Donna Dowling on Designing with Geometric Wallpaper

I recently asked interior designer, turned surface pattern designer, Donna Dowling, to share her thoughts on Geometric Wallpaper. This is what she wrote:

From an ID perspective, we likely wouldn’t start with “this space needs a geometric wallpaper”, that choice would come as a result of the following process.

Interior designers believe that a space can have profound effects on the way a person feels.  People feel different in different interiors; our surroundings affect us positively, negatively, or passively.  Design impacts our moods and attitudes, sometimes without our even being aware of it.  

Good design should provide emotional support for the people who live and work in the environment, fulfill the needs of the occupants and be uplifting and encouraging.

Because we seek to create an interior space for our client that meets their functional, aesthetic, and psychological needs, we need to learn what those are and begin designing with a lengthy client interview.

In any interior we strive to create balance, rhythm, emphasis, and harmony (these things are known as the “design principles” – you may know them from your studies in art as they are basically the same), and we use various “design elements” as tools to achieve the principles.  Design elements include things like colour, shape, form, line, texture, and light.  Once we know what a client likes, we use the elements to achieve the principles for their space.  In doing this, we may choose a geometric wallpaper because we judge that certain geometric shapes should be present in the interior, and the best place to put them is on the wall.

Which wallpaper do we choose?

Different geometric shapes yield very different psychological effects and evoke different emotions in the viewer. Squares (and square-like shapes) are by most people, considered pure, rational, reliable, no nonsense – great for serious places where we do serious work.  

Yellow Grouted Tiles by House Of May

Circles are considered more organic, softer, even feminine.  Humans associate unity, wholeness, protection, and continuity with circle-like shapes.

Tropical Ti Plant Geometric Tiles and Sunrise Art Deco Abstract by Jackie Tahara, UnBlink Studio

Triangular shapes can feel stable but also dynamic and can represent motion.

Abstract shapes adopt characteristics from the shapes listed above. Basically, curvy lines = soft effect; straight lines and pointy bits = hard.

Colour and line weight of the shapes will influence the overall effect of the wallpaper.

Decorating websites and magazines don’t usually talk about design this way, they’ll say instead, “use geometric wallpaper for a bold, unique, stylish look!”  which undoubtedly it can be.  But what is right for one home is not for another, mostly because of who lives there.  Geometric shapes are very popular right now.  

A designer would also want to make sure that the wallpaper will function well in the space (are there kids with crayons about? Can you wash the surface?)  

Choosing the right wallpaper, in the right colour, with the right lines and shapes is a matter of knowing your client.

Grid on Espresso is part of my Whiskey Bar Collection.  This collection is designed to appeal to more masculine tastes. 

Donna Dowling is a surface pattern designer who teaches interior design (Design Fundamentals, History of Design, Materials and Finishes, and Kitchens and Baths) at Pacific Design Academy, Victoria BC.

Connect With Donna Dowling

Van Isle Creative on Spoonflower

Donna Dowling on Instagram

  1. Leonie says:

    Good to hear from an interior designers perspective. I always like to be reminded about the design principles & elements 😉

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