Secrets for Designing with Color & Pattern, Courtesy of Rebecca Atwood

Among certain members of the design cognoscenti, Rebecca Atwood is something of a living legend. Armed with a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, the Brooklyn artist and designer cut her teeth in product design at Anthropologie before founding her eponymous textile, wallpaper, and accessories line, which is every bit as dreamy yet cheerful as you could ever want. Take her Blooms Fabric pattern, which looks a bit like leopard print or fallen leaves—if it were made of free-form watercolor marks on white. Or her Crescent Dot Fabric, which Atwood drew during her sojourns in Japan and calls to mind boats bobbing on still water (making it even cooler: it’s screen-printed in Rhode Island on Belgian linen). Did we mention she’s also the author of two books, Living with Pattern: Color, Texture and Print at Home and Living with Color: Inspiration and How-Tos to Brighten Up Your Home?

Given Atwood’s expert eye, SwearBy reached out to get the inside scoop on her latest projects and artful favorite things, from the most comfortable sheets to the marbled stoneware plates that make every meal magic.


We have to ask: how have you been spending your time in quarantine?

For me, there have been a few phases of quarantine— the beginning panic, trying to work from home with a toddler, and then figuring out our routine. My husband took on childcare so that I could continue to work, but now we have help again. I’m grateful that we had more time together as a family, but all the parents out there know what a struggle this time has been. We can’t do it all, especially not all at once. 

I’ve been walking to our studio, which is about two miles from our apartment. While my team is all working remotely, it’s been nice to have a quiet studio to work on creative projects. I’m trying to use this time to reset a bit. I’m thinking about what I want next for the business and working on new artwork. I’m also doing some things I haven’t in a while—like shipping out books and items to the team, since I’m the only one at the studio.


Sounds so nice! Your books focus on using color and pattern in home decor. What do we need to know about that? Any tips? 

If you’re new to adding color and pattern, start with something small like a pillow.  An easy way to update a room when you want to change the color palette is to have the big pieces in your room (like a sofa) be neutral and then switch out the pillow covers.

Personally, I’m also always trying out new things, so I like to reupholster a furniture piece or make a new slipcover. You can also just make new cushion covers for a sofa or chair and leave the rest solid.

For color, first, think about the mood and feeling you want for your home. Then think about a place that makes you feel that way and start to pull out the colors from that memory. For pattern, here are my top tips:

  1. Keep your color palette tight. Sticking with a narrow color palette can help unite different styles of patterns because it gives them something in common.
  2. Mix up the scale with an assortment of small-, medium, and large-scale prints. If you use patterns that are all the same size your eye reads them all as the same, but by creating a hierarchy there’s visual organization that helps move your eye around a room.
  3. Use bigger prints on areas you want to draw the eye, and smaller prints on areas you want to recede in space. It’s an easy trick to help you draw people into a space.

There are lots of tips and tricks, but if you love something, you can always find a way to make it work!

I really recommend reading Living with Pattern and Living with Color because they are full of tips for figuring out what you like. I also recommend looking at books by designers that inspire you. A few on my bookshelf right now include: Surf Shack, Patterns of India, English Houses by Ben Pentreath, and Tom Scheerer: More Decorating. I think there’s something so comforting about English homes and more traditional décor, but I also love more relaxed coastal living. I love it all, and there’s so much to learn from these different spaces


Why do you think people are nervous when it comes to using color and patterns in their homes?  

I think there’s often this fear that we don’t know what we’re doing, or that we’ll make a mistake. We default to solid neutrals because that seems safe, but then it can actually feel a bit sad. I say, go for what you love! If you’re feeling unsure, I recommend reading Joyful—it’s a great book for understanding why we should fill our home with color and pattern. It’s wired in our DNA to love color and pattern. We shouldn’t dismiss the aesthetics, because they have a huge impact on how we feel.


So true. Since we’ve all been tucked away at home more lately, we’re curious:  what products and design pieces have you been loving in your own place recently?

We live in a small space, so making our home comfortable has also been about organization. I love big baskets for toys, laundry, and anything that I need to clean up quickly. This one from Goodee is beautiful. I like the subtle color and natural material. Of course, I always love having a bunch of pillows around. We end up throwing them all on the floor and creating piles to play in. We also recently added made-to-order pillows to our assortment so we can offer more prints and sizes to make just what you’d like. A cozy, durable rug is also key. I designed this one for Pottery Barn, and it is very easy to clean which is great when you have kids or pets.


What do you think is key in making a home feel like a home? Any products you’d suggest here?

The key to making home feel like a home is to make it personal. Find those pieces that really pull at your heart—the ones that make you happy and you just can’t stop thinking about.


Here, a few more of Atwood’s faves you may want to make your own:

The Little Book of Living Small by Laura Fenton

“If you’re looking for more small space living tips, you should check out this book.”

Maison Balzac Bedside Carafe

“A green glass bedside carafe can add a pop of color to your bedside table.”

Diptyque Feuille de Lavande / Lavender Leaf candle

“Beyond color and pattern, think about your daily rituals. A nice candle can make a home feel cozy. I always love lavender.”

Rebecca Atwood Sun and Moon Pillow Cover in Dennis Green

“Blue and peachy hues have always been a favorite for me (like on this pillow and this fabric), but lately I have been all about green. Our Sun and Moon pillow in Dennis Green is one of my favorites. It pairs well with our Ombré Stripe and Gridded Ikat in green.”

Parachute Linen Sheet Set

“Think about the small tactile moments and the products you use at those moments. Nice sheets also make a big difference. I love to sleep on linen sheets.”

Dinner & lunch plates, Ocean

“Some of my favorite ceramics are from Helen Levi, especially her Ocean pattern.”

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