visual interest to a space. And while they require a bit more consideration than a more subtle floral, for example, they can make a bigger design statement.

To answer some design questions about using stripes in the home, here are some essential starting points:

  • Vertical stripes make rooms look taller and ceilings look higher – great for wallpaper or as a clever paint effect
  • Horizontal stripes make a space appear wider, but it’s usually not a good idea to use this trick in narrow hallways, opt instead for vertical stripes that guide the eye forward
  • Generally speaking, the larger your space, the wider your strip should be. Wide stripes lose their impact in small spaces, while narrow stripes can be overwhelming in large rooms. One solution is to mix wide and narrow stripes (more on this below.)
  • Stripes can be successfully mixed with other patterns, but try to offset the strict, geometric nature of stripes with softer, more organic patterns.
  • Always take note of the repeat if using striped wallpaper or upholstery, you want to avoid poorly joined corners or seams.
  • It’s usually wise to use a single color plus white in your stripe, or two colors from the same family like a pale blue and a navy blue. The stripes are graphic enough without adding two bright colors on top.
  • Dense stripes are notorious for hiding scuffs and stains, so consider them for the high-traffic areas of your home.

    Below, we review different ways to use stripes successfully in your home, as well as some of our favorite striped household items and furniture to start on a small scale.


    Striped wallpaper

    how to decorate with stripes

    Striped wallpaper is a popular design feature because it’s so effective at making ceilings appear higher.

    It’s usually beneficial to use a detailed stripe in the wallpaper – much like this Oxford Stripe design by Ian Mankin – which features stripes of different weights or even colors. An entire wall of pinstripes can be overwhelming to the eyes, while an abundance of wide, bold stripes is a little too reminiscent of a stick of rock or a fairground carousel. A mixture of the two makes for a happier medium.

    For the daring decorator, mixing stripes with contrasting patterns is a little easier to achieve than you might imagine. We generally recommend using a soft pattern without harsh geometric edges – flowers or plants are a great choice – in a matching color. Here, the cheerful blue of Cole & Son’s Polo Stripe wallpaper matches the tropical walls, but a white would work just as well.

    Scratches in furniture and accessories

    how to decorate with stripes

    If an all-over stripe is a little intimidating, weave stripes into your furniture and accessories instead.

    For a striped sofa, this is the color that will have the most impact. A blue and white striped couch is immediately nautical, while pink and white cotton candy has an element of whimsy. Also consider that stripes are most often used on more traditional styles — on sofas with plump rolled arms and high backs, or wingback dining chairs with upholstered seats, rather than anything that’s elegant or contemporary.

    Striped homewares are having a moment thanks to the proliferation of vintage markets. You can find large candy striped throw pillows with ruffles and hand painted table lamps with striped shades.

    Striped parquet

    how to decorate with stripes

    Using stripes on your floors can be considered more of a design tool than a style statement. In the same way that striped wallpaper will make your ceilings higher, a striped rug will make a room appear wider or longer depending on its location.

    The key to the success of striped rugs is sensitivity to color combinations. With a striped rug, your whole room can be styled from the ground up, taking tones and integrating them into your larger design scheme.

    On a smaller scale, striped rugs are a very effective way to change the outlook of your home, adding the hint of extra depth or space. A clever design effect is to place a runner in front of a window or patio doors to create a visual tunnel to the views beyond.

    Stripes in the bedroom

    how to decorate with stripes

    Ambience is a priority in a bedroom, so unless you have a particularly cramped space that could benefit from some clever optical tricks with striped wallpaper or flooring, use stripes sparingly.

    We are fans of Weaver Green’s selection of striped upholstery fabrics that use soft colors so as not to appear overwhelming. They have sets of matching cushions and throws to mimic the effect shown here.

    And this clever striped and framed headboard can be replicated in your own home. For something a little easier to pull off, hang some ticking fabric from a curtain rod behind your bed to create a towering headboard (see how it’s done in this gorgeous flower bedroom.)

    Stripes in the garden

    how to decorate with stripes

    Stripes in the garden are reminiscent of a British funfair or seaside resort, which is reason enough to use them. There are plenty of bright striped umbrellas in candy pinks and blues – we love this olive green version from Rose & Gray – plus plenty of striped outdoor cushions and lounge chairs.

    There really are no rules for using stripes in your garden, just consider the scale of your stripes in this case – your large parasols and gazebos can take wide stripes, smaller chairs, cushions and rugs outdoor jackets do best with pinstripes.

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