Patterns: The polka dot

Pronunciation: ˈpō(l)kə

Usage: An array of filled circles equally sized in relation to the diamater.

History: Early usage for the term "polka dot" was in 1871 Godey's Lady Book, Volumes 86-87, Page 389. Traditionally, polka dots are used in the dresses of Flamenco dancers. Pattern is named for the polka, dance of the same name only because they were both popular at the same time - no connection otherwise.

Pattern Type: Geometric

When you think of polka dots, what you do first think of? Fun, cheerful, Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, The Polka Dot Door (Canadians will get it), the Polka dance? That all great and spirited, but did you know that a polka dot pattern can be contemporary?

A polka dot pattern is simply equally sized circles, filled, and spaced in an array or diagonally in relation to the diameter. A bunch of circles of different sizes and distances from each other is a geo-circular pattern, not a polka dot pattern. It's difficult to design with polka dots without making it looking child-like, or like puke. Also, it's hard to find great examples of polka-dotted interior design, again without them looking like puke. But Yayoi Kusama does a good job of that for us already. When done correctly, the polka dot can be an easy way to convey elegance.

Using a polka dot in design, as with any pattern, is only effective in the right scale and colour to bring balance to the space. A multi-coloured polka dot would be limiting, for example, where as a tone-on-tone polka dot will appear as a textural element in an overall theme.

Mixing a polk dot with another pattern or other patterns can be a challenging design element to pull off successfully. However, again with the right scale and colour, polka dots can be used broadly like a graphic or even an architectural detail.

Polka dot can be used as a neutral backdrop, or it can be repeated in another scale with the same colour. A careful accent colour choice, or any other colour choice, it is tricky but it can be simply successful in adding movement to an otherwise un-interesting space.

To see more polka dot usage in interior design, please see my Polka Dot Pin Board on Pintrest.