From free-form stripes to imperfect dots and vibrant watercolor florals, painterly patterns are making their mark in home decor — and we’re embracing the free-spirited look. The bright, artistic flourishes and fluid style are a cheery counterpoint to rectangular rooms full of straight lines and dark finishes.
We think one reason so many love the look is because it feels unique. Whether displayed on a dinner plate or splashed across a pillow, the loose brushstrokes and watery colors lend a hand-crafted feel. And that’s because there usually is an artist behind the look. For us, it’s our industrial designer, Taryn Schwartz. An avid watercolorist when she’s off the clock, the furniture designer recently traded her CAD software for a paintbrush to capture some of our favorite patterns. We got to steal Taryn away from her desk for a few minutes to talk about the experience.
Ballard Designs: You’ve worked behind the scenes designing furniture for Ballard for years, but the original watercolors started with our partner and interior design superstar, Bunny Williams. How did that come about?
Taryn Schwartz: I got involved with projects for Bunny, because they needed someone to draw technically for them. But when she was designing both her Melange and Campbell House dinnerware, I knew the look she wanted. She wanted a very watery effect, and I thought, “I can do that.” So I did some watercolor renderings and she approved the first art! I couldn’t believe it.
BD: We should mention it’s one of our best-selling dinnerware lines. Now you’ve moved from dinnerware to trays. Tell us about Watercolor Odd & Ends Tray.
TS: There are a ton of those small trinket trays out there on the market with decal designs on them, and the accessories merchant wanted to do something like that for our new Winter Collection. She asked if I would mind painting a few designs, so I came up with some renderings based on what she wanted — sunglasses, keys and phone. The tray is so cute and fun.
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BD: You’ve also painted designs for new bedding coming out this year.
TS: For the Thandie Watercolor Collection (featured in the first photo), I painted these white dots, creating an allover print. They’re a little bit imperfect. We are also coming out with striped bedding in the spring. They took a stripe I painted and made it a repeated pattern on bedding. Again, it has that very loose, painterly effect.
BD: Is that why you like painting watercolors?
TS: Definitely. I’m not a perfectionist and with watercolor, once it’s there, it’s there. It’s kind of messy, so it’s very fitting. Of course, you learn with practice and you know what it’s going to do.
TS: Yes, the social media team was open to me painting some things, and I grab every opportunity I can. Thanksgiving is all about eating, so I wanted to do a table. And thinking of Ballard, of course, I just had to add a Louis Chair around the table. I drew it free hand in pencil first, then painted over it.
BD: What inspires you?
TS: Tons of things. It could be another product that someone else is doing or something that I want to try. Architecture. I love to paint places I’ve been. Even though I have a perfect photograph, I just know I’m going to love it even more once I live each little square inch of it through …what it becomes. I don’t want the photograph, I’d rather have my painting where you can feel more.
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BD: Speaking of traveling, you’ve gone on a few exciting trips with the merchandising team.
TS: I’ve been to Paris twice, High Point, New York to the big gift show. It’s so much better if I’m with them and later they can say, “remember that panel on that piece or the detail of that foot?” It’s easier to talk through a particular design and feel inspired if you’ve actually seen it and you’re not just relying on a photograph. I also can sketch out the little details of the furniture when I’m seeing it.
BD: Paris must be so inspiring for you.
TS: I just love going there and sketching and bringing it back and painting it for myself.
BD: Are there any other exciting items in production that will feature your painterly patterns?
TS: Yes! I’m currently working on dinnerware for next fall and we’re adding a serving bowl to Bunny’s Melange collection.
BD: If you could design any product for Ballard, what would it be?
TS: I’d be pretty impressed if I actually had a piece of watercolor wall art that sold versus actual art on a product.
BD: Never say never, Taryn!
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