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Playing with Patterns

February 4, 2010

I love mixing patterns. It is something that has never scared me, but I understand that a lot of people struggle with this concept. That is a shame. Confidently mixing and matching patterns makes your spaces more interesting and personal. It is a great way to interject fun and color into your home. And because a lot of patterns are brought into rooms via fabrics, it is a cheap, low commitment way to liven up any space.

For those of you still a little cautious about giving it a try, here are some guidelines that may make it easier to take the plunge.

1.  Vary scale. Even though the photos (from http://www.mens-fashion-tips.com/mixing-two-similar-patterns.html) below are not home-based examples, they still illustrate my point. One combo works; one doesn’t. What is the difference? Scale, baby. In the first photo, the scales vary. In the second, they have similar weight, causing competition between them. Patterns should compliment when mixed, not compete.

2.  Stick to a palette. Knowing your palette and not deviating from it can help a lot in choosing which patterns to incorporate into a space. Sticking with 3 or 4 colors that work together and having those be the only colors in the mix helps create unity. Take the example below:

Image courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

This room works because the palette consists of pink and orange, pure and simple. There are lots of differing shades of pink and orange, but almost everything in the room are those two colors.

3. Use different types of patterns. Having a room full of checks will be overwhelming. Mixing checks, stripes, florals and solids will make a space flow better. Remember – complement, not compete. Varying the types of patterns keeps things interesting and your eye will naturally travel from one pattern to another, just like in the picture below.

Image courtesy of Real Simple

4.  Repeat, repeat, repeat. We have already talked about palette, but suppose you are feeling adventurous and want more colors in the mix. Go for it! Just make sure you repeat the color at least 3 times within the space. Don’t leave that turquoise stranded. Spreading it around the room helps the space feel consistent and creates movement.

Image courtesy of Decor8blog.com

Here pink, turquoise and yellow work because all of them are repeated over and over in the pillows and wall hangings.

5.  Have fun and experiment! Sometimes, we just have to try things to see if we like things. Feel free to experiment, live with something for a few days, and see if it works. I do this all the time – with throw pillows, arrangements on tabletops, paintings and curtains. Decorating is supposed to be fun. I am constantly changing, editing and adding. Keeps the home alive.

In closing, here is an example of how I mix patterns in my home.

See how I stick with a earthtone palette of greens, browns and yellows. Notice how stripes, florals and solids all live together. There are large-scale patterns, like the flowers at the head of the bed, and small-scale patterns, like the subtle stripes on the Euro shams.

What do you think? Can you now mix it up in your own home?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. linda permalink
    February 4, 2010 8:29 am

    Boy, you hit me between the eyes with this one. You can help me the next time you are home. Your bed looks nice!

  2. steven permalink
    February 4, 2010 8:39 am

    That pink and orange burned my retina. I like the bed though

    • February 4, 2010 10:26 am

      You’re too funny. The pink & orange combo would not be something I would choose, but I do think that pattern mix works.

  3. Eugene D. Bear permalink
    February 4, 2010 12:08 pm

    Scale, baby, scale!

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