How to Mix Patterns like a Pro

Our comprehensive guide to mixing patterns in your home

We get it. Pattern mixing is scary. Between colors and scale and pattern, there’s a lot to consider, and the stakes are high because decorating mistakes can be expensive, especially when it comes to large upholstered pieces, rugs, and drapery. But there is hope, and we want to help you conquer your pattern-mixing fears.

Remember to keep balance in mind when mixing patterns together.

1. Balance

First and foremost, always keep balance top of mind. If you’re starting with a very bold pattern, consider bringing in one or two smaller scale, tone-on-tone, or solid patterns for harmony.

If you are using a large, bold pattern somewhere in the room, that doesn’t necessarily mean everything else needs to be solid and subtle to work. For instance, if you have a pair of chairs in a large print, some bold throw pillows on a couch on the opposite wall may work nicely. That balance is important to keep in mind not just in the colors but in the locations of the bold prints.

In the room above, you can see how we’ve used a strong blue ikat on a pair of chairs, while using lots of other blue patterns around the space — a buffalo check blanket, blue and white vases, and blue patterned pillows. It feels balanced because we’ve tempered all that blue with cream walls, a cream linen sofa, a white garden seat, and a natural fiber rug.

Mixing patterns in one family

2. Monotone Mixing

If you’re nervous to begin dipping your toe into mixing patterns together in a room, try this simple strategy: choose one shade and try 3-4 different patterns all in that shade. This is a sure-fire strategy that we use when designing our catalog all the time.

Mixing patterns in one family

In the space above, you’ll see how we’ve done this in a palette of taupes and grays. We’ve mixed together a pair of striped chairs, drapes with a geometric pattern, and a floral print rug. We’ve brought in each of these patterns in equal portions which could have felt overwhelming, but because they’re all in the same family, it doesn’t feel like too much.

Mixing patterns together using this foolproof formula

3. A Foolproof Formula

A great strategy when mixing pillows together is to use one of each of these four: a floral/paisley, a geometric, a stripe, and a solid. As long as each of these fabrics is in a similar color palette, you’re sure to create a beautifully mixed and matched combination of patterns.

Mixing patterns together using this foolproof formula

In the outdoor space above, you can see how we’ve used this formula. We have a pair of floral throw pillows in the chair, striped cushions on the sofa, a geometric print in the rug, and a solid ottoman, couch, and drapes. We’ve brought in tons of pattern, but it all works!

Mixing stripes with almost any other pattern is fool proof

4. The Magic of Stripes

Stripes are your secret weapon if you want to mix patterns together in your home because they go with almost any other pattern! Florals, ikats, geometrics, solids, or even other stripes, they’re very versatile! Above, you’ll see that we’ve used a very bold ikat as a table cloth, and we’ve also used a dramatic blue and white punch bowl as a container for our flower arrangement. It would be easy to just use a solid on the chairs and call it a day, but bringing in a stripe feels a little more special without taking anything away from these bold prints.

Mixing stripes with almost any other pattern is fool proof

How gorgeous is this ikat paired with a striped rug? It’s almost a challenge to come up with a pattern that doesn’t work well with stripes!

Mixing stripes with almost any other pattern is fool proof

And here, we’ve mixed three stripes together. Even on the same couch, different colors and scales of a stripe work together harmoniously. Stripes are magic, what can we say?

5. Get Your Patterns Straight

Below we’ve grouped together our favorite patterns. Learn about their strengths and where to put them below:

Textured solids work well on large furniture pieces

Textured Solids are a great starting point in a room because they’re so versatile but have more detail than a simple twill or linen. We often use these on large upholstered pieces that need to have staying power.

Geometrics are fun, bold, and modern

It’s no secret that we love a geometric print! They’re fun, bold, and modern, and they wake up a room. If you absolutely love a particular geometric pattern, put it on an upholstered piece. You’ll create that crucial focal point that every room needs. Geometrics also make great rugs, draperies, and pillows.

Florals are a classic print that add an accent to your room

Floral may often have a traditional feel, but with an unexpected application, it can feel modern too, Upholster one on an occasional chair for a classic look, or put them on a set of drapes for something unexpected. They’re a great jumping off point for a rooms color palette. Each of these florals has lots of different shades in it, which gives you a kind of road map for the other colors to bring into the room.

We love ikats. Here's why

For a bold print that will take your decor to new heights, ikats are the way to go. Ikats are characterized by a bleeding look, where the dye resists certain threads creating this beautifully dynamic pattern. We love them because it only takes a little bit of this pattern to make a statement. On pillows, drapes, rugs, or upholstered pieces, ikats are fun and youthful. Just be careful when applying it to small pieces like throw pillows; you want to be sure the area where you’re applying the fabric is large enough for you to take in the full effect of the ikat.

Stripes are a graphic, classic pattern that go with almost any pattern and with each other

What more can we say about stripes? We love them! Whether it’s a ticking stripe, a cabana stripe, or somewhere in between, they’re a classic look that never goes out of style. We especially love the way this linear pattern pairs with almost any other pattern out.

6. Pattern Combinations to Love

Our Gabrielle Paisley fabric inspired this color palette. We added an ikat, a small ditsy print, and a solid fabric to coordinate

Start with a great fabric in a pretty color palette, like our Gabrielle Chambray fabric, then pull a small scale print, a solid, and another large pattern. It’s a foolproof formula that always works.

 

Our Arryanna Spa fabric was the inspiration for this color palette

This collection of fabrics was inspired by the our Arryanna Spa fabric with touches of citron green. With a stripe, a knubby solid, and a trellis print in citron green, it all comes together.

What do you think? Will you be able to tackle pattern mixing in your own home now?

For more design inspiration, visit our Pinterest Boards, or find more gorgeous rooms in our Photo Gallery

 

About the Author:

How to Decorate Team
We enjoy spending days interacting with How to Decorate readers. From answering Design Dilemmas to writing How To articles and working with guest designers, our passion is to provide informative and accurate resources to help people solve their design problems.

21 Comments

  1. Alison June 7, 2017 at 12:17 pm - Reply
     

    Thank you for the article. Can you recommend a rug to go with two chairs I have upholstered in a geometric print (colors are navy, taupe and gray)? Our living room is carpeted so I would prefer a rug that is wool and that will lay well over carpet. Thanks!

    • Annika Dupree June 8, 2017 at 3:43 pm - Reply
       

      Alison,
      We’d love to help you find a rug perfect for those chairs! We offer a free design service in which our interior designers pick out furniture, fabric, and accessories! Just send your question along with a picture of the living room here, and a designer will reach out to you with your design plan!

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