The Subtle Art of Mixing Patterns
Updated: Sep 14, 2022
Do you love patterns? Do you know how to mix them? Maybe you think mixing patterns is a bad idea or too challenging to do, so let me give you some tricks!
Mixing patterns and textures is easy. If you follow a few rules, then the WOW factor will be there!
Look at this fantastic mix from Thibaut Fabrics. It combines three different patterns: Animal Skin (chair), Tropical (draperies), and Trellis (wallpaper), and just one color: Red. Does it look OK? It is just stunning!
Now imagine this room with only, let's say, the draperies. Everything else is a plain and neutral color like an off-white with the same furniture. Do you visualize it? What does it look like? I will say nice but not 'wow.' I would also think: how does this tropical drapery fit in this room with this antique desk? But with the two other patterns, this mix makes sense as it brings more personality and modernism to the room.
Previously, I mentioned that you have to follow some rules. It is vital to create a great match. There are some rules like colors, patterns, and textures.
So, let's start with the #1 Rule: Colors
First, you need to choose your color palette for the room. It could be your favorite color, a warm or cold color. Maybe a neutral tone. Or why not a bold color for a 'wow factor' and more personality.
My advice if you want to go for bold is to choose a monochromatic print to avoid competing with the bold color or a subtle pattern!
The easiest way to start is by choosing a monochromatic palette like at the Sands Hotel (pictured above). This is the perfect example of a great mix of patterns from floor to ceiling! If you keep patterns in the same color family, it will help tame everything a bit.
Try to keep the color palette cohesive. One or two main colors plus one or two accent colors for a pop of character.
If you want to go for multiple colors, then never forget the rule: 60-30-10. 60% is the main color (your favorite one, for example), then you add another one for 30% (secondary color) and the last one for 10% of the total palette scheme (could be a pop of color). Another point to consider with colors: using lighter and darker shades will make specific patterns stand out, and these will catch your eye so that you can focus on some areas in the room.
#2 Rule: Patterns I recommend that you choose your favorite pattern (floral, tropical, geometrical, etc.) as the lead pattern and consider it as your starting point. Choose a large bold pattern as your lead that incorporates all your palette colors like that you will be able to use a variety of scales for the same pattern: one dominant pattern with medium and small secondary scale patterns. Start with three patterns in a room, and then, when you feel more confident, you can increase to up to 5 patterns: 1 large dominant, two mediums (same color as the lead one), and two small accents (could be different color or pattern).
There are plenty of pattern categories to choose from. This includes floral, tropical, plants, chevron, stripe, geometric, animal, and skin.
And you can use patterns on various support: furniture (sofa, headboard, chair), wallpaper, rug, pillows, wall arts, decor (vase, ginger jar), draperies, and even stone (calacatta quartz on a fireplace).
Look at this excellent example of the art of mixing patterns with this adorable baby's bedroom (picture below). The floral wallpaper (large pattern) catches the eye, then the dots on the rug, followed by the stripes on the window treatment. Different patterns and colors blend in harmony. Don't forget to balance patterns with plain and neutral elements (floral wallpaper + plain velvet chair) to amplify contrast.
#3 rule: Textures can bring a smooth touch of pattern to your design mix. Looking closely at the baby room above, you can see that even the fuzzy poufs and cushions bring their soft pattern touch. So you can think of fabric textures as another source of the pattern. These can be shiny or mat, smooth or rough, softy or fuzzy. The good thing about textures is that they add volume to your scheme. Fabrics like faux fur, velvet, knit wool, silk, linen, or tasseled accents will add a touch and feel to the pattern. Flooring, like tiles and wood floors, can add texture to a room.
This is an excellent example of a mix of patterns with different colors, scales, and textures.
As you can see, we have a balanced palette of colors with beige (60% - sofas, pillows, curtains, wallpaper, floor), light green (30% - 4 walls, pillows), and black (10% - rug). For the patterns, we have an animal print with a large-scale black and white zebra, which is our lead pattern (rug), smaller zebra (pillows), but also feathers (pillows), a damask (wallpaper), and a Greek key (pillows). Finally, for the textures, we have faux fur, velvet, cotton, hardwood floor, and chevron tile (around the fireplace).
All elements together bring volume, contrast, and comfort.
Now you know more about the fine art of pattern mixing with the three rules: Colors, Patterns, and Textures, so you should feel more comfortable experimenting with it. Be bold, be yourself, and trust your intuition!
Where do I start? The easiest way to start is to mix the same pattern on different scales. It always looks good, and it is visually pleasant. Another option is to combine different patterns in a single color. The most important is to let creativity drive the process, follow your ideas and make some tests with samples.
If you still need help, I'll be happy to help! And remember that interior designers can give you access to exclusive resources to create your wow effect!
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