How to Use Stripes in Decorating

By their very nature, stripes have the ability to change the appearance of any surface they are applied to. They can accentuate the height or width of furniture, walls or windows depending on how they are used. When placed either vertically or horizontally, they can radically change the look and feel of a room. Keep this in mind when deciding where to use stripes in your home. Long, vertically placed stripes can lengthen the look of walls and windows, while horizontally placed stripes can make a small loveseat look grander in scale.


Of all the patterns out there, stripes are the simplest to apply to walls by hand. Paint, painter's tape, a level and ruler are pretty much all you need to create great looking striped designs. The width of stripes you use is completely up to you. Larger rooms can tolerate broad stripes, while smaller rooms look best in narrow stripes. Striped wallpaper is another way to add stripes to your walls. If floor to ceiling stripes are too much for you, consider leaving the lower portion of the wall white and installing wainscoting. This will help break up the space and create even more visual interest.

Upholstering with striped fabric can be a challenge due to the inherent linear quality of striped fabric. If you happen to be working with an upholsterer, keep in mind that "waterfalling" refers to fabric that is run vertically on furniture, while running the fabric horizontally is called "railroading".

One of the most commonly used fabric in country decor is ticking. Ticking is a sturdy cotton twill that features a narrow stripe set between two thinner ones. Blue, tan and red combined with white are the most common vintage ticking colors. With a resurgence in popularity, ticking is available in a wide range of colors, from purple to yellow. Make sure you wash ticking before using to upholster or make curtains, as it is typically not pre-shrunk.

When mixing striped fabrics with other patterns, seek a common theme for a clean look. Similar color combinations can be quite effective. You can combine several stripes in a similar color family or mix with other patterns in the same color tones. Be aware of the width of stripes you are using. Bold, wide stripes pair well with bold patterns like oversized flowers, while thinner stripes look best with more traditional patterns such as toile. Gingham checked fabric also works great with stripes and can be used to offset a floral fabric as well.

Stripes can either be formal or informal, grand or subtle, but whatever stripe you decide on, you can be assured that stripes will add a bit of excitement to your home design.

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