The Power of Pattern: Tips from Susanna Salk

Selecting patterns for your home – whether for wallpaper or fabric – can be an intimidating process. With an endless array of options, how do you choose one that you and your family will love for years?  A wonderful place to start is with The Power of Pattern by best-selling author Susanna Salk. Both a beautiful interiors book and a resource guide, The Power of Pattern features a diversity of interiors and styles, showcasing the patterns themselves in full-page splendor. Chapters are organized by motif such as Nature, Animal, Floral, Ikat, Chinoiserie, Stripes, and Toile.  Susanna presents myriad versions of each, with inspiring examples of how to decorate with them. She also provides tips on how to use pattern in a particular space—for example, stripes create the illusion of a bigger room.

As you know, I have an aversion towards trends, and I always want to make choices that will stand the test of time. Wallpaper and fabrics are an investment… how can you do it once and do it right? I am delighted to welcome Susanna to The Glam Pad today for guidance!

The Power of Pattern: Interiors and Inspiration: A Resource Guide by Susanna Salk

Q:  With an endless array of patterns available at our fingertips, how do you commit to choosing ones you will enjoy for many years to come?

A:  You pick the pattern that moves you emotionally not the one you think you ought to pick. Get a large swatch of it. Drape/tack it where you want it and then live with it for at least a week. See how you feel about it in different times of day, light and your moods!

Don’t play it too safe.  Make sure it delights you. Otherwise you’ll be tired of it ironically sooner than you would a bolder one.

Interior design by Mallory Mathison Glenn

Q:  What are five patterns that have withstood the test of time without looking dated?

A:  Any one of the patterns in my Iconic chapter.

Interior design by Cathy Kincaid

Q:  I have always been intrigued as to how an iconic pattern becomes “trendy”… For example, Scalamandre’s Zebras, The Vase by David Hicks, and Brazilliance have been around for decades, yet they catapulted into mass popularity in the 2010s. Chintz and toile are other fascinating examples of classics that ebb and flow in popularity. How does a classic become “trendy” and once it is trendy, does the public become oversaturated and move on to the next thing? Does social media play a role in creating these “trends”?

A:  Sometimes a classic gets “It Girl” status by being seen in a movie (a la Zebras in “The Royal Tenenbaums” ) and it triggers a reconnection and nostalgia for people reminding them of its chic, quirky power. Sometimes an old favorite will be unearthed by a designer and used in a show house or client project room that then gets a lot of press, shared on Instagram and suddenly that old chestnut looks fresh and exciting and powerful again. The great designers never let “trends” or that sixth grade playground popularity play into their decisions nor should you the homeowner.

Scalamandre Zebras wallpaper as seen in The Royal Tenenbaums

Q:  What advice would you give someone who wants to create a classic, timeless home?

A:  Always only decorate with ONLY the things you love and use. Edit, edit, edit. Don’t have something out because you don’t know where else to put it. Classic is in the eye of the beholder so if everything in your rooms speak to you and holds your personal stories then your rooms will never not endure the passage of time. The rooms will reflect your journey within time and grow with it. Your rooms should almost feel wall-less.

Interior design by Robert Passal

Q:  How can “The Power of Pattern” be used by consumers and designers?

A:  My goal was to showcase patterns via BIG- full pages and sometimes even in spreads- so people could really feel intimate with their nature. So often swatches are regulated to eeeensy bitsy little squares: they deserve to be shown in full glory.

Often I placed the patterns themselves opposite rooms they were used so you can really see the moods they bring to different spaces in situ. SO: whether you are a designer or doing it yourself you get a real sense of the depth and breadth that is out there to inspire, no matter what the category. Maybe you were thinking stripes but didn’t realize at heart you loved toile! Hopefully this book will give you enough helpful contextual information to guide you to actually executing it.

Key phrase is: be fearless! If you love the pattern it will WORK. SO flip through the book and stickie any of your favorite images without judgement and once you’re done, see if there is any pattern (pun intended!) to your choices.

I promise you, you may be surprised.

Interior design by Barrie Benson
Interior design by Frank de Biasi
Interior design by Ashley Whittaker

Thank you so much Susanna for these wonderful tips and to Rizzoli for providing the beautiful images! The Power of Pattern can be purchased through Amazon, and additional books by Susanna Salk can be found here. I am a huge fan of her work!


  1. I completely agree with her advice about being bold with patterns you love and regretting playing it safe. I never understand when people say they would “get tired” of the Schumacher Chiang Mai Dragon wallpaper in my bathroom or the Martinique Banana Leaf wallpaper in my living room. I can’t get enough of them!


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