There is an art and a couple rules to mixing patterns and once you know them, you’ll be mixing patterns like a pro!
You know, it took several years of working with Matt on color, pattern and texture before he felt comfortable giving up those terrible plaid pants and striped shirts! Ha, ha!! Just kidding. Actually, since Matt’s background wasn’t interior design, it did take a while before he felt comfortable selecting fabrics and wall textures to be used in the same room! So, if you are looking to go beyond stripes with plaids, or even just plain solids, here are a few tips that will help you jump with confidence into the art of pattern mixing!
1. Always use at least three different patterns. There’s something about an odd number that makes things visually more interesting.
2. Keep the background color of your patterns the same. Don’t try mixing white with off-white backgrounds. To stay consistent, a light neutral needs to stay the same throughout.
3. It’s best if all of the patterns share the same collection of colors, but not necessarily the same number of colors. For instance, you can combine a floral of six colors with a check that incorporates three of those colors, and a woven jacquard fabric that’s just a single color!
4. Make sure to vary the scale, or size of the patterns. A large floral or fruit pattern with a medium-sized plaid or geometric with a mini print leaf pattern and a solid color woven would be a perfect example!
5. The mood and the weight of the fabrics is important too. Even though the colors and pattern size may be appropriate, a lightweight plaid cotton chintz might not be the best co-ordinate with a heavy floral tapestry.
6. Vary the amounts of each pattern you use in a room. An example might be to use a large floral for the sofa, loveseat, and valances…. A medium check on a couple side chairs and as draperies, and then a small print on accent pillows!
7. Once you’ve made all of your pattern choices, take a look around, and make sure to balance the distribution of the patterns throughout the room. Don’t put all the floral on one side and all the check on another!
8. Don’t forget that there are other patterns that may already exist in the room. Pattern can be found on a marble tabletop or hearth, an area rug, or artwork. Even blinds on the windows or books in a bookcase can create pattern!
Just a side note: while I was studying design at college, one of my projects was to mix 15 different patterns in a room! Well, we all turned in a project, so it can be done!
So, let’s apply what we’ve learned. Start by selecting an inspiration piece, like a patterned fabric for your sofa or bed coverings. This will set the tone for the room. Now, find one of the palest shades in the pattern, and use it on the walls. It can be in a lightly patterned wallcovering, a soft painting technique, or just straight painted color. Go back to your inspiration pattern, and select from some of the medium hues for your carpet, draperies and other upholstery items. Last, the deepest hues make great accents for accessories, pillows, or even a lamp!
Now, if you still feel uncomfortable with pattern mixing, remember that many experts have already done the work for you. Check out wallcovering books and fabric stores for suggested pattern combinations, even magazine photos can give you a good start. Or, just ask Matt. After a few years of experience, he’s a real pro!