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Style | Oct 18, 2018

10 Tips for Mixing Patterns

StyleOct 18, 2018

10 Tips for Mixing Patterns

Playing with pattern can be daunting if you have no idea where to begin (and let’s face it, most of us don’t). Those artfully mixed swirls, spots and shapes sure look amazing in professionally styled design magazines, but how do you replicate that look in your own home? Luckily, it’s not as hard as it looks.

But while mixing patterns doesn’t have to be difficult, it’s easy to go down the wrong path and wind up with a space that looks more chaotic than chic. That’s why we’ve scoured the web to bring you the very best tips out there for mixing patterns. Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a pattern mix master.

1. Establish a palette

Choose one large-scale pattern as an anchor, whether it’s a rug or wallpaper, and use its hues to establish a color scheme for the rest of the room. As you layer in medium-sized and smaller patterns, choose one or some of the colors from your anchor so everything is subtly coordinated without looking overly matchy.

2. Odd is best

Always stick to an odd number. A good rule of thumb when you’re starting out is to choose three patterns in three different scales, then use what’s known as the 60/30/10 approach—use 60% of your favorite pattern, 30% of a second pattern and 10% of a third pattern as an accent.

3. Mix up scale

Scale is crucial. Include an equal mix of large-, medium- and small-scale patterns so none of them compete. Otherwise, your room will inevitably look busy. Make it feel eclectic by choosing different styles. For example: If your large pattern is a bold geometric, then pair it with a medium-sized floral and a small-scale ikat.

4. Balance bold prints

Don’t shy away from loud, vibrant designs. The key to using bold patterns without overwhelming a space is to break them up with solids and neutrals. Layering in a healthy mix of solids and neutrals will ground your look, letting the colors and patterns really shine.

5. Try a swatch first

Bring home swatches and samples whenever possible. Not only is it more cost effective than plunging into a big purchase, it will help you picture how a specific pattern will ultimately work in the room, allowing you to make more informed decisions.

6. Start small

If you’re nervous about adding pattern to your home, start with a few smaller accents—pillows are a perfect way to dip your toes in the water. As your confidence increases, you can gradually up the ante with more substantial pieces. Who knows? You might even end up with a patterned sofa!

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7. Mix Material 

Add depth and dimension by mixing up textures and materials. For example, on a solid linen sofa, try a mix of velvet, silk and woven pillows. And don’t forget to incorporate natural materials, like woods, metals and leathers to avoid an overly upholstered look.

8. Let your furniture inspire you

If you’re stumped on what patterns to choose, take a look at your existing furniture pieces. For example, if you have a coffee table with a geometric base, find a patterned accent with a similar motif to cleverly echo the shape.

9. Create a mood

If you want a room to feel lively, go for bold colors and patterns. Softer, more muted tones and prints make for a more serene space, while classic patterns (think stripes and florals) work well in traditional rooms.

10. Break the rules

Last but not least, you should trust your instincts and make choices that look and feel right to you. After all, incorporating pattern into your home is one of the most fun parts of the decorating process. It’s where you get to experiment, showcase your personality and let your creativity fly.

Happy mixing! 


Kamala Nair is a London-based writer. Her work has appeared in 1stdibs Introspective, Luxe Interiors + Design and architecturaldigest.com, among other publications. Read an excerpt of her debut novel, The Girl in the Garden (Grand Central Publishing, 2011) here: kamalanair.com.

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