Mixing Patterns – Reviewing the Guidelines
In my just previous post on Mixing Patterns in Room Decor I mentioned two guidelines helpful for combining patterns in a room’s decor:
- Use patterns that share a common color. It’s hard to go wrong if all the patterns in the mix share the same color, or a variation on that color.
- Vary the scale of the patterns. Using a mix of different sizes of pattern motifs adds interest and variety to the mix.
Patterns Contribute to Room Color Schemes
The colors in the mix of patterned fabrics, wallpaper, and rugs play a part in the color scheme of the room. You’ll see this in the room examples below. A color scheme of red and brown — a mix of a neutral and a vibrant color — shows up a few times. You’ll find, also, various complementary color schemes.
Approaches to Mixing Patterns in a Room
Mixing patterns can take fun and creative directions, following or deviating from the guidelines in various ways. I’ve gathered a gallery of rooms designed by experienced interior designers that take various approaches to mixing patterns in an interior. The rooms provide lots of ideas and inspiration for pattern mixing.
Using the Same Pattern in Different Colors
Designer Jonathan Rosen has used the same fabric in two different colors in this fun and energetic room. The colors are direct complements on the color wheel. Diverging from both guidelines (sharing a common color and varying the scale), it’s the color contrast that adds interest, and the pattern consistency that ties the patterns together. (Image source: House Beautiful.)
Using a Similar Pattern in Different Colors
- The wallpaper and the chair fabric in this room by Jay Jeffers are so similar that at first glance they seem like the same pattern. Color contrast is the element that creates the variety and interest, since again, the scale of the pattern has not varied. The two patterns do not share a common color but do share a common style. The colors in the patterns create a color scheme of brown and red.
- Stripes comprise the similar pattern in this bedroom from Country Living. So we have, again, an example of a similar pattern in a different color, relying on the color contrast for interest. This is another example of a brown and red color scheme.
- In this room by Suzanne Kasler two accent pillows share the same pattern while a third pillow is covered in a similar pattern – all in a different color. Using colors of similar intensity that pick up other accent colors results in a fun and pleasing mix. The color scheme played by the pillow fabric: a split complementary scheme of red, yellow-green, and blue-green.
Mixing Only Geometric Patterns
This room by Interior designer Muriel Brandolini has a distinctive cohesiveness. The designer has combined a rug with a bold, large-scale geometric pattern (a large rug at that) with upholstery in a much smaller scale pattern. The patterns share a rich, rusty-orange color and a yellowish-orange hue. Keeping things simple and uncluttered (notice no accent pillows) promotes the modern, minimalist look. The color mix is an analogous color scheme. (Image source: Elle Decor.)
Mixing Patterns that Have a Graphic Quality
Two prominent pillows on the built-in day bed, and the shade on the window, each have very clean geometric patterns resulting in a crisp and unified look. Again we see a color scheme of brown and red. (Image source: Cottage Living at MyHomeIdeas.)
The Colors in the Patterns Are Similar in Value and/or Intensity
Designer Rafael de Cárdenas uses patterned fabrics in colors that are similarly muted in value and intensity. The room is colorful but in subdued tones. The color scheme: basically a direct complementary color scheme of red-violet and yellow-green, with some soft blue-green for accents. (Image source: Elle Decor.)
Patterns Share a Common Mood, or They Work to Create a Look
Patterns that are not tied together with a common color can work together to create a style, mood, or look. In some cases the pattern styles may be very divergent. With a skillful eye these designers combine patterns that have varying elements of commonality, or they create a look and mood from sometimes unlikely combinations.
- In this seating area by Bunny Williams the two patterns couldn’t be more different. And, they seem not to share a single color. But they work wonderfully together to create a feminine ambiance. This is a triad complementary color scheme of red (pink), light blue, and subdued yellow
- In this warm and casually elegant room from Country Living, while there is a complexity of color sharing, I’ve included it as the patterns vary so widely. It’s a charming mix that works to create the look. The colors in the living room create a color scheme of neutral grays and soft reddish tones.
- The sharing of pattern colors in this room by Cathy Kincaid is interrupted by a bold accent pillow that stands out in color value and in style from the rest. The pillow adds a punch of variety, keeping things interesting, and provides a focal point. A color scheme of reds combined with various tones of brown (as in the various tans and beiges). (Image source: Southern Accents through MyHomeIdeas.)
- This traditional-style master bedroom by designers Laura Sartori Rimini and Roberto Peregalli sports an 18th-century Oushak rug and damask-pattern walls (hand-painted) that share similar color undertones, but hardly the same color. The curtains, of silk velvet, add yet another warm color. Our eye combines the colors into a unifying mix – a mix that clearly states the style. The color scheme is an analogous combination of reds and oranges.(Image source: Elle Decor.)
- In this living room by Mary McDonald we see no color commonality in the main fabric patterns, nor are they close in style — one an open leafy pattern, the other a tight floral — but the combination has vitality. The colors in the tablecloth are repeated in the sofa throw pillows, tying the elements together. The interplay of patterns works to create a relaxed yet elegant look. Combined with the yellow tones in the woven cocktail table, we get a triad complementary color scheme of the primary colors: red, yellow, and blue.
The Colors Pick Up Other Colors in the Room
- In this boy’s room designer Tom Scheerer has combined batik fabric prints in two different colors. The two sets of patterns do not share a common color, but the blue batik color picks up the bright blue of the wall color and the color groupings create an interesting interplay. (Notice the nice variety of pattern scale.) This another color scheme using brown in the mix; this time: a brown and blue scheme. (Image source: House Beautiful)
- This is another room in a brown and red color scheme. Designers Mathew White and Frank Webb have placed a mocha-toned striped pillow on a red striped sofa. The two stripe patterns do not share a common color (nor a common stripe), but the mocha-striped pillow reflects the mocha color of the chair. The red stripes pick up the other reddish hues in the room. (Image source: Elle Decor.)
- Designer Steven Gambrel creates a direct complementary color scheme in this room using a rusty-red-orange geometric patterned rug with pale blue-green painted walls. The rusty red-orange of the rug picks up the dashes of rusty-orange in the botanical prints.
- In this room, with an eclectic mix of contemporary items with antiques, the blue-green in floral print pillows picks up the same color in several other elements in the room. The orange tone of the tiger-print pillows is also repeated in the room. (Image source: MyHomeIdeas.)
Made for Mixing
Often fabric companies will create collections with patterns meant to be combined. The shared colors in the patterns tie them together. For a well coordinated mix of patterns this can be a great way to go.
- Below: two patterns from the Maharani collection of Osborne & Little. On the left is the Balyan pattern, a pattern of small-interlocking cubes (100% cotton). On the right, Maharani (same name as the collection) is a pattern depicting pomegranates (linen and cotton blend).
- From the Dwell Studio Eclectic Modern Collection from Robert Allen I’ve shown four patterns in jade: Gate and Vintage Plumes (both linen/cotton blend); Pyramid (rayon); and Vintage Blossom (100% cotton).
- From designer Windson Smith’s collection for Kravet here are two patterns in coordinating colors: Menara and Insignia (both 100% linen).
As seen in the room examples above we can look to designers for ideas for pattern combining in room decor. I’m inspired by the various approaches these creative designers have taken. I think you will be too.
Here’s a final room interior in a color scheme of violet and red. On the sofa and chairs are geometric patterned pillows from Jonathan Adler. (Those on the sofa are quite over-sized.) The contemporary style of the patterned pillows contrasts with the traditionally-patterned ottoman. It’s the violet color of the ottoman fabric, picking up the similar color in the pillows, that’s the element tying them together. While the room is an intended eclectic mix of modern elements and traditional elements, the ottoman fabric is an unexpected touch that gets our attention. (Image source: Elle Decor.)
Many ways to mix patterns; many ways to create a style and an individual look.