Decorating With Florals
It’s hard to talk about florals as a single category because, like flowers themselves, each pattern has its own personality, determined by style, size, and color. Floral prints can seem intimidating at first, but once you have a few guidelines, they’re not difficult to work with—and they’re guaranteed to add life and joy to a space. Here are New York City interior designer Sara Gilbane's top pointers.
1. Scale affects mood. A large print on something small looks modern and cool, while a pillow with a mini version of the same pattern would have a sweet, vintage feel.
2. Floral furniture doesn’t have to be granny. It’s all about the details (avoid a skirted bottom on an upholstered piece) and what you pair it with. If you offset a floral sofa with a graphic-border rug or a blocky coffee table, the couch will seem quirky-eclectic rather than Golden Girls.
3. Florals can go anywhere. You have an ornate Oriental rug in the living room: Does that mean floral pillows are out? No. Find a pillow that includes at least two colors from the rug and has an open print (lots of visible background). The common palette will make it work.
4. Mixing florals creates energy. The key to pairing prints is using a matching background color. Choose one large pattern and two small, thumbnail-size patterns that all share a white or off-white background, say, for a cohesive effect.
5. There is such a thing as nongirlie florals. While small prints in faded hues definitely feel feminine, bold florals, especially large patterns and those in vivid primary colors, can take on a modern-art vibe, which is generally more male-friendly.
Classic patterns are just right for those who love feminine, muted tones and delicate blooms—and the vintage feel that they evoke. An elaborate rose-bouquet print on a broad expanse conjures fairy-tale grandeur. But you don’t have to go that far: Tiny buds on a bedside lamp shade or a quilt bring the same sort of enchantment without sending the message “No boys allowed.” Switching up the palette with saturated colors makes old-fashioned blooms look current.
Its autumnal tones would work well in an entryway with brass fixtures and brown walls.
To buy: Tasha rug, $109 (two by three feet), horchow.com.
The lines say gentleman’s study, but the print feels perfect for a sunroom.
To buy: Eddie settee by Annie Selke Home, $2,500, vanguardfurniture.com for stores.
An asymmetrical placement of punchy blooms elevates the typical salad plate.
To buy: Flower Market plate, $42, mackenziechilds.com.
Bold, energetic, and often oversize, these graphic treatments feel fresh and adventurous. Don’t be afraid to repeat a pattern you love, but know that it will dominate the room. Modern florals are ideal in spaces with clean lines and neutral furnishings. They add a splash of warmth and cheer while still staying true to the crisp vibe.
Set one against cushy white bedding for chic, minimalist-hotel polish.
To buy: Linen pillow with embroidered tulip, $225, ankasa.com for stores.
A vivid update of a vintage botanical chart.
To buy: Botanica photograph on canvas by Frances Pelzman Liscio, from $60, punksandroses.com for info.
Indian Rosewood Chair
Hand-embroidered cotton turns a basic folding chair into a showpiece.
To buy: Unfortunately, this style has sold out. Visit anthropologie.com for similar products.
Massive, animated chrysanthemums in a subtle, soothing palette.
To buy: Triple Panel screen by Nexxt Bota, about $239, walmart.com for stores.
The cream backdrop allows this Technicolor print to feel at home on a neutral sofa.
To buy: Purple Tulips pillow, $190, kimparker.tv.
Floral Wallpaper for Every Room
The ultimate flower fantasy is luscious wallpaper, whether you do a whole room, cover one wall, or frame a small piece as art. Understanding pattern repeats—the vertical distance, in inches, from one point on a design until it starts over again—and how they contribute to the mood of a room will help you make smart choices.
Busy repeats (six inches or less) can be intense, so they’re often best for a single wall. Larger repeats (12 inches or more) are less dramatic, so they can cover four walls and still feel subtle. Here are some of our picks, with expert commentary from Sara Gilbane.
For pattern-repeat info, use the websites or the phone numbers listed on the following pages.
Best Floral Wallpaper for a Dining Room
“Bird in the Bush”
Lavish English country creates the feeling of an intimate haven—“exactly what you want for dinner parties.”
To buy: $66 a roll, annafrench.co.uk for showrooms.
Best Floral Wallpaper for a Kid’s Room
“Kimono Ling Lang”
The flowers are large, about the size of your hand, “so this energetic paper makes a space feel fully decorated. Solid sheets and pine furniture are instantly elevated.”
To buy: $98 a linear yard, alphaworkshops.org for showrooms.
Best Floral Wallpaper for a Kitchen
“Rebekah Multi on White HP8640”
“You’re in here a lot, so a sweet, open pattern like this is perfect—you won’t get tired of it.”
To buy: $85 a roll, Hinson & Company, 800-538-1880.
Best Floral Wallpaper for a Living Room
“Seraphine Pumice W309/05”
Oversize Asian blossoms, about the size of tennis balls, with an unexpected pop of color. “Use it on a main wall, like behind the TV.”
To buy: $148 for a double roll, Thomas Lavin, 310-278-2456.
Best Floral Wallpaper for an Entryway
“Garden Gate in Ciel”
This painterly paper “gives you the feeling of a garden in bloom as you step indoors.”
To buy: $90 a roll, F. Schumacher & Co., 800-523-1200.
Best Floral Wallpaper for a Bedroom
“Cole & Son Flowers in Cornflower”
Blue and gray are calming colors to sleep by. And the metallic background offers “a dreamlike, kaleidoscope effect.”
To buy: $178 a roll, leejofa.com for showrooms.
Best Floral Wallpaper for a Powder Room
It’s an affordable spot to do all four walls. “You’ll get a jewel-box effect—a fun surprise every time a guest opens the door. Pair with ivory towels and a gray floor.”
To buy: $132 a roll, designersguild.com for showrooms.