life in a tiny apartment.

September 12, 2016

pattern in a tiny apartment | reading my tea leaves

Tip #145: Don’t be too afraid of pattern.

I’m the last person, really, who should be giving advice on introducing patterns into a small space. My typical counsel would fall somewhere along the lines of: Don’t. But like so many things related to surviving in a tiny apartment, that’s a personal preference and not some kind of commandment. In other words, it’s not that you shouldn’t introduce pattern when space is limited, it’s just that I typically don’t. I’m scared is why. Scared of committing to something that might feel dated too quickly and scared of feeling claustrophobic. Scared, especially, of being fickle myself.

This summer, my friend Rebecca Atwood, finally gave me the nudge to integrate a little pattern into our space. Truth be told, she’s been trying to give me the nudge for the past two years, it’s just that I’ve only now conceded, convinced in part by her brand-new book. Becca’s got a particularly good eye when it comes to both creating patterns and incorporating them into rooms. More than that, we share a certain fondness for the same colors. Both of us grew up on New England beaches and her muted color choices remind me of those places. (If you ever wanted to know where I look to for inspiration, just think of the blues and browns and grays of a mussel-strewn shoreline.)pattern in a tiny apartment | reading my tea leaves

Finally convinced to dip into the world of pattern, I decided to do a swan dive.

Remember our upholstered bench? The thing that we moved in here last spring and that I resolved to immediately repair and slipcover? Well, better late than never.
pattern in a tiny apartment | reading my tea leaves

Having come to grips with the fact that I don’t know how to make a slipcover myself, I outsourced the work of the construction to a local upholstery business. The husband and wife team behind H & A Upholstery (Hector and Ana!) practiced their magic and made a super simple cover to match the integrity of the original pared-down bench. Best part is: it’s washable, which is good thing when there are errant plum-torte fingerprints ready to pounce.pattern in a tiny apartment | reading my tea leaves

I followed Becca’s sage advice and chose a pattern from her line that falls firmly within the existing color palette of our apartment—the Hills fabric in the gray-wood colorway. I love the simplicity of the print—and the fact that Becca made it using a potato as her stamp. It’s an old-school approach to making a pattern and in this application the result is a design that feels both modern and timeless.pattern in a tiny apartment | reading my tea leaves

Nestled into the same short wall between our kitchen and bathroom where it was before, the newly punchy bench feels about ten times more inviting than its ripped up predecessor. The linen, which I washed before having the slipcover made (to account for any shrinkage), is soft and rumply but the cover itself is tailored enough to prevent it slipping into shabby chic territory.
pattern in a tiny apartment | reading my tea leaves

To my honest surprise, all this pattern required very little getting used to. The brighter color contrasts nicely with all of the bare wood we’ve got going on in here (including the bench’s newly sanded legs) and adds some needed lightness to the shady side of our apartment.
pattern in a tiny apartment | reading my tea leaves

Livable pattern, is what I’d call it. Not too much, not too little. Just right.
pattern in a tiny apartment | reading my tea leaves

For lots more pattern inspiration from the real expert, and for peeks into projects and homes far more ambitious than my own, you can check out Rebecca’s brand-new Living with Pattern: Color, Texture, and Print at Home.

If you need a little reminder on homemade upholstery cleaner, HEAD HERE.

Tiny apartment survival tips #1-144, RIGHT HERE.

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  • Reply Carmella September 12, 2016 at 7:46 am

    Oh, it’s lovely, Erin! Just perfect. Hector & Anna did a beautiful job on the slipcover & the sanded legs are just right. High five!

    • Reply Erin Boyle September 12, 2016 at 8:41 am

      Thanks so much, Carmella! Slipcover queen!

  • Reply Jessica September 12, 2016 at 7:47 am

    Looks great!

  • Reply Danielle September 12, 2016 at 8:12 am

    Hi There- I’m wondering where the shelf on the wall of your entryway is from? Thank you!

    • Reply Erin Boyle September 12, 2016 at 8:42 am

      It’s from West Elm—several years ago at this point but they still might make them!

  • Reply Rita Tocta September 12, 2016 at 8:15 am

    Love Atwoods line! They are all so pretty! I have to disagree from the advice though. A little bit as even a very nice camera and lens can have trouble focusing in a meadow, for example, if there are a lot of different but similar plants and greens, using the same color pallete may confuse and overwhelm the eye. Specially in a small apartment. I think the tangerine one would be still soothing and neutral but breaking down the visuals which is eye frindly, which results in living long term with a pattern better.

    • Reply Erin Boyle September 12, 2016 at 8:43 am

      Ah, but I find working with a limited palette to create a space that feels soothing and calm. Better for longterm living with pattern for me, for sure.

      • Reply Rita Tocta September 12, 2016 at 9:12 am

        English not being my first language and since in years I just read it and write it (rarely talk out loud in English) I never know when my tone is off. The sofa looks great, I just came to conclusion above when I saw the post but it wasn’t to be said like a “rule” it was just an idea I had and thought it out loud 🙂

        • Reply Erin Boyle September 12, 2016 at 9:23 am

          Totally understood! No rules 😉

  • Reply Rebecca September 12, 2016 at 10:07 am

    Erin – I love how it turned out! Thank you for making something so lovely with my fabric.
    I hope you enjoy it!

  • Reply SEM September 12, 2016 at 11:46 am

    Lovely! I have your book on my coffee table and I find it inspiring (now I need to add Rebecca’s).

    How do all you creatives always know each other? Do you have a art/design/awesome people club? LOL


  • Reply Caitlin | Our Natural Heritage September 12, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    I love it! I am really excited about Rebecca’s book – I might gift it to myself someday soon 🙂

  • Reply Bridgit September 12, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    Where did you get that pretty ombre pillow?

    • Reply Erin Boyle September 12, 2016 at 1:05 pm

      I found that little dip-dyed indigo pillow at ABC Carpet & Home here in the city!

  • Reply Mary Kate September 12, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    Ooh. I’ve been puzzling over what to do about the arms of our couch which have been (lovingly) scratched up by the recent addition to our home, our kitty. We’ve settled for blankets over the arms, but a slipcover sounds perfect. P.S. if anyone has slipcover fabric ideas that discourage/hide claw marks, please let me know!

  • Reply Kari.M September 12, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    Love it!

  • Reply Jay September 12, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    How lovely it looks. Thank you for this blog. It’s a beautiful and calm place to come to (when the rest of the world seems crazy).

  • Reply Molly September 12, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    Question from a fellow apartment-dweller. Where do you sand your furniture? Do you carry it out to the street or does it work to put down newspaper in your apartment? Bench looks great!

    • Reply Erin Boyle September 12, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      Totally depends on the piece, but this was an easy piece that really only needed a light sanding to remove one coat of paint. We did right onto the floor and then vacuumed and mopped it up!

  • Reply Grace Atwood - The Stripe September 12, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    Erin I love what you did with my sister’s fabric! Gorgeous post. xx

    • Reply Erin Boyle September 12, 2016 at 8:30 pm

      Thanks so much, Grace! So thrilled to have a little bit of Becca’s work in our place!

  • Reply Mun September 13, 2016 at 2:48 am

    I love a good pattern but find it intimidating at the same time. Hopefully one day i’m game enough to give it a go as well!

  • Reply Peppermint Dolly September 13, 2016 at 3:59 am

    Looks fantastic – well done all round, to everyone involved!! 🙂


  • Reply Nikki September 13, 2016 at 8:49 am

    Your home is exceptional!

  • Reply Laura September 13, 2016 at 10:13 am

    May I ask what kind of hanging plant that is reflecting in the mirror above the bench? Many thanks!

    • Reply Erin Boyle September 13, 2016 at 10:23 am

      It’s a drying eucalyptus branch!

  • Reply Lynn @ The Not Dead Yet Blog September 13, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    The couch looks gorgeous. I would have gone with blue, because I’m not afraid of color, but the gray is very nice. The pattern is perfect for a small space, not too busy or overwhelming.

  • Reply thefolia September 13, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    The pattern reminds me of watermelon pieces…a rosy red would look great as well as the pattern on her cover would also add a nice punch to your nook. Happy lounging on your latest touch to your nest. Does she do area rugs too?It would make it oh so cozy to warm up some toes on it.

    • Reply Erin Boyle September 13, 2016 at 1:45 pm

      Ha! Not exactly going for the punch look myself, but agreed a rosy red would be lovely in someone else’s space!

    • Reply Erin Boyle September 13, 2016 at 1:46 pm

      PS: No rugs yet, but she is introducing throws and other textiles this fall!

  • Reply Nadine September 13, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    Hi Erin! Love how the couch turned out. I am afraid of pattern myself due to the fear of getting tired of it. I noticed the hats on the entrance door. Can you share which kind of hooks you used? I am contemplating doing the same. Thank you.

    • Reply Erin Boyle September 13, 2016 at 8:11 pm

      Our apartment door is steel, so these are little magnets with tiny hooks on them!

  • Reply Alice September 14, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    It’s gorgeous!

  • Reply Lissa September 15, 2016 at 9:40 pm

    Love this fabric so much. Restful and soothing, but lots of interest. How was the front edge finished–does it just hang down or is it attached under?

    • Reply Erin Boyle September 16, 2016 at 7:11 am

      It’s hemmed, but it hangs like a very short skirt!

  • Reply Megan September 15, 2016 at 10:10 pm

    Love this! We’ve just moved into a small Hong Kong apartment so have been reading your advice, we absolutely loved e our small space but have been really timid about adding pattern, we know have black and white chevron pillows on our sofa and they look ace!

  • Reply Penny September 16, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Gorgeous! It looks fantastic in the room.

  • Reply Garden State Soapstone September 29, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    Wow, this looks amazing! Love the mix of patterns with the rest of your decor and wood furniture.

  • Reply maan January 27, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    thanks for nice sharing 🙂

  • Reply Eryn July 25, 2017 at 10:35 am

    Hi Erin,
    Would you mind sharing where you got your magnetic hooks for your door? Thanks!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 25, 2017 at 10:59 am

      I think I got mine at Brookfarm General Store, but it doesn’t look like they still carry them! Lots and lots for sale on sites like Amazon though:!

  • Reply Greg September 18, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    The sofa – long thin legs! We live in a tiny place too and we’re looking for a not HUGE sofa.
    Can you tell us the make/mfg of the sofa?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE September 18, 2018 at 1:09 pm

      It’s so great isn’t it? My sister bought it ~10 years ago from a sample sale in Austin, TX. It’s not marked so I’m afraid I don’t have more details!


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