The designer of this bright bungalow is here to show you exactly how to connect the dots.

Bungalow Color and Pattern in the Great Room
Photography by Alanna Hale; stylist: Mikhael Romain

Decorating a home with lots of color and pattern can make or break a look, and many of us are at a loss as to how to do it right. That’s where California designer Courtney B. Smith comes in. “My love for pattern and color runs deep,” she says, “not only for the energy they bring into our homes but also because I want my clients to use their spaces, not just admire them. Pattern and color help hide inevitable spills and wear and tear.” 

Her goal for this three-bedroom, two-bathroom bungalow in Marin County was to create a colorful, stylish, and functional home that would work for both the parents and their two sons, who are 10 and 12 years old. To do this, Smith relied on her talent for putting a twist on traditional interior design, and the result is a style that’s classic but approachable and fun at the same time. 

So how, exactly, does she work her magic? Here, Smith breaks down for us how to design a home with the perfect mix of pattern and color. 

1. Look for Patterns and Colors You Love 

Play Room
The playroom is tiny but mighty. “Small spaces that are destinations can carry bold patterns and make a statement,” says Smith. “The forest walls and cacophony of pillows are pure fun.”

Photography by Alanna Hale; stylist: Mikhael Romain

Smith says she launches most projects by looking at both the house and the clients who live there. The pattern that sparks her initial color scheme can be a fabric, wall covering, rug, or artwork.

Meanwhile, her client’s wardrobe can also come into play. The owners of this bungalow are “down-to-earth, preppy, and pulled-together,” Smith says, adding that “The lady of the house wears a lot of red and blue and gravitates towards classic patterns that are pretty without being fussy.” 

2. Find Inspiration on Pinterest 

Blue Botanical Dining Room
The dining room acts as a bridge between the living and great room, so it had to relate to both without overpowering either.

Photography by Alanna Hale; stylist: Mikhael Romain

Smith asks her clients to send her pictures of the rooms they love, including restaurants and hotels. She suggests gathering 30 to 100 images you like, then taking a step back and looking for color and patterns, aka “themes and preferences,” that appear over and over again. This can be the foundation of your color and pattern scheme. 

3. Try This Mix-and-Match Strategy

Bungalow Great Room with Color and Pattern
The great room acts as the heart of the home—a place for television, games, and even meals. “I know the boys flop onto the red sectional after a long school day and feel a sense of warmth and comfort,” the designer says.

Photography by Alanna Hale; stylist: Mikhael Romain

To match colors and patterns correctly, Smith offers what sounds like a recipe—in the best possible way. “Mix at least one large-scale print, a couple of stripe prints, plaids and/or checks, multiple small prints, and a couple of solids,” she says. “I also like to play with color saturation and intensity, mixing things up so that the eye easily moves around a space.” 

4. Think About How It All Comes Together 

Sunny Refined Living Room
The rug inspired the living room look, while blue and white sofas, patterned window treatments, and a statement ceiling fixture pull it all together. 

Photography by Alanna Hale; stylist: Mikhael Romain

Here’s exactly how Smith used the above guidelines in this space: “In this project, an existing rug in saturated color provided the initial inspiration,” she says. “Its major shades are red and coral, with hits of blue, cream, gold, and green. These hues became the foundation for our color palette. We then selected a coordinating fabric for the living room window treatments. From there, we layered in an oversized stripe on a pair of sofas in the living room, a bold check on a custom table skirt in the family room, and multiple blue and white patterns [throughout the home]. Finally, we used a soft red performance fabric on the family room sectional, a red-and-blue print on breakfast table chairs, and an assortment of accent pillows throughout. We paid special attention to considering the entire scheme together, as this project includes an open floor plan, with sight lines from every space to the next.”

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