Designer Minnie Kemp explains the secrets behind picking the perfect patterns for your walls

Minnie Kemp knows how to use pattern to uplift your decor, and these style secrets make it easy to play with prints

blue living room walls with red trim
Trim by Susie Atkinson
(Image credit: Susie Atkinson)

At time of writing, the jury is out on whether this will be one long, hot summer, or the sort of year where a high point is a barbecue grill under an umbrella. Let's hope it's the former, but if not, then I know of a failsafe solution. Why not adorn the walls of your home in bright wallpapers? Bring the good vibes to you and the rest will follow. 

I recently discovered Mind the Gap, a wonderfully colourful fabric house based in Transylvania. Drench your living room with sun beams by installing its Gypsy design in the ochre colourway.  This bohemian design is filled with folky florals but isn’t overcrowded -  there is space between the motifs revealing a textured honeycomb background bringing calm into the room.  Pops of luminous reds, orange and purple blossom enchantingly, with shades of green and a natural and fresh contour to the entire canvas.  

Contrast patterns with plains

a living room with a bold wallpaper

(Image credit: Damian Russell)

I love using bold patterns in my work. From traditional florals to smart stripes and modern graphic designs, I truly believe that the bolder you go, the better. However there are rules, and even I (usually) stick to them. You don’t want the room to be too busy with patterns.  

One of the  big wallpaper trends right now is for motif-heavy repeats. But if this is a look you want to dip into, make sure you use plainly textured fabrics in the room.  A simple linen curtain and a block-color sofa will soothe the room.  By all means bring the pattern back on the sofa cushions, but just remember calm and balance over crazy chaos any day!

Add a border

blue living room door with red trim around the edge

(Image credit: Susie Atkinson)

Or, for a more tailored and contemporary feel I think it’s so effective to add borders around door frames and under the cornice. I absolutely love Susie Atkinson’s new wallpaper border collection - they are less of a commitment than wallpaper cost-wise and are a great way to elevate the room.  The designs range from funky chequerboard red to the Edith floral design in yellow.  Be creative – double them up to create a unique look and check out Susie’s website for more fabrics.  She’s really on a roll and I can’t wait to see what she will do next. 

Go up and over the ceiling

a bedroom with wallpapered walls and ceiling

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

Don’t be afraid of using geometric prints with more painterly designs. Opposites definitely attract and the unexpected combination of patterns create a modern and fresh twist to any room.  

Also, let’s not forget the ceiling is just as important as any other surface.  If the room is small, an attic for instance, then by applying wallpaper to the entire room you actually make the space feel bigger and more cavernous.  

And don’t be afraid of color. If the ceilings are high then add a happy blue or setting plaster to soothe the room. Edward Bulmer and Annie Sloan have the best colors for all tastes. Who needs a rainy barbecue, eh?

Minnie Kemp is an interior designer, part of the team of design experts at the Firmdale Hotel Group. She has worked on the interiors of international hotels such as The Whitby Hotel and the Crosby Street Hotel in New York, and Ham Yard and Charlotte Street Hotel in London. She has also been involved in designing various residential projects in both the Unite States of America and the United Kingdom. She is the interiors columnist for Livingetc, reporting on trends and offering advice on home design and decor, and she was a judge on the first Livingetc Style Awards in 2021.