There’s nothing inherently childish about polka dots. And yet they’re typically associated with children’s decor, so people shy away from using them in more sophisticated spaces. Frankly, many of us grown-ups could probably stand to inject a little youthful spirit into our homes. Here are 10 ways to sprinkle your interiors with mature, restrained polka dots that add just a note of whimsy.
1. Elegant fabric.
Choose a luxurious fabric like Robert Allen’s Velvet Geo for a refined polka-dot look. The other classical pieces in this room, including a crystal chandelier, custom silk drapes and traditional artwork, allow the velvet-dotted dining chairs to add a contemporary energy without taking away from the sophistication of the room.
2. Furniture feature.
Dark painted or stained furniture featuring inserts (or, alternatively, laser-cut circles) in varying sizes keeps the polka-dot motif feeling modern and fresh. Against the rough organic elements in the room, the minimalist lines of this cupboard by Cassoni come alive. Inspired by Tokyo’s Za-Koenji Public Theater, this piece was designed to mimic the motion of spotlights as they cast light in a dark theater.
3. Toned down in neutral.
The more blank space there is between each polka dot, the more modern the dots tend to appear. To keep your widely spaced dots from looking too childish, forgo Technicolor ones for those in a narrower palette of neutral shades.
4. Restrained rainbow.
If you do go with the multicolored approach, try limiting the polka dots to a framed picture rather than an entire wall. In this dining nook, the polka dots’ gridlike layout keeps them grounded to the rest of the room’s minimalist, streamlined decor.
5. Bedroom contrast.
The bright white background of the three polka-dot Euro shams pops against a solid wood headboard, and the contrast feels fresh, crisp and even bold against the mostly muted tones of the wall and bed linens. Recruiting polka dots to use as a backdrop to the subtler colors and textures was a smart design move: Their size makes them important to the overall design scheme, but their almost hidden, tucked-back placement ensures that they won’t overpower the room’s serenity.
6. Small-space superstar.
Polka dots work brilliantly as wallpaper in an entry hall, dining room or powder room. Any boxy, compact room will be transformed with a graphic print on the walls when there’s little in the way of upholstery or window treatments. Polka dots, especially closely spaced patterns like the wallpaper pictured here, translate almost as textures, much in the same way that a small-scale check and a houndstooth do. They can be a barely there pattern that is both easy to live with and more interesting than a solid wall.
7. Solo standout.
The polka-dot upholstered banquette in this kitchen corner garners just enough attention. As the only fabric-covered piece, almost any pattern could have worked, but a small-scale polka dot keeps the room feeling classic with a touch of pattern that doesn’t shout.
For the pattern-averse who prefer color-blocked solids to a collected mix of prints, there is scarcely a better fit than polka dots. Here, the dotted upholstery and window shades carry the color throughout the room. Along with the area rug and pillows, the coordinating accent colors help keep the spotlight on the artwork.
9. Refined nursery accent.
A sophisticated Hermès blanket and zebra artwork combine well with the staid espresso-and-white polka-dot wallpaper. This stylish nursery could easily be a home office in disguise. Choosing earth tones rather than over-the-top primary colors to carry the decor ensures that virtually anything you might put in the room will resist the cutesy label.
10. Barely there beauty.
If you’re still not convinced that polka dots can be pulled off in a subtle, stylish manner, check out this living room in Florida. The gauzy floor-to-ceiling curtains feature a barely there polka-dot pattern that adds just a whiff of whimsy to the traditional decor.