A series of scaled analogue models are used to study (de)coupling between basement and cover deformation. Rigid basal blocks were rotated about a vertical axis in a ‘bookshelf’ fashion, which caused strike-slip faulting along the blocks and in the overlying cover units of loose sand. Three different combinations of cover–basement deformations are modelled: (i) cover shortening before basement fault movement; (ii) basement fault movement before cover shortening; and (iii) simultaneous cover shortening with basement fault movement. Results show that the effect of the basement faults depends on the timing of their reactivation. Pre- and syn-orogenic basement fault movements have a significant impact on the structural pattern of the cover units, whereas post-orogenic basement fault movement has less influence on the thickened hinterland of the overlying belt. The interaction of basement faulting and cover shortening results in the formation of rhombic structures. In models with pre- and syn-orogenic basement strike-slip faults, rhombic blocks develop as a result of shortening of the overlying cover during basement faulting. These rhombic blocks are similar in appearance to flower structures, but are different in kinematics, genesis and structural extent. We compare these model results to both the Zagros fold-and-thrust belt in southwestern Iran and the Alborz Mountains in northern Iran. Based on the model results, we conclude that the traces of basement faults in cover units rotate and migrate towards the foreland during regional shortening. As such, these traces do not necessarily indicate the actual location or orientation of the basement faults which created them.