This episode discusses how to select a go-by fabric, or an inspiration pattern for your space.

How can you choose just one fabric to design your space around? You can, indeed, pick any fabric to work around. But if you aren’t used to making those kinds of decisions, that’s not very helpful. So don’t focus on choosing and just brainstorm some ideas.

Inspiration Spaces or Pictures – How to begin

Think about stores, coffee shops, or restaurants that you like to visit. What are their color palettes? You might take a picture the next time you visit. If the store has any fabric items for sale, see if one of them looks like it could be a good go-by fabric.

Are the rooms you’re drawn to in decor magazines full of color? Or are they more muted and neutral? The pattern or fabric you choose as a go-by fabric should reflect your answer.

If you like both neutral and colorful looks, pick a fabric that has more color. That way you have the option to add more color to your space if you’d like.

Another way to start is to match something you already have.

What are the largest or most expensive upholstered pieces you have? Use a go-by fabric or pattern that has those colors in it so you don’t feel like you need to recover it or replace it.

Do you have a family heirloom piece you want to include in your room? Find a fabric that coordinates with it.

If you have a rug you want to work with in your space, then you find colors that work with it. Bring potential go-by fabrics home to compare to your rug. Try to have as many colors from your rug in your go-by fabric as you can.

The same ideas apply for other existing pieces you might want to work around, like art, painted wood pieces, stained glass, etc.

Go-by Fabric Suggestions for More Color

If you’re looking to have color in your room, I would recommend your go-by fabric include the following:

  • Select a fabric that has at least three colors in it. The more colors you have to pull from, the easier it will be to find items that can work in your space.
  • At least one of your colors should be a neutral color. That’s any color from white to black in either a gray hue or a brown hue.
  • The other colors should be contrasting colors from somewhere the rest of the spectrum – yellow, orange, red, green, blue or purple.
  • If orange with blue is too much contrast for you, look for a fabric with colors that are closer together, like blue and green, blue and purple, or maybe just different shades of blue.
  • If your go-by fabric has more colors, then you have more options to choose from when shopping for coordinating pieces. You don’t have to use all the colors from the go-by fabric in your space. It’s just a color pallet to choose from.
  • Floral or plaid fabrics make great go-by fabrics because they often have many colors available to choose from.

Qualities of fabric or pattern

The best option is for your go-by fabric to be easily carried around with you — like a swatch, a throw or a pillow.

Your go-by fabric may not be a fabric at all. You may like the colors in a swatch of wallpaper. You may like the colors in an elegant piece of stationary. Maybe you have a book cover that you love to look at. Any of those are fair game.

If you’re still having trouble, don’t get too hung up or stressed out about it. Go with your gut, don’t worry about what other people expect of you.

Related Roominess Videos:

Color Coordination

Fear of color

2 thoughts on “Choosing a Go-By Fabric

  1. As I’ve said before, your insights into all of the decorating information you have put into RoominessTV is amazing. Although I appreciate well-decorated spaces, I simply do not have the skill. Every time I watch, it makes things a little easier to figure out – like the “go-by fabric” idea in this episode. Especially helpful for me was the color groupings and how the colors in each grouping relate to one another. I actually just put a piece of upholstery fabric in my briefcase for future unplanned “spur of the moment” shopping opportunities.

    Also, I do know that color schemes show up differently under changes in lighting quality (warm, w-white, white, cool color temperatures) and I am hoping that in a future episode you might be able to cover moving colored furniture and accessories around to different areas in the house with different lighting. And also the difference in lighting at the stores vs the lighting in my house.

    Anyway, thanks for another great episode, Doug.

    • Thanks Edward! Glad that these can be helpful for you.

      Colors under different lights – there’s a can of worms! My true and honest thoughts about it? I try not to get hung up on different qualities of light. If you’re in a room with windows, you’ll have different light qualities throughout the day. Early morning light, cloudy daylight, full noon sun, afternoon partly cloudy, orange evening glow, and interior lights at night can all happen in one day! Add to that the change of sun angle, outdoor foliage and reflectance through the seasons and you have a lot of variables to deal with. Typically, I find that if a group of items work well together under one light condition, they work well together under all conditions. (I won’t swear by that statement just yet.) I agree with you that part of trying furniture and accessories in different locations is determining where it works best with the lighting. Other factors being scale/proportion, texture, color, etc. I’ll mull this over and see if any any general guidelines present themselves. Thanks again for your comment!

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