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How to Mix Patterns with Confidence

We are often asked by clients how we come up with our pattern pairings in a space. The honest truth is, half of it is just a gut feeling on the mix and trial by error.

Creating a cohesive scheme with multiple patterns and colors is one of the trickier aspects of designing a space. When done well, it feels layered and effortless, but if It goes wrong, the space can feel unintentional and just plain wrong. Here are our tips for mixing patterns to create a space that is pulled together with plenty of visual interest.

sunroom with blue and coral furnishings

Establish a Color Palette

We often start our designs by scheming fabrics for the room first. We find one fabric that inspires us and build from it by varying the color just slightly as we add elements to the design. It's important to think about the temperature of colors when doing this. If the main fabric uses bright, clear colors, then we'll stay away from dusky, muddy colors in that space, and vice versa. Choosing fabrics that have the same tonal quality is more pleasing than mixing warm and cool tones, but it is one of those things that is easy to overlook.

Adding a contrasting or accent color to the scheme can add interest to a room the same way that a smart accessory would liven up a basic outfit. The 60-30-10 rule can help keep things balanced: Sixty percent of the palette should be the main color, thirty percent a secondary color, and then reserve the last ten percent for the accent or contrasting shade.

In the sunroom above, there was already a lot going on visually with the view outside the large windows and the texture from the seagrass rug and wood-planked ceiling, so we kept the patterns relatively small in scale and within the blue family and accented them little bit of warm coral.

living room with white sofa and geometric pillows

Vary the Scale and Print

As a general rule, the mix of different prints should include large, medium, and small sizes. For some drama, use the large scale on drapery panels or a rug and accent with the smaller scale prints. If you want a more subtle feeling, save the large scale for accents like a toss pillow. Small prints used on large objects -- such as a petite stripe used as upholstery -- will read as a solid from a distance. One floral, one geometric, one stripe is a good starting point, but also don't be afraid to break the rules!

The living room above is a perfect example. We used a textural wallpaper as a small print, the stripe on the rug is a medium, and then we combined two larger scale geometric patterns as throw pillows on the sofa. According to the rules, those two pillows shouldn't look great together, but since one is dark and one is light and the other patterns in the room are so subtle, it just works.

dining space with stripe wallpaper on ceiling

Keep the Eye Moving

As the inimitable fashion columnist and editor, Diana Vreeland, always preached – the eye has to travel. Pattern will energize the room and demand attention, so use it wisely. We like to scatter pattern throughout the space, rather than concentrating on one area to keep the eye moving around the room. It can also be used to accentuate elements like architecture, a great chair, or the view outside a window.

In this dining space, we used wallpaper on the ceiling to draw the eye toward the fireplace wall. Even without soft furnishings, the space has plenty of pattern with the woven chairs and beaded chandelier, and calling attention to the symmetry on the exterior wall helps ground the floating furnishings.

We love creating effortless, yet polished spaces so if you'd like help pulling yours together, please get in touch by filling out our design inquiry. And, be sure you are following us on Instagram for frequent updates and on Pinterest for a peek at what is catching our eye.


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