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Checks, spots and stripes – basic patterns to liven up interiors

From the Resene decorating blog

Playing with patterns in your interior can, at first, seem intimidating. How much is too much? What goes with what? And, of course, what pattern or patterns do you choose?

The world is really your patterned oyster. Go freehand with bold brushstroke patterns or hand-drawn repeating patterns for a purposely organic or imperfect finish, but if that’s not for you, start with geometric patterns that can be traced out and practised before you commit, which brings us to the classics: checks, spots and stripes.

A fun lounge with chequered surfaces

A smaller palette of soft muted colours keeps these different check surfaces fun and fresh instead of chaotic.

Wall and base floor colour in Resene Eighth Joss, floor checks in Resene Doeskin, coffee table and sideboard in Resene Dusted Blue and Resene White Linen, large check planter in Resene Regent Grey and Resene Doeskin, candleholder in Resene Doeskin, white round case in Resene Eighth Joss, bowl in Resene Tobacco Brown and planter in Resene Black and Resene White Linen. Sofa and table from Nood, boucle cushion from Lune and Co, blue linen cushion and matching throw from H&M Home, artwork from Simply creative, two tone cushion from Freedom. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Bryce Carleton.

A blue striped bedroom

Variations in stripe width and colour with a soft edge, give these stripes a relaxed finish, perfect for a beachy retreat.

Wall painted in Resene Alabaster with masked stripe in Resene Frozen and hand-painted stripe in Resene Quarter Frozen, floor stained in Resene Colorwood Natural, bedside table in Resene Biscay with stripes in Resene Spindle, Resene Alabaster and Resene Kashmir Blue. White duvet cover from Foxtrot Home, blue linen throw from H&M, striped pillowcases from Ezibuy, light blue cushion from H&M Home. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Bryce Carleton.

Go for crisp lines or soft edges, repeat patterns or one bold shape; try layered neutrals, tonal shades or bold contrasts. Think about what you want the finished space to look like; are you trying to make the room feel bigger, smaller, warmer, cooler – or just more interesting? Having a plan will help you settle on how and where you want to use your checks, spots and stripes.

And remember – you don’t need to commit to just one. Have a play with mood boards or scrapbooks to see how different shapes, colours and designs might work together to create something really unique to you.


Stripes or simple lines are one of the simplest patterns to create yourself, but that doesn’t mean they need to be plain or boring.

Try alternating two different tonal colours, like, for example, Resene Gold Coast and Resene Toffee against a Resene Sea Fog background; or go for bolder complementary colours like Resene Lemon Ginger and Resene Siren against a Resene Parchment background. For a larger space try a gradient effect running from light to dark (or vice versa). For example, try a muted wall colour like peachy Resene Manhattan, then merge it into a series of stripes in Resene Whiskey Sour, Resene Tuscany, Resene Chelsea Gem and Resene Cinnamon.

Top tip: Mask the edges as you paint each stripe to get a crisp finish, and to avoid bleeding edges, paint over the edge of the tape with your base colour. So if you’re painting yellow stripes on a white background, paint over the masking tape edge with the white paint before you start your yellow stripe. It will seal the tape edge.

For a more organic, messier striped look go freehand to create a more relaxed weathered or blurred striped effect. With a pencil and stringline mark out the outside edges of your stripe block, then paint in partial strokes horizontally or vertically, depending on which way you want your stripes to run. Mix two or three colours on top of your base colour, and use different amounts of paint and different sized brushes for a mixed, uneven finish.


Whether it’s a gingham check with white, a complex tartan or classic monochrome checkerboard floors, check patterns have always been a simple, effective way to bring visual texture into interiors.

A simple cross-hatch pattern of vertical and horizontal lines is one of the easiest checks to execute and if you want to soften the look try hand-painting your lines rather than masking a hard edge.

A monochrome mid-century dining room

Monochrome mid-century-style design have been cleverly repeated on different surfaces for dramatic depth and impact.

Wall painted in Resene Sea Fog with design in Resene All Black and Resene Quarter Friar Greystone. The same colour scheme is repeated on the sideboard. Lampshade covered in Resene Wallpaper Collection 538021, table, chairs and candlesticks in Resene All Black and floor in Resene Colorwood Mid Greywash, bowl in Resene Hot Toddy and vases and pots in Resene Apache, Resene Tussock and Resene Hot Toddy. Sofa from Interior Warehouse, rug from Dyelab, cushions from Nood, H&M and Ezibuy, candlesticks from Nood. Project by Megan Harrison-Turner, image by Bryce Carleton.

A stylish yet relaxed plaid bedroom

Layers of blue and neutral make for a stylish yet relaxed plaid finish.

Wall painted in Resene Sea Fog with check colours in Resene Indian Ink and Resene Rhino mixed with Resene FX Paint Effects. Fireplace in Resene Indian Ink, bedside table in Resene Rhino and vases in Resene Indian Ink, Resene Kashmir Blue and Resene Double Sea Fog. Rug from Mocka, plaid cushion from Ezibuy. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Wendy Fenwick.

To add some complexity and depth try alternating a wider stripe in a dark colour with a narrow stripe in a lighter colour on both the horizontal and vertical planes.

A more classic checkerboard finish will require precise measuring and masking to ensure each square of colour is exactly the same shape. Your best bet is to paint the whole surface in your lighter colour, then add your offset darker squares on top. Opt for a classic Deco-era black and white finish with Resene Black White and Resene All Black, or try using a fresh colour like Resene Parsley or Resene Calypso with a crisp white like Resene Alabaster for simple Cottagecore style.

Use a combination of three or more colours to move from simple checks to plaid or tartan. Try your design out on paper or card before committing it to the wall to see how the colours work together, and how they look at the points where lines intersect. Use a mix of thick and thin lines so colours work together instead of competing.

Using a muted colour palette such as greys and blues like Resene Elephant, Resene Bali Hai and Resene Surrender will give your plaid visual impact without it becoming overpowering, particularly if it’s against a tonally similar shade on the rest of the wall, like Resene Nepal.


Generally speaking, the larger your spots or circles are on your wall design the easier they’ll be to create. To get a perfect circle use a piece of string attached to a drawing pin at one end and a pencil or piece of chalk at the other. Use it like a compass with the pin at the centre of your circle, adjusting the length of string to your desired circle size.

Carefully cut in the edges when painting your circle, then fill in the main colour. For smaller polka dots, use cards to cut out stencils in the desired size of your spots. For mid-sized polka dots you can draw around a small plate or bottle.

Use large circles, in a light, bright, colour against a darker wall to create a spotlight effect behind a key piece of furniture. Try a soft yellow large circle Resene Oasis against a wall in grey-green Resene Mondo. To emphasise the effect add a floor lamp and consider weathering the paint finish slightly with Resene FX Paint Effects Medium and Resene Merino for a dappled effect.

For a ‘grown-up’ use of polka dots, keep them small and in a classic colour palette like black and white, or off-white Resene White Pointer with navy Resene Bunting.

Polka dots are always fun in children’s bedrooms too. Try the classic toadstool with a background in red Resene Smashing with spots in Resene House White. For a whimsical approach try a background in crimson Resene Eminence in purple Resene Scampi and teal Resene Calypso.

The wallpaper cheat

For an even simpler way to add checks, spots and/or stripes to your room, try Resene wallpaper. Not only does it mean there’s no need for marking out your design, but it means you can incorporate more intricate versions of these geometric designs very easily.

For spots with a difference try the leopard-inspired design of Resene Wallpaper Collection 540239. For a bold and colourful spin on stripes try Resene Wallpaper Collection 539134. And for a chevron-type check pattern try Resene Wallpaper Collection 401950.

Quick tips

If you are new to pattern, start on small projects first and as you get more confident you can progress to larger areas such as feature walls or floors.

Resene Quarter Friar Greystone

Resene Colorwood Mid Greywash

August 17, 2022

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