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A Cohesive Motif Throughout Your Home Brings Your Vision to Life

Through the use of a motif, you will find meaning through repetition with a cohesive theme

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By House & Garden | April 16, 2024 | Design

Often, the thing that makes an interior designers' work exciting and interesting is the level of cohesion that it achieves. There is some hidden thread that binds every room together, tying up the project neatly. But how do we achieve this in our own homes, without the aid of a professional or a sizeable budget to spend?

Some designers recommend sticking to paints from within a certain family; colours with a certain earthiness, or colours from a tonal group. Others suggest using the same fabric in multiple rooms, incorporating a number of different colourways for a more subtle finish. Lately, though, we've been noticing a secret third way: the use of motifs.

The refreshed layout of this Johannesburg home exists as an ode to the sun. Almost entirely glazed along the western and northern elevation, the kitchen, living and dining room collectively act as a sun trap. Photography by Vignette.

Motifs are nothing new in the creative world. Artists, like Gustav Klimt, Keith Haring and Yayoi Kusama have all used various patterns and repeating shapes throughout their work. Here, the message is strengthened with every use. In the words of Damien Hirst, ‘you get meaning through repetition.'

Away from the canvas, former House & Garden features writer, Tom Barrie wrote about the evil eye motif he'd spotted cropping up in designers' collections and projects. Then, he wrote about the tree of life motif. Both of these symbols carry a deeper meaning, be it warding off dark energy or some lunge towards immortality, yet in their ubiquity their once clear message has become a little cloudy.

A shrewd bargain hunter with a penchant for old bamboo, the home’s designer has accumulated most of her furniture from second-hand markets such as Gumtree and Marketplace. Photography by Vignette.

Whether you are on board with the idea or not, motifs are an inescapable feature of design. One motif lodestar is interior designer Laura Stephens, who recently employed a diamond motif in an apartment she created for a client. ‘We used a wallpaper in the primary bedroom called ‘Gallier Diamond’ by Brunschwig & Fils. The client loved it so much that it served as an inspiration throughout the flat,' she says. Yet, rather than extrapolating the colour of the paper as one might predict, Laura and her client chose to pull out the repeating diamond. 'We got my joiner to replace the doors of this IKEA wardrobe to match,' she explains.

A lyre motif, favoured by interior designer Beata Heuman, appears in three places in this image. Photography by Simon Brown.

Interior designer Beata Heuman has also been spotted using motifs in her projects. In this London apartment, a lyre motif appears in a number of places. Below, a custom pair of Shoppa by Beata Heuman lyre cabinets flank a dramatic mantlepiece. In this case, the motifs are almost like little signatures: stamps that oh-so-quietly say, ‘Beata was here.’

‘Every room should have a little touch of yellow; it is a bit of sunshine and happiness’ says Anna Spiro. Photography by Tim Salisbury.

The musical motif isn't the only one Beata has been seen using, as the Swedish designer has a penchant for paws too. In the above image, the fireplace was inspired by a design in Julian Schnables' Palazzo Chupi. As Caroline, senior designer at Beata Heuman's studio, explains ‘we turned the legs upside down so that the paws were holding up the mantle, and had it made out of plaster so that it felt light and sculptural in the space.’ Elsewhere in the project, a Shoppa by Beata Heuman chair sits on charming claw feet.

Today, the interior is informed by a bold use of pattern and colour, which is challenging to pull off successfully. Photography by Tim Salisbury.

Perhaps one of the most well known examples of motif mania is in Anna Spiro’s house. In her Australian home, the reef’s spectacular underwater scenes and the oceanic colours she loves to be surrounded by are reflected in the design. Through the bespoke de Gournay wallpaper and yellow throughout Spiro does cohesion done it with flair allowing the spaces sit neatly alongside one another.

This story is adapted from House & Garden UK.