Lots of people are intimidated by the use of pattern so resort to using it in only one place – usually a couple of pillows on the sofa or bed. Otherwise, everything is a solid color - you may enjoy color and have a red chair or sofa instead of tan or black, but the pattern stays on the pillows. Therefore, it plays a minor role in the decor.
Pattern: Mix and Match
The problem with using pattern often evolves because once you purchase that patterned pillow, you’ve declared a path and you don’t know how or where to add another pattern. I’ll try to take some of the mystery out of mixing patterns.
There are three main rules of thumb: mix scales and mix shapes, keep colors in common.
Although this neutral room doesn’t boast any color, it is very interesting due to the mix of patterns. Working in a very limited color family, a very wide stripe at the windows (large scale), paired with a medium sized check on the chairs in the same colors is a good beginning. The addition of the organic, curving pattern of leaves on the rug is the perfect addition to add some movement to the room.
Designer Tips for Mixing Patterns Successfully
Mix Scale: Use one large scale, oversized print; one medium sized print and one very small, dense pattern in a room. Three different patterns is usually plenty for most of us, though I’ve seen some very nice rooms with more.
This room has a very overscaled pattern on the walls, paired with a subtle stripe in the area rug. There’s also a small tonal, organic pattern in the draperies. The accent pillows on the sofa pick up the black/gray but mixing a stripe and oversized traditional damask pattern. The two pillows are a perfect illustration of a narrow, smaller scaled stripe paired with a bolder curvy pattern.
Mix Shapes: Shapes are readily defined as geometric (squares, stripes, circles, plaid), floral or organic, and solid colors, but perhaps with visible texture (nubby like corduroy or chenille or smooth like silk/satin). The most pleasing mixes will include an linear pattern like a stripe or plaid (or both but in different scales) and a floral.
*Designer Tip* You do not want an even distribution of patterns. One should act as the dominant pattern, with the second and/or third playing a supporting role. The dominant pattern (apart from solids) would be 60% of the pattern in the room, pattern #2 would be 25-30% with the last pattern being only 10% – maybe a pillow or two.
This elegant, subdued bedroom has a calm mix of patterns. The dominant geometric on the floor is contrasted by the stripe on the bedding and even the drapes behind the bed give the impression of a stripe. To me the room is so very tailored and could use the 10% of another pattern, something softer and organic, like below.
Use a Color Palette: Keep all the patterns within a color story and repeating some or most of the room colors in each. See the examples below – all starting with the same stripe (I LOVE using stripes to unite a color scheme). You can get an idea of all the different directions a scheme can go starting with the same fabric.
Many fabric manufacturer’s make this task even easier by creating coordinated fabrics for you. The fabric “package” will almost always include a stripe or plaid, a floral and a couple of solids. Use those prepackaged coordinating prints as a learning tool to see why the mix works, then go out and make your own combination. It will have lots more connection to you and your personality AND it won’t feel so perfectly matchy matchy (unless you absolutely love that look of course!).
This bedroom is created using pre-coordinated fabrics from Thibaut. Using three main prints, you can see that the design starts with the large floral, works in a medium geometric (green plaid) and a very narrow stripe on the headboard that almost reads as a solid. There is also a teensy print wallpaper and the pink is carried to the edging on the drapes. It’s a very easy way to create a coordinated look.
As you look around your room, do you see pattern only in a pillow or two? Do you use multiple patterns? Where have you used the variety of patterns and what guides you in mixing them? Be sure to check back next week (or subscribe so you don’t forget) when I’ll share lots of pictures and showing pattern everywhere!