Pattern perfect

Pattern perfect

Daring decor trends for this summer and beyond. By Tess Paterson


Botanical boho

Few things say ‘I’m on holiday’ like a botanically inspired interior. It’s a gorgeous trend that’s undoubtedly influenced by our need to connect with everything green. What makes it so versatile is that it translates across loads of different styles. From breezy coastal verandas to crisp, all-neutral bush escapes, it’s about comfort and ease.

 Take a leaf

Bold, graphic designs based on nature are hard to resist. Picture banana leaves, delicious monsters and swaying tropical palms. They are instantly familiar, beautifully simple and somehow whimsical too – a bit like Madagascar meets Magnum PI, with a touch of ’70s sunroom for good measure.

‘The trend of bringing nature into our homes is more popular than ever,’ says Marc Shotland of Home Fabrics. ‘Our top design houses, such as Chivasso, Nina Campbell and Christian Lacroix, each have their own tropical leafy looks. These collections can create either a head-turning statement or a small suggestion, such as a beautiful scatter or lampshade.’

As with all beautiful interiors, It’s important to get the balance right. Going all-out Miami Vice may eventually be a bit hard to live with every single day, so think about the context that you’re going to create. Will the plant motifs form the background (say a gorgeous Robin Sprong wallpaper adorning a feature wall)? Or are you more of a white-walls minimalist (in which case, you can choose gorgeous accent fabrics for ottomans or scatter cushions)?

‘Most people tend to opt for super-neutral or boldly colourful,’ says Shotland. ‘To create something that’s balanced and interesting, be careful of going overboard with either. If you opt for neutrals on big items such as sofas, then you can really splash out with some exotic detail fabrics. Likewise, if you would prefer your sofa to be a colourful statement, then you should scale back the rest of the decor accordingly.’

The right setting

Key elements such as plantation shutters and a wraparound veranda will complement the botanical trend. It’s about indoor–outdoor living, so look out for natural materials and interesting textures, such as rattan, bamboo and cane – either in their raw, natural forms, or painted in velvety finishes. Retro furnishing is right at home here – from wicker armchairs and cocktail trolleys to pendant lamps.

One way to make it truly sophisticated (and enjoy more longevity) is to limit the multicoloured ‘fruit-salad’ approach. So you might consider a serene commingling of beautiful greens, or beachy blues with taupe. ‘There is something cool, calming and natural about this trend,’ says Shotland. ‘The result is very chic and relaxed.’


Contemporary African style

‘This is a trend that’s been on our radar for a while, and it promises to remain popular,’ comments Shotland. ‘In essence, it’s about vivid colours mixed with earth tones. But it’s very much grounded in stunning tribal prints and home-grown design.’ It’s a look that so many South Africans relate to, influenced by everything from West African kente and Kuba cloth to Mozambican capulanas and local shweshwe. Not to mention our own collections, including Mungo, Design Team Fabrics and Ardmore Design.

Pattern repeat

The real joy of this trend is that there really are no rules. A degree of clash is a good thing, so you can mix all manner of influences and still enjoy a cohesive – if quirky – look. ‘I think it’s about an impression of warmth, says Shotland, ‘but also about a sense of design tradition.’

Take Stephen Falcke’s wall of woven baskets at Johannesburg’s Saxon Hotel, for instance: simple items that epitomise the beauty of African weaving. Viewed en masse like this, the result is a quiet, textural statement that remains utterly timeless. At the other end of the scale, patterns in vibrant colours can be mixed and matched to create a look that’s both modern and eclectic.

‘Africa has had a big influence in the decor and fashion industry and will continue doing so in 2017,’ comments David Ralphs, CEO of St Leger & Viney. The continent’s contribution ranges from ‘Elitis wallpapers that mimic the beadwork of African curios to intricate Schumacher animal prints. Using the designs cleverly, you can layer pattern on pattern, creating a scheme that inspires contemporary African interiors.’

Land of colour

When it comes to working with colour, few other looks have as much potential. Sure, you can go all sophisticated-game-lodge in shades of taupe; and that’s very calming indeed. But, if your look is more Ester Mahlangu brights, the sky’s the limit.

‘Ethnic designs in neutral shades will always have their place,’ says Shotland, ‘but there’s also a punchy palette coming through, showcasing fashionable colours. More current still is the use of bold, solid colours in wallpapers, fabrics and furniture. This has a broad appeal and is a wonderful counterpoint to details such as artwork and sculpture.’

Proceed to checkout

Curating a contemporary African interior has never been restricted to trawling through your local mall. Some of the most interesting and original pieces are made by craftspeople who trade informally. Two of my most prized possessions – a pair of life-size beaded sheep – were bought at a busy Joburg intersection. Not only are their proportions perfect, but the beadwork closely resembles the knobbly texture of wool. The trend towards buying locally just makes sense: besides the aesthetic appeal, there are the added benefits of job creation and limiting air travel.

Whether you opt for an inner-city market or one of SA’s many high-end stores (Pedersen + Lennard, Vogel, Haldane Martin, the list goes on…) it’s all about creating a standout space. To up the cool factor, you’ll want to include recycled elements. Add mobile seating, modular bookshelves or plastic crates (great for colour-blocking – plus, they’ll come in handy as storage if you ever decide to move).

Styling: Rochelle Malherbe & Francoise Jeanne De Villiers; Styling Assistants: Charlene Amon, Robyn Lane, Veronique Van Der Westhuizen; Photography: Juliette Bisset/


Article written by