Mixing Patterns 101
I love mixing and blending patterns and materials. Woods. Stones. Natural Textures. Metals. One of my all time favorite materials to mix is patterned textiles. Pattern is one of the elements of design and can add richness and depth to any room. Layering and mixing patterns can create a really luxurious look, but it’s important to keep a few “rules” in mind so that the overall effect is harmonious.
Tip #1: Three is a Magic Number
There really is something magical about the number three when it comes to interior design. I think designers are drawn to it because of the golden proportion, but in general it just works! When it comes to mixing any material types, you should limit the mix to three. This also applies to patterns. My advice is two or three patterns. You also want a certain amount of pattern repetition. If you are using a particular pattern in a room, you will want to see it at least 3 times. This will make the pattern mix feel intentional and not haphazard, giving the space a curated look rather than a “thrown together” look.
Tip #2: I’ll have one of each…
This is probably the most important rule. You need to select only one of each pattern type. For example, You do not want to put 2 large floral prints in the same space or two plaids or two bold geometric patterns. Doing so would cause too much visual competition between the various patterns and could create a chaotic look. Instead try using only one of each pattern type. Mix-master and celebrity designer Anne-Marie Barton recommends mixing one floral, one plaid/stripe, and one geometric. That is an excellent guideline, but I think you can expand on it a little to create more exotic and bold pairings. I’m also on board with treating stripes and plaids as separate categories and mixing them with each other. This is something we see all the time in the clothing industry.
Nonetheless, textile patterns have some general categories: florals, stripes, plaid, geometric, abstract, paisley, animal, etc. You can further break them down into small, medium, and large/bold, so small floral and large floral, small geometric and large geometric, etc. My best advice is to choose one (and only one) large or bold pattern. The rest of your patterns should be smaller scale. So, if you select a large floral pattern, and you are following the guidelines, you would select a smaller scale plaid, and an even smaller geometric print to accompany it.
Tip #3: Keep It in the Family
Keep it in the color family, that is! When you mix patterns, there should be something about the patterns that ties them together. Thinking about the qualities of a pattern, you have size, shape, and color. I’ve already advised you to use different sizes and shapes, so the one remaining element is color. Each pattern should share a common color with another pattern to create some repetition and harmony. Again, this will make the pattern match look intentional and give the space a cohesive look.
However, each pattern doesn’t have to share the exact shade of Kelly green or Goldenrod. For example, the embroidered floral pictured below has a sage-y green, a warm, deep pink, and a golden beige. I mixed it with a small abstract dotted golden beige print and a medium sized geometric in a warm, deep pink.
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