The Orla Kiely Story: How to bring pattern to your home

Orla Kiely’s designs have adorned everything from stationary to a range of Citroen DS3 cars. The Dublin-born designer launched her look in the late nineties, long before the vintage retro trend had taken hold. In a sea of minimalism and modernism, Kiely took inspiration from the past, going for bold patterns, prints and the muted vintage colours that have become synonymous with her name. Perhaps because of their striking contrast to current trends, Kiely's designs took off in a storm. In nearly 20 years they have little changed, and have only continued to grow in popularity.

Balancing pattern and minimalism

kiely-homeInside Orla Kiely's London home, via The Times

Orla Kiely’s prints strike a balance between strong patterns and blocked plain colours, which allows them to interact with numerous schemes and trends. Her nature-inspired prints somehow blended seamlessly with the 1990’s desire for modern features, white gloss, glass and stainless steel. In Kiely’s words: "We weren't about over-designing or over-embellishing. Everything was quite clean and simple. So in a way the designs were actually very minimal. They just had a great big pattern all over them.”

A style for all spaces

orla-kiely-lifestyle_enamel_kitchenOrla Kiely kitchen range featuring the Enamel Pots collection

The versatility of Kiely’s patterns has meant that they work easily across numerous ranges and spaces. Today, one of her most popular designs remains her trademark Stem graphic. Looking back on this early print in her book ‘Pattern’, she remarks: "It's very flexible. We've been able to adapt it, modify it, rescale it, recolour it, add texture... It's also quite clean and unfussy – and interestingly, perhaps because of that, is also not off-putting to men."

Launching for the home

kielyOrla Kiely bathroom towels

After launching her prints first on a line of hats and next for bags, Kiely’s designs were readily applied to homewares. Teamed with mid-century style silhouettes, her prints worked naturally across furniture and soft furnishing ranges, as well as towels, wallpaper, kitchenware and more.

Mixing palettes

homeInside Orla Kiely's London home, via The Times

For such distinctive and strong patterns, Orla Kiely prints can work well with diverse décor schemes and palettes. Their soft muted tones blend well with bright colours and set off a neutral room, and they work within dark and light schemes. In varying palettes, the same print might appear either ultra-modern or vintage.

Working clashing patterns

harlequin_orlakiely-bigOrla Kiely Harlequin wallpaper and a collection of kitchenware

To work patterns well, Kiely recommends taking inspiration from your home’s current accessories, treating photos, artworks and objects as patterns. "You need to plan what goes with it,” she says, “and so many people go for white, perhaps because of that – but you don't have to. Not if you look at the colours in the artwork." For the perfect pattern on pattern look, Kiely’s top tip is to be brave. In her book, she espouses: “Different scales are good, different coverage is good. They kind of need to contrast.”

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Annabel Sheen

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