A Guide to the Most Common Fabric Patterns Used in Interior Design
Fabric patterns come in all kinds of colors, shapes, sizes, repeats, and schemes. That’s why picking the right fabric patterns—and mixing prints—can be tricky. So we called on a handful of our favorite designers to help us break down the basics behind some of the most popular fabric patterns out there. From chevron to polka dots and beyond, here’s everything you need to know about the 28 most common fabric patterns.
Once you know the names of these patterns and what defines each of them, you’ll be ready to pattern shop and mix like a pro.
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Designed to resemble the crisscross weave of a basket, basketweave patterns are either woven or printed onto a fabric to create a symmetrical effect. “As a traditional woven, a basketweave fabric can introduce warmth to a room to balance out more neutral and subdued tones,” says Ella Hall, founder of Stitchroom. “When used correctly, the handmade texture is a great contrast to a muted palette and can also complement a minimalist style.”
“A typically shuttle-woven fabric most commonly made with silver or gold thread, brocade has a raised appearance similar to embroidery,” Hall says. No surprise then that you’re most likely to find brocades in more traditionally designed spaces. “The ornamental features of this fabric pattern bring a rich and elegant touch to accentuate classic furniture pieces,” she adds.
One of the most popular and instantly recognizable patterns on the market, checked or checkered, fabrics feature a simple checkerboard-style design with alternating colored squares. “Checked fabric has traditionally worked well in farmhouse modern and country design, and while it might originate there, a more contemporary twist has recently brought the countryside to more urbanized spaces,” Hall says. “This fabric trend is perfect for banquettes with high traffic trying to make a statement through its upholstery fabrication.”
Marked by a pattern of zigzagging stripes, chevron fabrics have long been a favorite of designers looking to infuse contemporary flair into a subdued space. “Modern interpretations of the chevron motif have brought new life to the classic that can sometimes feel overwhelming,” Hall says. “Try selecting a chevron with subtle tonal differences or a textured chevron to contribute to your sofa’s pillowscape.”
Drawing from traditional Chinese motifs, chinoiserie-style fabrics often feature elaborate scenes of florals, animals, pagodas, and children. “Chinoiserie is a romanticized print that adds a level of sophistication to upholstery,” Hall says. “Whether with curtains, chair upholstery or throw pillows, chinoiserie fabrics always make a decorative statement.”
“Once associated with English country homes and famous designers like Mario Buatta (known as the ‘Prince of Chintz’), and ‘American country’ designers like Nancy Lancaster and Sister Parish, chintz is making a comeback in grand-millennial homes across the globe,” says interior designer Ariel Okin. “It can be identified by its exuberant florals and elegant, sophisticated nature.”
“Martha Stewart is a big fan of damask, and this rich-looking fabric has been used everywhere from English castles to Park Avenue apartments,” Okin says. “A reversible, print-heavy look, damask is typically filled with swirling patterns and looks beautiful in jewel tones. This look works well when executed in silks and taffetas in dramatic, grand rooms.”
“A ditsy print typically has flowers (but not always) that are small in scale and is an all-over pattern with a random repeat,” Okin says. “It’s very whimsical and not at all linear or geometric in nature. Ditsy patterns fit perfectly in country and city homes alike.”
9. Flame Stitch
“Also known as bargello or a Florentine stitch, flame stitch needlework combines long, vertical stitches and bold colors into zigzagging peaks and valleys,” Okin says. “This look was very popular in the 1960s and has a psychedelic element to it, so it’s perfect for funky spaces with a retro vibe.”
“A fleur-de-lis is a stylized three-petal or four-petal lily, which was originally a symbol of purity dating back to the Middle Ages,” Okin says. “It’s also the symbol for the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. In homes, this fabric can be found in spaces with a French country vibe.”
“While somewhat self-explanatory in design, floral patterns really run the gamut in terms of range—they can be small, large, realistic, abstract, and more,” Okin says. “The one common thread with all floral patterns? They’re beautiful and feminine in nature.”
“Geometric is a really broad term that can be used to describe anything that uses lines or shapes either alone or in repetition,” interior designer Tali Roth says. “My favorite geometric pattern is also one of the simplest ones: A good old-fashioned stripe. I’ve been known to use stripes in upholstery and rugs in my interior spaces, but they can really be used anywhere.”
“Consider gingham a slightly more complex checkerboard pattern,” Roth says. “Ginghams usually have three colors or shades involved, and one is usually white. The second tends to be black, blue, or red, but can obviously be anything. The third shade is a mix of the first two, so if you have white and black, the third shade is gray. Gingham is a great accent pattern—I love it on a throw blanket, but I recently put a black and white gingham chair in a house we did upstate, and it looked great!”
14. Greek Key
“The Greek Key pattern is as old as time, really, and it’s more traditional than anything I tend to use,” Roth says. “The pattern is made from a continuous line that repeatedly bends back on itself to create squared spirals. I think of it as a border pattern more than anything else and works well on curtains or bed linens.”
Like a checkerboard pattern, harlequin fabrics feature alternating diamonds instead of squares. “Think of harlequin patterns as a fancy term for diamonds,” Roth says. “I love this sort of pattern for any kind of floor covering—you could even paint the pattern on existing concrete or wood floors to liven up any space.”
“Herringbone is similar to chevron, but instead of two perpendicular diagonal lines meeting at one point, each line passes the last by just a little, so the lines end up looking somewhat woven,” Roth explains. Herringbone lines are often thin and feature gaps or breaks between the zigzags, making them a more contemporary alternative to stripes or chevron.
“The name houndstooth comes from whoever invented the pattern, thinking the checks that make it up look like dog’s teeth, but I think they look more like little bugs,” Roth says. “In my opinion, the pattern is quite handsome and masculine, and it’s a strong accent in a room. I’d use it on a pillow or throw blanket in a study.”
“An ikat fabric is one woven with tie-dyed yarns, which ultimately gives the chosen design a feathered or hazy look,” says Jess Blumberg of Dale Blumberg Interiors. “I’ve upholstered a large wingback chair in a very graphic ikat, and I’ve also mixed a bunch of more traditional ikat throw pillows together to finish off a lounge-y Southeast Asian-inspired hangout space.”
Often referred to as brocade, the term jacquard refers to fabrics that are woven on a Jacquard loom, which was originally invented in 1801. “Jacquard fabrics are ones with patterns (sometimes raised) that are woven rather than printed onto the fabric,” Blumberg says. “Some popular jacquard patterns are florals, geometrics, and damasks.”
20. Animal Prints
Designed to mimic the coats of wild animals such as leopards, cheetahs, zebras, and tigers, animal print fabrics are often used to make a statement in a room. “Animal printed fabrics can be used for a pop of something fun and graphic, but can also be used more as a neutral, because they pretty much go with everything,” Blumberg says.
Available in a range of colorways and styles, medallion fabric patterns feature a symmetrical, diamond-esque medallion motif. “A medallion pattern has one or a repeating number of a more complex circular or oval design elements,” Blumberg explains. “I’ll often choose a fabric with varying medallions and work with my pillow maker to pick and choose the specific ones we like best for a collection of pillows on a sofa.”
“The repeated ogee pattern is somewhat similar to a trellis pattern but instead of straight lines interlocking, an S-like curved shape with two arches that come to a point intersect to create an interesting graphic,” Blumberg says. Try this pattern on throw pillows throughout your home to usher in some eclectic boho vibes.
The paisley pattern consists of a teardrop-shaped motif with a curved upper end and is generally used in more preppy or bohemian spaces,” Blumberg says. “I like to go with super vibrant colored paisley fabrics as an ode to classic style, but with a twist.”
24. Polka Dot
“Dainty to large in scale, polka dot patterns feature small rounded dots that soften angularity in a repeat pattern,” explains interior designer Becky Shea. “Polka dots are a fun application when used in drapes or throw pillows. A small polka dot print is a great way to inject a little color in a subtle way that complements a space without taking center stage.”
“Clean and linear, stripe patterns elongate and give directional sense to a space by way of contrasting tones on adjacent planes,” Shea says. “Stripes are great when used on rugs, pillows, throws, and chair upholstery. I especially love adding a stripe fabric to a chair in the living room or bedroom that has a heavy emphasis on solids, giving the stripe the opportunity to be a little warmer or lighter in tone to contrast and complement its counterparts.”
26. Tartan Plaid
“A stripe pattern that crosses at right angles forming a square-like design, tartan was originally applied to wool fabric but has since evolved to work on all fabric types,” says Shea. “Plaid is transitional across all methods of design so it works well in any space from modern to traditional.”
“A linen or canvas cloth used for painting complete decorative scenes on a typically white background, toile is frequently used in traditional spaces,” Shea says. “Toile often features fun picnic scenes or pastoral motifs that are hand-drawn or printed.”
“A modern, yet classic architectural pattern that repeats geometrically, trellis prints are often used for drapery, since it’s a great way to anchor a room and add volume,” Shea says. “A unique character trait that trellis patterns have that other patterns don’t is that they work really well with other patterns without competing.”