• Lisa for humble house design

Step 7: One pattern limit for permanent finishes per room.

Permanent finish materials such as stone or granite can have strong patterning. Many people currently comment that they love a kitchen but hate the granite countertops, usually because the pattern is so strong. This can be a real problem when choosing your finish materials for your home. I suggest limiting your choice to one pattern per room, so your room has a focal point and doesn’t become overwhelmingly visually busy.


Finish materials are expensive. Permanent finish materials such as stone, tile, flooring and countertops are not only expensive due to material costs but also due to high installation costs. It is best to install them only once over the life of your home if possible. Because these materials are so durable, it is in fact, possible to keep them in good condition for many years. Permanent interior finishes typically outlast appliances, fabric furnishings, and interior paint.

I find selections of permanent finishes are most limited when it comes to natural stone. If choosing stone finishes for your home, choose them first and work your overall color scheme around them.

Choose materials that will age well. Some synthetic materials don’t age well. Laminate countertops are a good example and in the early years they yellowed after several years. Vinyl flooring can be prone to denting from furnishings and discoloration over time.

Keep interior permanent finishes neutral, understated, and timeless so the need to change them is negated or minimized over time. Neutral finishes can be “freshened up” and made current by changing out smaller objects and inexpensive fabric finishes over time. This also helps with resale as it allows a wider number of buyers to be interested in the property.


Many neutral interior permanent finish materials can be installed with a pattern. Tile can be installed in a running bond pattern, stacked pattern with linear grout joints, herring bone pattern, decorative inlays or detailing to name a few. Versailles pattern is popular for travertine installations. Contrasting grout color will emphasize the pattern while matching grout will make it more subtle.

Many homeowners like to create kitchen backsplash patterns for visual interest above a range. The problem with this approach is if the countertop already has a strong pattern within the stone, it will visually compete with the decorative, patterned backsplash. Choose one or the other as the main focal point of your room.

Historic homes traditionally have patterned permanent finishes. Bathroom tile flooring was typically installed in a mosaic pattern in homes built in the 1920’s. As a result, these patterns typically become the focal point of the bathroom. Choose other finishes around these patterns. If you have an historic home, I recommend doing some research on the traditional patterns installed specific to the age and style of your home, especially if you need to repair existing finishes. In many cases your home value can be affected if these patterns are removed or not matched correctly. Many tile companies can be helpful in identification of these patterns and will help match missing tiles.

Soft finishes.

Curtains, rugs, carpet, and major upholstered furnishings are referred to as soft finishes. These finishes can also be quite costly, but typically installation or delivery costs are less than permanent finishes. Many of these items can have patterns. If you are choosing soft finishes with strong patterns as the room’s focal point, counterbalance this by choosing neutral or subtle patterning for your permanent finishes.

Carpet comes in a large variety of pattern choices, some of which are very dominate. If you choose a carpet with a strong pattern in a large room, this would be your pattern limit for that room. Choose permanent finishes in neutral, subtle pattern choices so the room does not become overwhelming.

If you are choosing new furnishings for a room, choose major or large upholstered, costly furniture in a neutral, high quality fabric. Pattern can be added to larger items with throw pillows and throws, which can be inexpensively changed out keeping your space fresh. If you choose a large sofa with a strong pattern and want this item to be the focal point in your room, all other finishes should be complimentary in color and simple in patterning.


Paint is incredible. It comes in any and every color imaginable, therefore, the wall colors should be chosen last in your overall color scheme. Sometimes paint is applied to create a pattern on the walls. If this option is chosen for a room, this will be your pattern limit for that room. If your permanent finishes were installed in a pattern and they are not being changed, just changing the grout color to match the tile or stone will allow the pattern to “disappear” and not compete with the new paint pattern on the walls.

Final thoughts.

Patterns can add interest to the interior of your home but for most people, too many patterns can add visual busyness. If you are trying to create a calm, serene space in your home, adopt the one pattern limit per room for your permanent finishes. Understand that many natural finishes, such as stone and granite, can have inherently busy patterns. Consider these patterns when choosing your finishes, determine if these patterns will be the focal point in the room and coordinate all other finishes around them to create a home you will enjoy.